The story of Wilder restaurant and bar by chef Richard McLellan is one of serendipity. Fate brought McLellan—on a mission to open his first solo venture—together with Sir Terence Conran whose Shoreditch hotel Boundary London had a vacant spot. Inspired by McLellan’s supper clubs of the same name, where each dish included a wild element, the menu at Wilder has many ingredients foraged by McLellan himself. The sustainably minded chef is working with independent and small-scale suppliers such as food writer and forager Susan Campbell and Fish for Thought. His commitment to 100% British produce means that the inventive seasonal dishes substitute non-local products such as citrus for homemade vinegar or sourdough made from beremeal, an ancient grain found on the island of Orkney. East London floral design studio Worm have created large, sprawling installations of foliage suspended from the ceiling to really bring home that guests here are in for wild time.
Q: How did you come about collaborating with Sir Terence Conran?
After the success of my Wilder supper clubs at Rye London and collaborations with Scout, I started the hunt for a permanent space. During that time, my business partner Mark flooded his flat, so he came to stay at the Boundary hotel. Over breakfast, we noticed the space underneath the Boundary was vacant, so we got in touch with the Conran family to set up a meeting to pitch them the idea for the restaurant.
Q: What did you enjoy most in the process of opening your own restaurant?
That’s a tough question. As someone who has an interest in design, I’d say every stage, from working closely with Fiona and Sophie (our architects) on the construction—choosing materials, color palettes, and lighting—to the final stages of branding, finding the right paper stock for the menus, and choosing the music. It probably goes without saying, but I also really enjoyed all the work that goes into creating the first menu and building the right team to run the bar and floor.
Q: Could you tell us more about the wild components the menu will feature?
There are quite a few that have been picked, preserved, and pickled by me and my sous chef Corrin over this past year. For example, our leek dish is currently being served with wild garlic capers, which I picked and preserved in Suffolk in late spring this year, including lacto-fermenting the leaves. Every dish on the menu has a wild element and a story behind it.
Q: How do you find the people/brands you want to collaborate with such as Susan Campbell and Fish for Thought?
It’s really important to me to work with like-minded people on Wilder. Some of our suppliers I contacted or knew already, and some approached me. All have been invaluable in providing stunning ingredients from natural environments and in helping me achieve the vision of Wilder.
Q: Will Wilder aim to have zero waste?
That’s another tough question. Waste is a global issue that all of us should be trying to improve on. We’re not quite at zero waste yet but it’s a work in progress and certainly an aim of ours.
Q: Do you have a favorite cookbook or culinary hero? Why?
As a chef, I buy books that focus on ingredients—ones that try to understand the product first before focusing on cooking technique or style. An author that springs to mind is the 20th century writer Richard Olney (an American painter, cook, and food writer best known for his books on French country cooking). His methods and approach to sourcing ingredients were ground-breaking for his time, and I still find his books intriguing and an entertaining read.
Q: When you’re not cooking, you are ________________
That’s the easiest question of all… Sleeping!