A taste of Venice in London's east end

Tue May 22, 2012 5:27am EDT
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By Simon Falush

LONDON (Reuters) - On the surface the picturesque UNESCO World Heritage site Venice may seem to have little in common with Hackney, a gritty but rapidly regenerating district in east London.

But the similarities appear very clear to Venetian chef Andrea Michelon, who along with compatriot architect Paolo Mozzato and four British and Irish partners, decided to set up their buzzing, bohemian neighborhood restaurant Ombra.

Beyond the tourist sites, Venice like east London is home to close-knit neighborhoods used to welcoming newcomers thanks to a past as a port destinations, Michelon says.

Here are a few other comments he had to make on his restaurant and the cultural connections between neighborhoods and their eateries.

Q: Venice is a cultural destination for tourists from around the world. Would it be fair to say it has almost nothing in common with the East London location that you've chosen to call home and set up your restaurant?

A: No, in fact this part of London reminds me of Venice, in particular Castello, which was a working class and sometimes criminal district, though it is disappearing now as there's a lack of work. It had the feeling of a village, and Hackney has that feel, and we have the canal, so there is the feeling of being on an island, like in Venice. And of course Britain itself is an island!

Q: What were you doing before you set up in London?

A: I was working at a restaurant in Mikenos, Greece for four years. I also worked for years on boats around the Mediterranean serving small groups of people. But I started at Paradiso Perduto in Venice. It was a place which was always lively and had important musicians playing. I wanted to catch the spirit of this place.   Continued...