In conversation with Brother Marcus

Brother Marcus
Image credit Brother Marcus

Amelia Braddick sat down with Alex Large and Tas Gaitanos, co-founders of Brother Marcus to discuss their business in Spitalfields Market, future plans and all things pitta.

Q. Tell us about yourselves and talk us through the inspiration for opening Brother Marcus?

Tas (T): I met Alex at school, many years ago. I then went off to university to specialise in photography. I came back to London and worked in street food with some family friends.

Alex (A): I studied acting at Guildhall in the Barbican and had a go at that for a few years, having some ups and downs. In my down periods, I worked as a waiter, barman, and barista at loads of different places around London.

When we were twenty-five, we had a chat and said let’s do something for ourselves. A year later, we came across a café in Balham and for next to no money, we got the keys on a Sunday, and we opened it on a Thursday. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing, but we knew what good hospitality was and Tas knows what good food is, as his family owns a restaurant in Crete.

T: Yes, cooking is in the blood. Thankfully, things went well and we realised that what we had built really resonated with the locals in Balham at the time.

A: Brunch was becoming increasingly popular. There was great music, the staff were friendly and we encouraged everyone to bring their own personality to work.

T: It was almost like an extension of people’s living rooms: it was the place where people came to get a respite, to have their chats with their friends. We were a safe space for people to be catered for and to be looked after.

T: Since then we have built on that, always looking at how to improve each year. It took a while for the brand to mature to what it is now. We weren’t sure what type of cuisine we were doing or who we were trying to be.

A: It all came about when we opened in Angel in 2018. We realised that because of Tas, the food was inherently Mediterranean. We really decided to lean on that and then opened our evening concept as well.

Q. Who’s Marcus?

A: Oh, he’s my brother.

T: It was a joke for years before. Alex would always say ‘my brother Marcus’ this, ‘my brother Marcus’ that, and we’d say ‘we know he’s your brother!’

A: And I guess it goes hand in hand with the fun of the first site. We weren’t taking ourselves too seriously.

Q. What made you choose Eastern Mediterranean flavours and dishes for your basis of your menus and restaurant designs?

T: It’s the food that brings people together. We didn’t want to shoehorn ourselves geographically into one specific region and the Eastern Mediterranean concept allows us that flexibility to be able to explore different regions and styles.

Londoners are accustomed to eating a very high standard, a polished dish that is Instagram-worthy. People eat with their eyes before they eat, so we use photography as a tool to design dishes, they’ve got to appeal to the masses and look good on the internet too.

Q. What’s one ingredient you couldn’t live without?

A: I like labneh. I have it with everything; breakfast, and on all the vegetable dishes on the menu.

T: I was going to say olive oil but labneh is a good one.

Q. You have various locations, but what do you love about having a business here in Spitalfields, in the City?

A: It’s great to be in Spitalfields market, such an exciting and historical place to be.

T: You’ve got people that live in the City but you’ve got the tourists that are passing through. And we’re bang in the middle of that. We’re a respite from the hustle and bustle and we provide a safe haven for people.

Q. What are the challenges you face as a restaurant in such a competitive dining scene?

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Image credit Brother Marcus

A: One of the biggest challenges at the moment is that many City workers still have a hybrid system of working from home. Thursday nights are now better and stronger than Friday nights, which is no surprise.

T: The cost of living is also a challenge. Through our menus, we’re trying to offer better value for money.

A: We’re trying to create better value for money while improving the product and giving a better experience. It’s pretty tricky. One of the ways we can do that is through breakfast.

T: We had conversations about this and we needed to make sure that our concept was able to bridge that all-day, all-day trade.

A: Historically our brunch menu has been Monday to Friday as well as Saturday and Sunday. It’s been the same menu all the time but for the first time, we’ve changed the breakfast menu from Monday to Friday. We’re doing this to make it more approachable, people can visit more frequently but still have something exciting East Mediterranean food.

The hero dishes of this slot will be the four breakfast pittas.

T: It’s a perfect vessel to carry all those flavours! As the juices drip it all connects to the bottom of the pitta!

Q. What are the aspirations for Brother Marcus for 2024?

T: Our Spring menu has just launched.

A: I can’t give too much away but growth is on the cards this year! What’s really important for us as a business is as we get bigger we get better and that’s what this year is really about.

Q. What’s the your favourite dish on the menu?

A: I always say the fried chicken rosti with fried eggs and bacon jam.

T: I’ll say the sweet potato fritters.

A: Although yesterday I had the feta spinach pitta and that was unbelievable. I could eat that five days a week.

T: Pitta that will blow your socks off!

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