Eighty Six List, a hospitality network founded in 2015 by Natalia Ribbe-Szrok, has been curating a series of pop-up restaurants at 1 Cathedral Street, featuring some of the UK’s most exciting chefs. From 27th-29th July, the front of house and chef team will be Conor Sheehan and Jackson Berg from moveable restaurant, Xiringuito
How did you come to work in food?
Jackson: I wasn’t the greatest academic at school, so for work experience my mother hooked me up with a job at a local French restaurant that we used to go to. For some reason, the lifestyle of the chefs working at the restaurant really appealed to me! The split shifts, drinks after work and being able to smoke without being caught by a teacher was great. God knows what I was thinking! I kept a weekend job there until I moved to London after college.
Conor: At the age of 14, my parents secured me a Saturday job as a kitchen porter at the then recently opened Puschka in Liverpool. Looking back, I think they were trying to scare me off the business, but the camaraderie, unsociable hours and cash in my pocket spurred me on and I spent most of my GCSE years trying to pick up more shifts. After a year, I was offered a chance on the restaurant floor and ended up really enjoying the service side of the restaurant, so I left school at 16, moved to London and started working my way up in restaurants here.
What’s your earliest food memory?
Jackson: Making cakes for the WI with my grandma in Yorkshire. When I was a kid, all she did was make food.
Conor: I have two siblings and on each of our birthdays, we’d be allowed to choose a restaurant as a treat. My restaurant of choice (as a wide-eyed pre-teen) was Yuet Ben on the outskirts of Chinatown in Liverpool. The anticipation leading up to the meal, the celebration, the duck pancakes, drinks and theatre of the restaurant enraptured me, and pushed me on my way to wanting to own my own restaurant.
Where did you train?
Jackson: I did a year in Birkenhead catering college, while holding down a part-time job.
Conor: I spent a year at Fifteen, Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, when I was 16 and learnt so much about food, wine and service. They have a real teaching culture, so you can’t help but learn there.
Who or what’s had the biggest influence on your cooking style?
Jackson: A lot of our inspiration for the menus at Xiringuito comes from our shared experiences of travelling around the world. Part of visiting a new country for me is to experience the food culture, most recently Seville and Cádiz—mainly for the food!
Conor: As general manager of Bistrotheque and Hoi Polloi, I learnt an incredible amount about restaurant management from Pablo Flack and David Waddington.
What’s your go-to place to eat in London?
Jackson: I think it depends on the mood. London has plenty to choose from, but Brawn stands out as a place to eat in London for me.
Conor: I’d agree about Brawn, but I also like Primeur and 8 Hoxton Square/10 Greek Street. More recently I’ve also really enjoyed The Laughing Heart.
What are you doing now? What’s the dream?
Conor: We’ve just finished a six-month stint in Liverpool with Xiringuito, our moveable restaurant. It’s made up of a scaffold structure designed by architect Asif Khan, which houses the kitchen and restaurant tables and chairs.
Part of the idea is that scaffolding can be found anywhere, so we can set up Xiringuito in interesting and unique locations. It’s really made me question traditional restaurant ownership, as it’s allowed us to open two restaurants in the last year (Margate and Liverpool) without the chains round our neck of a 10-year lease or spending thousands of pounds on a premium. Xiringuito’s opened lots of doors for us, which is very exciting, and we’re deciding where we’ll take the restaurant next.
How do you know each other?
Conor: Me and Jackson met at school in Liverpool and were both already working lowly jobs in restaurants at the time. We’d worked at about five restaurants together before we opened Xiringuito, so have very similar ideas as to how a restaurant should be.
What can we expect when you come to 1 Cathedral Street?
Conor: The menu at Xiringuito takes inspiration from the spirit of provisional beach bars in Catalonia, and we’re carrying that over to Cathedral Street. It’s fun and unfussy, but really well produced. We’ve chosen a glass of wine to go with each course, starting with a delicious natural, sparkling red from Austria to a low sulphite Bordeaux superieur with the main.
Jackson: We’ll be cooking some classics from our stints in Margate and Liverpool. Also, some of our favourite wines will be flowing throughout the night.
Any particularly memorable meals out?
Conor: I’d say the first time I came across a xiringuito (a tapas bar) in Cadaques in north-east Spain called Xiringuito de la Mei—sitting outside looking out to sea, eating prawn croquettas and grilled rabbit while quaffing local wines.
Jackson: So hard to say really, as I’ve had so many fantastic meals out. One that really shines was a little back street restaurant I went to in Cadiz, Spain, in June—a family-run affair with amazing wines and beautiful, cheap as chips tapas plates. It was called Mesón Cumbres Mayores.
What’s the best thing about working in food?
Conor: My favourite thing about working in restaurants is the people you meet—not just building relationships with guests, but also the breadth of people you meet working in them. Also, the easy access to quality food and wine is definitely a bonus.
Jackson: The produce you can get your hands on these days is amazing, especially in London. And the banter!