‘Putting a business like this in jeopardy is totally against the ethos of Wahaca’

Last week’s story about the Fruit Bowl had locals up in arms. But what’s really going on? Stallholder Sally Keable and Wahaca’s co-founder Mark Selby reveal the latest developments

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‘People buy from us precisely because they don’t have to go inside a shop,’ says Sally Keable

Hopeful; Sally Keable has been speaking to Wahaca and hopes for a resolution this week. Pic: Stephen Emms
Hopeful: Sally Keable has been speaking to Wahaca and hopes for a resolution this week. Pic: Stephen Emms

“We found out last week when we saw a notice on lamp post. That’s when we realised we were being thrown out before planning permission has been granted for the new Wahaca restaurant.

We knew it was coming, of course, but didn’t know it would be as soon as Jan 20, when we must leave our pavement spot, and April 20, for the shop. The council gave us a separate license for the pavement which they can terminate more quickly. (They also know we can’t do much inside the shop if we can’t put anything on the pavement.)

Ever since the Kentishtowner piece came out, everyone keeps suggesting we move to the canopy area. If we have to leave here then we would consider it as we would consider anything to stay in Kentish Town – and that’s the most viable option. In the short term, however, we’d have to cut down the number of lines we sell as the space is smaller, while doubling sales on existing lines. And the location isn’t as good as right next to the station.


The other alternative is a lot more expensive: to take a boarded-up outlet like Kutt Zone opposite. Right now our rent is so little and rateable value is low as we don’t have to pay any rates (after all, we don’t have any water supply here or toilets). A shop would double our costs, and yet we’re not sure our sales would double. People buy from us precisely because they don’t have to go inside a shop – they just throw us 50p on the scale and on they go. It’s instant.

The good news, however, is that Wahaca want to work with us. I’ve spoken to them this week. They insist the outlet was shown to them with our shop included. I can’t see why they need the bit of space where we are, however. There’s a lift, and lots of space inside as it opens out into an office. They can put the lift somewhere else. But they’re now saying they’ll try to set up their burrito takeaway stall under the canopy rather than make us move.

So it’s all down to TFL, who – we believe – want us to go because we are blocking the pavement. We need them to cancel our notice to vacate.

We are pushing for a three-way meeting with TFL and Wahaca to work on a compromise: to give up some of the space by the proposed entrance and move further along the wall of the station. There is room for both of us. Wahaca have told us they are proposing all this to TFL and will let us know how they get on.

In the meantime we have started a petition – the more people that show their support here, the better.

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‘The bottom line is, if The Fruit Bowl has to move as part of this lease, then we would not take the lease,’ says Wahaca co-founder Mark Selby

Mark Selbers and Thomasina Miers. Photo: PR
Mark Selby and Thomasina Miers. Photo: PR
“We wanted to clarify what is happening with the unit above Kentish Town station as we feel that we may have been slightly misrepresented to date. We are so excited about the possibility of opening here precisely because of Kentish Town’s unique culture, unaffected vibe and sense of community – the last thing we want to do is disrupt that.

Wahaca hasn’t signed any lease yet and we have put in planning application for use of the upper floors of the site as an A3 restaurant only. Before the position of Sally and the Fruit Bowl was fully understood, we had been considering the possibility of a take-away burrito and taco shack on the ground floor, in the space we had been told they were moving from. The difficulty of visibility and access that we might have if we took the upper floor only was one concern in our developing plans.

Last week the full situation with The Fruit Bowl came to light and we’ve since been to discuss with Sally and find out what she wants in the future. We realise that small independent businesses are at the heart of any community and need to be protected and supported. We wouldn’t take this space if it caused problems for The Fruit Bowl, but we think that by changing our plans and allowing space for both her stall as our disabled access lift, we can create a space that benefits both of us as well as the Kentish Town neighbourhood. Hopefully the additional interest from people coming to our restaurant will help Sally’s business to grow as well.

As part of changing our plans for this new entrance, we would like to see if Camden Council can work with us to look into the opportunity of setting up the takeaway taco stall in the “covered canopy” area instead of where the Fruit Bowl currently is. If this is given planning permission, it’ll help to bring some more life into this underused space as suggested by the Kentishtowner.

The bottom line is, if The Fruit Bowl has to move as part of this lease, then we would not take the lease, so we are now working with TFL to ensure that doesn’t happen. We have always worked with small, local suppliers and so putting a business like this in jeopardy is totally against the ethos of Wahaca.

Read our interview with Sally in tomorrow’s brand new double Xmas print issue of Kentishtowner, available from 100 outlets across ten postcodes.

  • Show Comments

  • Tigger

    I used to go into the Wahaca at the South Bank before concerts when it first opened. However, being put in a dim, narrow corridor with all the other “oldies” several times in a row when better lit. larger tables downstairs were obviously free, with a menu with microscopic writing in difficult to see colours, and the decline in the food from something vaguely like proper Mexican food to Tex Mex, and being made to wait for ages or sent away for 30 or 60 minutes so you had no idea if you’d be finished before the concert started all contributed to me giving up on the place. Clearly Wahaca isn’t intended for anyone over 40 or the general public using the South Bank.

