|A High Road Well Travelled|
Emma Brophy talks to Sharpour Harsini about his career in the restaurant industry
There are very few who can claim to have thrived in Chiswick’s highly competitive restaurant scene for more than a decade but Sharpour Harsini is one of them.
Starting his career at the eastern end of the High Road at Caffe Piccollo in 1997, Sharpour has seen more than a few changes in Chiswick over the past 11 years.
“When I first arrived from Hampstead in 1997 there was just a handful of restaurants on the High Road,” he says as we chat over coffee, “Of course there was The Chiswick, a steak place where Zizzi’s is now, I remember going there we first arrived, Kleftiko and Kalamari of course. Pizza Express was here but then other chains moved in.”
He continued “People did eat out ten years ago to a degree, we always had clients, but not as much as these days and this end of High Road was very quiet.”
He is referring to the western end of the Chiswick High Road where he and his wife Beata recently opened Blueberry – a café cum deli cum sandwich bar which although sounds rather run of the mill isn't. It’s unusual to find a new concept in an area saturated with eateries so where did the idea come from?
“If you copy someone else’s ideas you’ll never get it right. I mean celebrity chefs are in a different class from a person like me. They can afford better locations and their names carry some weight I mean people don’t mind if Gordon Ramsay gets things wrong but they would if we did.”
Personally I would disagree with his Ramsay comment but think this statement displays his genuine modesty.
“We’re not a restaurant. It’s hard to say what it is, a café, deli which is why we just call it Blueberry,” he explains, “We wanted to give people healthy food using the best quality ingredients. I mean why can’t we have vegetarian or healthier options, baby new potatoes instead of French fries, poached eggs instead of fried? We offer nutritious salads, freshly squeezed juices or you can treat yourself to a glass of wine with your lunch but without the guilt!”
We turn our attention back for a moment to Gravy where Sharpour was the restaurant manager from 2004 until the floods of last summer. “There was such a delay in getting the restaurant back up and running I was afraid that it would never happen. The directors are such busy people, they had other projects that took up all of their time so I pledged that I would project manage to work and install new management which I did.”
“My wife and I always knew we wanted to do something like this [Bluebuerry] so when this site came up we decided to go for it. Ideally we wanted somewhere more central but there is nothing affordable on the main part of the High Road. This part of Chiswick is really up and coming with all the offices but we realise that we need to give people a good reason to come up here to try us.”
Which was why they have employed a chef to take care of the kitchen leaving he and Beata to do what they’re best at - looking after customers. “But I did write a small cookery book to make sure the food is consistent.” he reassures me.
How have they found their first few weeks being their own bosses? “It’s hard work, we want to make sure we get it right. People have been positive so far.” He adds “It’s so humbling, people have been coming up just to say hello and wish us luck. I really don’t know how to say thank you to them.”
Blueberry is currently open from 8.00am until 6.00pm. Brunch – including under-five’s portions at £1.95 – is served at weekends also. Lunches include choice between four hot main courses accompanied by two salad dishes £6.95, choice of five salad dishes £5.95 and selection of sandwiches.
March 7, 2008