The Granita Pact 1994, a confidential meeting of New Labour and the political knot between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown materialised at a restaurant called Granita on Islington’s Upper Street. That celebrated dinner created decent hype for the restaurants in the area. Upper Street had already become a trendy eating out place, with every eatery wanting to be there in 1990s. Today Granita’s gone, just like Blair and Brown, swept away in the Cameron wave.
Let us take you to a special place away from this boulevard of changing fortunes; just after Afghan Kitchen on Essex Road we took the first right exit into St Peter’s Street. Driving through the narrow lane around a nice residential area we reached in front of The Duke Of Cambridge, without realising if that was our destination for the morning. A gentleman outside greeted us warmly and cleared our hesitation and invited us in.
A visit has been long overdue, in fact this is the only organic pub serving rustic British food with a Mediterranean influence and I was curious to meet the lady who owned it. We could see a small group of people going through a cooking class inside and checked whether we could go in. “Yes indeed” was the answer. We were already on our way in as Sujith spotted an elegant lady running around and said, “ I think she’s the person you are looking for!”
He was spot-on, it was the very enterprising Geetie Singh, who’s the founder and owner of this award-winning gastro pub in London. She opened this great concept in 1997 with greater importance on fresh seasonal food from local farmers. Geetie trained every member of her staff about the ethics of her business. The menu changes twice a day and is written on the walls around the pub and in the conservatory dining area inside.
One side was being used for Meat Master Class this Sunday, which was well attended by a party of young people and a chef fully charged up with his ingredients. It seemed a bit early for a weekend morning, but the place looked busy with families from the neighbourhood. We could hear the vibration of the wooden floor as chef and waiting staff ran into the kitchen from time to time. Everyone appeared cheerful and appreciated the purpose of the boss’s vision.
I met Geetie at the bar counter and introduced myself while buying an organic beer. It was a lovely surprise when Geetie mentioned about our common friend and why we couldn’t meet up before as she had already visited Rasa. In the conversation we touched causes we both stood for, also our farm retreat and cooking school in Kerala—Rasa Gurukul.
As much as she valued wonderful ideas, she questioned the reason why we have to expand our business everywhere to employ kids who are going to be trained at the school. It was food for thought as we listened to her and totally endorsed her argument. “Why food and people have to travel, seasons are for special reasons and it’s meant for the local areas and people”—in one sentence she summed up a very important fact. She sounded amazingly strong and brutally honest.
Geetie has been bestowed the MBE for her outstanding contribution to the organic movement. She was also selected as the woman entrepreneur of the year in 2002. These are among many awards she has won in her business career, yet she looked so simple and very active in her work, just like every one of her staff.
We couldn’t have asked for more on that gorgeous sunny morning. People like Geetie bring enormous strength to the world as we look at the ecosystem in panic and face issues like global warming, toxic waste and food shortage.
The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain