Introducing Morty & Bob’s: A Boutique Restaurant Group In London Inspired by Mediterranean, American, And English Cuisine

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Morty & Bob’s started as a food stall in East London’s Netil Market. Most recently, in late December, the boutique restaurant group opened its third permanent location, in Kensal Rise. Famed for its oozing grilled cheese sandwiches, the new venue will have a similar welcoming and warm atmosphere to its predecessors in Coal Drops Yards and Westfield Shepherd’s Bush. For the name, owner and restaurateur Charlie Phillips takes inspiration from his grandfathers—Morty and Bob—while everything else is thoroughly modern, relaxed, and welcoming.

You describe Morty & Bob’s as somewhere between a Café, Restaurant and Bar—what does that mean? How is that reflected in the ambiance and attitude of the place? Morty & Bob’s is an all-day hang out. Pop in for a coffee, cocktail, or a three-course meal, and everything in between. The whole idea is it’s a unique space for our customers to come and read a book, meet a mate, catch up on work, or celebrate. I really love that change from daylight to candlelight.

How do you define comfort food for the modern diner? Traditionally comfort food is thought of as bangers and mash, pies, burgers etc. I don’t disagree with that at all, but the goal posts have been widened. At Morty & Bob comfort food is as much our grain bowl packed with hummus, grilled broccoli, avocado, cashews and chilli; as it is or our confit duck and potato hash served with a fried duck egg, lashings of a maple syrup, and wholegrain mustard sauce.

You describe the influences as American, English and European—how is that reflected in the menu? And the spirit of Morty & Bob’s? I was born in the US, so my early memories of eating involve mac and cheese (from the box), grilled cheese, burgers and fries, and pancakes. We moved to London in the 90s. I learnt all my early cooking from my mum and dad who had lived in Italy and France before me. My mum had a catering company in Rome, so food was important.

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Our biggest nod to the three styles (Mediterranean, American and English) is our “straight up” grilled cheese, which is how Morty & Bob’s started, on market stalls. Two of the three cheeses are British, the third is French, and it’s laced with onions. To finish, the whole thing is grilled, just like an American grilled cheese, not a toastie!

What are some trends in cuisine you are seeing that are really exciting? What about ones that are frustrating? When I first started, I was convinced I had to be so on top of food trends, especially with roots in street food. But it’s stressful trying to keep up.

The trend I’m focusing on the most is neighbourhood dining. It’s on the up as people stay closer to home during the week.

What in your mind makes the perfect meal (not just the dishes served but ambiance etc.)? With my third site, I have learned and really concentrated on three things when it comes to dining out: sound, lighting and temperature. I’ve invested in this so much more this time round and will continue to do so. Along with delicious food—that goes without saying!

What makes the perfect grilled cheese sandwich? I can’t give too much away here as it’s TOP SECRET and involves our secret cheese sauce, which binds it all together, but I have some pointers. First, stale bread at least a day or two old is compulsory. Grill it in a pan with butter. Let it sit for a minute before you cut it, or you’ll lose the oozing cheese. The rest is purely preference, or what’s in the fridge. Make a cheese sauce with a béchamel base and you can’t go wrong. I’ve recently tried adding roast chicken juices and crispy chilli oil. Madness!

How did you grow Morty & Bob’s from a food stall to a multi-destination restaurant group? Morty & Bob’s has grown quite organically and through opportunity rather than a forced expansion. Our street food led to us being offered a café next door to Netil Market (where we started). Coal Drops Yard approached us for site two and so did Westfield for site three.

For our latest opening in Kensal Rise, I live nearby. Knowing it was a busy spot, and with the neighbourhood all-day dining concept in mind, we took a chance. And we’ve been busy since day one.

What would your grandfathers think of Morty & Bob’s? I was lucky enough to show Bob our street food stall before he passed away, and a picture of him holding his hat outside that first site hangs in every restaurant. This sits proudly alongside one of Morty, standing behind the bar at his restaurant in Montreal in the 60s.

I think they’d wonder what the hell a grain bowl is or what mushroom croquettes are, but ultimately, they’d get a kick out of their names above the door at their grandson’s restaurants. Although it was started by me, it very much feels like an old family business. My family and I had our Christmas day lunch in the new site this year while it was closed. Bob’s wife Jean, who is 95, joined us along with Morty’s son (my dad) and Bob’s daughter (my mum), my kids, partner and her brother.