Alec Owen and Liz Selway of Baba G’s have just launched their first bricks and mortar site in the Stables Market, Camden, after a decade on the street food scene and an appearance on My Million Pound Menu. They talk to Emma Lake about their journey
Tell me about Baba G’s
Liz Selway (LS): Baba G’s is all about being bold and vibrant and neon pink. My Million Pound Menu was the first time we got to transfer our street food image to a restaurant environment and it gave us a template to work on – the bits we liked and the bits we would change. A real insight was seeing the vibrant image of Baba G’s – that vivid pink sign like a beacon.
Was it always your goal to open a bricks and mortar site?
Alec Owen (AO): It wasn’t. When we first started it was all about freedom and not getting tied down.
LS: Street food over the past eight or 10 years has been huge, and it’s really exciting to work with like-minded, creative people. There was a massive boom in the industry and it was really exciting to be a part of that. While that was going on, that was where we wanted to be. We used to talk about having a restaurant as the same place to go to every day.
What changed your minds?
LS: As soon as we opened Pop Brixton we realised we had a key and we didn’t have to load everything into a van. We’ve also realised that some people are imitating what we’re doing, but after 10 years, no one really does what Baba G’s does. The more people have asked “Where’s your restaurant?”, the more we realised that people wanted to have a sit-down experience.
AO: Also, we’ve been able to say “yes” when people ask if we have a base, rather than: “Well, on Tuesdays we’ll be there and on Wednesdays we’ll be here.” It allows you to build that brand loyalty and capitalise on that.
AO: We were offered this space by Camden Market because it felt we could do something here. We fell in love with the space immediately. The only thing we would do is flip it around so it would be south- facing. That would be amazing.
LS: For a street food brand to be offering something of this scale in a high-footfall area, we feel really proud. Camden feels to me like Brixton does in the south – there’s that vibe, it’s diverse, there are lots of tourists. There’s a high energy and that’s something we identify with, for ourselves and the brand.
What has changed for the restaurant?
New menu items. We’ve got raan lamb with chilli achar croquettes. It’s a lot harder to play with menus when you’re at a street festival and setting up and bringing down within six or eight hours, and even if you do, you don’t get the chance to see the reaction.
What changed after you appeared on My Million Pound Menu and secured the backing of Atul Kochhar of Kanishka and Jamie Barber of Haché?
LS: Literally, the next day, a delivery driver wanted a selfie with Alec! We did a pop-up and people were asking us to sign their menus. Months later, people still recognise us and know what we do. I’ve been quite astounded by the response.
AO: We haven’t taken any cash as yet, but that’s only because we want to do this next step and build a bit of brand value. Our backers are hugely supportive – Jamie’s already been to the restaurant.