Sitting proudly on Golborne Road, 108 Garage has quickly become the talk of the town, and it’s not hard to see why. We chat to Founder Luca Longobardi and Head Chef Chris Denney to find out more.
Chris and Luca are a force to be reckoned with. With a fearless menu that changes mid-service, and a seductive interior, even the most prestigious food critics can’t get enough and are writing rave reviews. Here’s what the pair had to say about cooking, food and, being the ‘Mafia Banker’…
Culture Trip: Where did your inspiration come from for 108 Garage?
Luca: I define myself as a Cereal Entrepreneur, because every day at breakfast I always think of a different project, idea or a different world. The “Garage” is the place where most of the ideas were developed and went on to change our lives. Ever since I was 10, I always wanted to be a visionary. I wanted to be a game changer. Today at 47, I’m still pursuing that dream. I like to quote Jay Rayner, one of the best reviews we have had, – “They simply opened the doors and started cooking”.
CT: Where do you look for inspiration when coming up with new menu ideas?
Chris: We make sure to have daily team development on new dishes, which mainly stems from our suppliers, with a strong focus on seasonal produce. We’re very lucky to have an excellent relationship with our suppliers, who are brilliant at keeping us informed on their current ingredients.
CT: Is it as irritating as everyone thinks when people ask for variations of a dish on the menu?
CD: No! Honestly, the menu and the dishes are adaptable to suit any need. It’s no problem.
CT: Luca, your background is massively different to what you’re doing now – could you tell us a little about how you got here?
LL: I grew up in Naples in Italy. When I was a child I used to hang out with friends, and they all wanted to be gangsters. Me? I always wanted to be a banker. But I still remember going home when my Mother was preparing dinner, and getting completely lost between the smell, smoke and flavours.
CT: You chose not to widely advertise the opening of 108 Garage, can you tell us why?
LL: Because we wanted the food to speak for itself, without any driven external influences bullsh*t. When we started this, Chris and I sat down and said, “If we are good, people will talk and we will smash it. If we don’t, we will jump on the first plane and cook fish on one of the beaches in Rio de Janeiro.”
I have a both a brother and a sister, and all 3 of us inherited my parents’ insane passion for food and cooking. It was always one of a few dreams – naturally at that age, none of which I had pursued yet.
After a career becoming “The Mafia Banker” it was an easy choice. Either I changed or I starved. With that type of tag, the world of finance was over for me. Even if, I’m not sure there is a big difference between “The Mafia” and “banking”. And now here I am!
CT: When we came in, you changed your menu mid-service – how does that work with a kitchen full of people?
CD: Being versatile and having great communication within the kitchen team is imperative to be able this. We work next to each other 6 days a week, and all have a mind-set that the first time isn’t always perfect. All of the dishes that we serve evolve and develop, day by day, service by service.
CT: I know you change your menu most nights – but what would be your favourite dish you serve?
CD: Veal sweet bread, January King cabbage, hazelnuts & yeast. It’s fantastic.
CT: How do you want your diners to feel as they leave?
LL: That by eating in a friend’s home garage, they’ve discovered the best thing since Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak invented Apple. Haha!