Tucked between London’s South Bank and Waterloo Station is Sticky Mango, a south-east Asian restaurant in London led by devoted chef-owner Peter Lloyd and his loyal set of diners. Inspired by his travels in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, Peter creates modern interpretations of south-east Asian cuisine that ‘offer a portal into an exotic world’ set in a historic building on Stamford Street.
With a four-star Sunday Times review, Marina O’Laughlin once lauded: ‘The food is so good, it’s a surprise to find that chef Peter Lloyd doesn’t hail from Kuala Lumpur’. An intimate restaurant seating up to 48, Peter plays with his dishes, balancing sweet, sour, salty and umami flavours throughout his menus which are designed for his guests to share.
Looking for London’s best restaurants to drink and dine at?. Ahead of re-opening, we spoke with Peter to find out his thoughts on the most brutal year the hospitality sector has possibly ever navigated.
Pre-Covid, your key audience included office workers, visitors to the art venues on the South Bank and tourists. Since lockdown, how have you pivoted to serve at-home diners?
We decided not to go down the route of serving at-home dinners. I looked into a collaboration with an at-home dining organisation at the end of last year, but when we looked into the costs, logistics and longevity of the investment, we decided it wasn’t worth the risk or return. That being said, had we known this third lockdown was going to last six months, we would probably have thought differently.
What are the strengths that have kept Sticky Mango afloat throughout the pandemic?
A very strong 2019 is the honest answer. We were very fortunate to have had a decent cash flow at the beginning of last year. Luckily, we hadn’t started our refurbishment plans on the restaurant, so it helped us get through the first lockdown. The Eat Out to Help Out launch in August which we continued into September and October was also a very successful period that helped us replenish our losses and get us through the current lockdown.
What is the biggest thing you’ve learnt in the last year, and are there any unexpected positives you have taken from it?
The most obvious answer to this and I’m sure it’s the same for everyone, is never to take anything for granted. Whether it’s your health or your success, it can all disappear in the blink of an eye. We went from having a fully booked restaurant one week to just two covers the next, and when I caught Covid last April, I very quickly realised what’s important in life, and for me, that is time with family. The only positive experience from the last 12 months has been the time spent with my family, playing and cooking together and being a full-time part of their lives.
Have your customers’ appetite for certain dishes shifted over lockdown? If so, why do you think this is?
That’s a difficult question if you think we have only traded for four months out of the last 12. I would say however that with the lack of travel I personally have missed some of the great, more traditional and authentic dishes particularly from Asia, Hainanese Chicken Rice, and Singapore Chilli Crab to name but a few.
Do you feel the challenges you have faced have been similar to the hospitality industry as a whole?
Absolutely, we’re all in the same storm just some of us are in different vessels, with more running costs. At the end of the day, the main problem is cash flow and managing fixed costs. The same issue, when we come out of this, is how much debt we’ll have built up and how quickly can we heal. Unfortunately, some will not have the time or resources to get back on their feet.
What are your plans for welcoming your customers back as normality remerges?
I cannot wait to welcome our customers back, new friends and old ones. There will be some amazing new dishes and cocktails and as always, our very personable service. I think the most important aspect is just making sure we hold on to all the values that made us successful before Covid. This includes providing the comforts, flavours and hospitality many have been missing.
When you re-open, will Sticky Mango have changed? If so how?
I’d love to say we are going to re-open with a fully refurbished restaurant and a new outdoor terrace, but unfortunately, that won’t be the case, we’re only just going to be able to see a terrible year out. So, we will be our same humble selves, giving our guests what they know and have missed, whilst recovering and preparing for a great second half of the year.
What trends are you noticing for the year ahead and will Sticky Mango touch on these?
Like I touched on earlier, I think guests will be looking for creature comfort foods: authentic, traditional classics that satisfy the cravings for dishes they have missed. We’ll certainly be delivering on this.
Do you have any new dishes up your sleeve for when you re-open?
More than 50% of the re-opening menu will change not only in line with the summer season but also to build up the excitement for our guests to try something new. Some of these dishes will include a Vegan Tempeh Indonesian Gado Gado with Avocado, a stunning take on Hainanese Chicken Rice, Boneless whole Thai Fried Sea Bass and the launch of our Summer BBQ Sate Brunch.
And finally, what’s your at-home lockdown cooking tip?
Whenever cooking rice always cook double so you can leave half in the fridge to dry out and ready for a good Nasi Goreng which is great for using up all the leftovers.