Cardiff restaurant beats the lockdown making it into the Michelin Guide

Nook got into the exclusive guide after opening its door only 18 months ago in the midst of a global pandemic.

 “If we can’t do it properly then we shouldn’t be doing it at all,” said Nook’s co-founder Phill Lewis.

A Cardiff restaurant that opened only 18 months ago beats the lockdown making it into the Michelin Guide.

Nook opened its doors back in August 2019, only few months before the COVID-19 started hitting the UK. Now, after a little over a year, their name already figures into the world’s most influential food guide. 

Phill Lewis, co-founder with his wife Deb, said they were “overjoyed” about the news.

“What an accolade to be able to boast such an achievement in a year when we’ve been shut most of the time. This is incredible,” said Phill.

Nook, based in Canton, offers a range of small plates that focus on quality and seasonability. “Right from the start we were very conscious about sourcing our product as ethically as possible,” said restaurant’s co-founder.

They have not been aware of it until Monday. The head chef, out of interest, checked the Michelin Guide website for then discovering that the Canton restaurant was amongst the recommended names.

Although this involves some challenges, as Phill said: “It’s a bit of a double edged sword. We’ve got listed in the guide, but people can’t have the full experience of coming to visit us. We can do our best through the takeaway experience people can get.”

Their menu, at least 70% vegetarian, offers interesting combinations of seasonal products. Roasted beetroot with pear mustard and goat cheese or teriyaki cauliflower, ginger and spring onions are just some examples.

As Nook co-founder Phill Lewis said: “It’s never been a business model of ours to cut corners or go to the cheap option. I think people respect that.”

Defining themselves as a “neighbourhood” restaurant, they are specialised in small plates and natural wines with a great focus on sustainability and community. 

“It’s what we’ve always strived for,” said Phill, “circular economy is the key for us.”

This is not the first victory under their belt. The couple is also owners of a successful pizza spot, Dusty’s, that opened six years ago. It was their first restaurant, the playground for testing their vision of sustainable and ethical business.

As Phill said: “As we’ve gone further and gain more experience, we then look at how sustainability is systemic to what we do and it should be a value that runs right the way through our businesses.

“So not only we look at the food that we’re buying and where we’re buying it from, but we also look at how our staff are treated and at our policies around whether they’re as sustainable as possible.”

“When everyone else was making redundancies and knocking down, will actually start paying our staff more money. It’s our commitment to it,”said Nook’s owner Phill Lewis.

With this spirit in mind, they are working on a new opening expected in May this year. Here, the concept of sustainability will go even further starting from the building itself. 

In the early 2019, they launched a crowdfunding that helped them to raise £43 thousands for turning the former park Warden’s House in Sophia Gardens into a fire-food restaurant. 

“With this current climate and funding situation we don’t want to just sit on an empty site anymore. We want to get that site working, We want to bring life into it and trying to contribute to regenerate the economy,”said Phill.

Nook biggest challenge lies on its size: with 24 seats in normal times, they had to reduce to 14 due to post-lockdown measures.

Passion seems to be the secret of their success. As Phill said: “Do it because you love it and then I believe that people will follow and be loyal to you. Do it because you want a bit of quick cash and you won’t be around for long.”