    I’d like to see a genuine Mexican restaurant in Kentish Town not some dimly-lit, “under-30s only” bar which sells a few tacos with the beers. “Not forcing the fruit stall to move” isn’t the same as leaving them with a viable space to continue trading. The notion that a Wahaca is required to bring more business to the entrance of a busy tube station is absurd.

    We’ll see won’t we.

  • Ross MacDougall

    Great to see Wahaca making their position clear. Basically if TFL want the business from Wahaca, then they have to play nice with Fruit Bowl, which benefits everyone. Good job all round. TFL; don’t let us down!

  • Feather

    We don’t need a bloody burrito stall in KT! And Wahaca would be better off in Camden. Leave KT’s Fruit Bowl alone, Wahaca! And keep your greasy mitts off our patch. May as well take the Pret and Costa coffee with you, too. Hasta nunca!

  • kd

    Good on Wahaca for their considered approach to this now that they are aware of the issues. Lets hope TFL are reasonable and understand they the value in retaining independent businesses which help make Kentish Town such a great place to live and work.

  • youngdoney

    Excellent piece of reporting by Kentishtowner. This has confirmed that Wahaca has great intentions and a good understanding of the area. Also good to show Fruit Bowl confirm this.

    People who keep harping on about it not being the right kind of Mexican, or it should be located in Camden and all the other nimbyisms – if you don’t like it go somewhere else. You have a choice and freedom of movement, so utilise it.

    For one I see this part of Kentish Town becoming quite a hu of evening food, drink and entertainment for everyone at all times of the day. Isn’t that what urban life is about?

    If you want peace and quiet and boredom, the suburbs are a few stops up the Northern Line, best go take a look.

  • Mad Dog

    I expected great food from Tomasina Meyers and Wahaca, but it seems to be more Tex Mex than Mexican and the interiors of their restaurants remind me of McDonalds. On visiting the Southbank in the evening, the Southbank Real Food Market represents better food and value than the Wahaca Street Kitchen, IMHO.
    I’d rather see someone selling vegetables than refried beans in Kentish Town.

  • Jamie

    Petition signed. And well done Wahaca for approaching this decently.

  • 19Arab

    Well done Wahaca – sound move, come on TFL – will sign petition in support of keeping both 🙂

  • Patrick

    Well done KTowner – just the kind of local reporting we need! Good on Wahaca too. Great to hear them being so engaging.

  • Will

    As much as I like to support local business, buying my veg from the bowl and not sainsburys, I’d prefer the bowl to move. It does block the pavement a bit for predestrians and when loading and unloading, the pallets block the road for cyclists and van blocks Leighton road for traffic. If they could move to under the canopy or even Islip street where there is far more space, where’s the harm?

    • CN

      I could not agree more. It really is an overcrowded stretch and makes for a hectic arrival in Ktown. I get jostled so often just trying to get in or out of the tube. Change is scary but I have to think it would really improve the space to move the Fruit Bowl.

  • Feather

    Calm down @youngdoney – it’s not about wanting to keep KT in the dark ages, it’s about chain restaurants wiping out small businesses without a thought or care in the world. Let’s see if Wahaca are true to their word. Time will tell. KT high street is one of the last bits of London that still feels like it hasn’t been rinsed of any personality, and the area feels like it’s moving and changing in the right direction (see the new cocktail bar set to open, the new caff next door to Kentish Canteen etc) – it would be a shame if these chains swept in and pushed prices up and local businesses had to shut down. And Wahaca’s food isn’t great, let’s face it. So stick that in yer pipe and smoke it in the suburbs!

  • Jacky Kitching

    It would appear that both Wahaca and Sally at the Fruit Bowl are approaching this problem/dilemma in a thoughtful & considered manner – fair play to both of them.
    Whilst I would not personally welcome a Wahaca restaurant in Kentish Town, I recognise that the landlords (TFL) must get a viable and reliable rent from any future tenant, and from what I’ve read here Wahaca seem sympathetic to maintaining and possibly improving our neighbourhood.
    Come on TFL – get a three-way conversation going and reach a mutally agreeable decision quickly. Delays and uncertainties are not good for any type of business whatever the size of the company.
    Excellent and balanced reporting from the Kentishtowner – well done, guys!

  • 19Arab

    Just an idea

    If this were New York they would defo keep both and there would be a very nifty secret entrance right through the fruit bowl…

    La Esquina in New York, entry via kitchen of a simple burrito bar – very nice


  • Nick

    The restaurant for ACE Hotel in Shoreditch is through a florist. it could definitely work

  • Tom


    I’ve just heard via the Inkerman area local residents’ association that a meeting took place earlier this week between TfL, the Fruit Bowl and Wahaca.

    It’s been agreed that the Fruit Bowl can stay but with a slightly reduced frontage. This will allow Wahaca to install a disabled access lift up to the proposed restaurant.

    Looks like a good solution all round.