After seducing Paris with their refined Italian cuisine, the French from Daroco are moving to London

It is in the young, dynamic and rapidly changing neighborhood that the two partners of Daroco have chosen to set up their London establishment, opened in October and whose summer terrace has just been inaugurated. This arrival across the Channel marks their first step not only outside Paris but also internationally. And the English capital is not a trivial decision. Indeed, Julien Ross, one of the founders, spent a large part of his youth there. “I was educated at the French Lycée from the early 90s to the early 2000s”he explains, “my father worked in finance here”. Moreover, Julien Ross was destined for the same career. After his baccalaureate, he enrolled at the European Business School, but he realized that it was not really what he wanted to do with his life.

Photo credit: Daroco

An entry into the world of catering by pure chance

So the young man returned to Paris and his cousin, who was already working in restaurants, asked him to join him. “If there is no restaurateur in the family, cooking is something important, especially on my mother’s side, who is from Auvergne,” confides Julien Ross. Very quickly, he “fall in love” of career. He starts as a waiter, becomes a manager and then ends up as a director. During his first years of career, Julien Ross worked, among others, at Costes and the Marly café. “The good thing about this environment is that you can evolve very quickly,” recognizes the Frenchman. But he needs a new challenge. So he left Paris and flew to New York, where he worked for Daniel Boulud, a three-star chef. He ended up managing the restaurant. After his visa expired, he returned to Paris, with a dream he had for a very long time in mind: opening his own restaurant.

He joined forces with chef Alexandre Giesbert, formerly of Pierre Gagnaire, Eric Briffard, Christian Etchebest and the Richer restaurant and together, in 2013, they opened a small Parisian bistro in the 17th arrondissement, called Roca. “In our first year of opening, we were voted best bistro in Paris”, proudly says Julien Ross, “we had few means, but we put a lot of love into it”. This immediate success made them want more, so they opened a pizzeria, then a gourmet kebab… before going bigger with Daroco in 2016. It was in the former iconic boutique of Jean-Paul Gaultier, rue Vivienne in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris, that the duo sets up this first address. Because a second will see the light of day in 2018 in the 16th. “We chose to highlight Italian cuisine, because it has always interested us, but also because it is a timeless cuisine that everyone loves”comments Julien Ross.

Soho, a neighborhood in their image

Moving to London was “a long-term project”. “We wanted a new challenge and to go outside of Paris.” The duo first thought of expanding elsewhere in France, particularly on the Mediterranean coast. Then they decide to look towards Dubai instead, but it will be London which will ultimately have their favors. “Because the opportunity presented itself there first”, specifies the co-founder, who adds, “what is interesting is that two of the historical associates are my childhood friends met when I was a student at the Lycée français Charles de Gaulle”.

Photo credit: Daroco

Julien Ross and Alexandre Giesbert visit several locations in London, via the Soho Estates agency which seeks to promote the “small operators” in the neighborhood. Mayfair, Shoreditch, Chelsea… “The first one we visited was in Soho and we immediately found the idea exciting, because it was central, in a dynamic environment with a festive clientele, and in addition there was the possibility of having a large terrace. The perfect location to be our flagship in London”. Because the two partners already have the ambition to open other Darocos in the capital. After signing the lease, the duo refurbished everything inside, with a polished design. “We started from a blank page”, says Julien Ross. To take this first international step, they have “was supported by the Public Investment Bank in France” and were able to count, underlines the Frenchman, “with the help of friends, like the founders of the group Big Mamma, already well established, but also the chef Greg Marchand”. Welcome help when the ways of doing things here are not the same as in France.

Keeping pace in an ultra-competitive environment

Opened last October, Daroco Soho got off to a very good start. In particular thanks to the article by the daily journalist The Guardian, Grace Dent. After the publication of his paper, the restaurant went from 60 to 300 seats per day (the restaurant can accommodate up to 120 seats per service). Enough to please Julien Ross, who now lives in London to be closer to the teams. “We are a small family group, it is our money that we invest, we take risks, we absolutely do not want to be a money machine. We just want to create places where people have fun, eat fine food. A cool restaurant spirit with a simple idea: to please”. For the Frenchman, the article by the Guardian journalist had clearly transcribed this idea.

Photo credit: Daroco

But you have to keep pace in a very competitive environment. “In 2023, there will be 280 restaurant openings in Soho alone”, recalls Julien Ross. However, the Frenchman remains confident. “We are already very happy. We just need to readjust to the customer base, particularly on business lunches,” advances the co-founder of Daroco, who adds, “success takes time. The first year is always the one where we assimilate all the information, and the second where we put everything in place”. And then, the duo anticipated everything. The arrival of good weather will attract even more people, especially with the large outdoor terrace that the restaurant has (up to 60 seats) and inaugurated in mid-April. Their little extra touch to stand out from the competition is also their basement bar (with 50 seats), the Wacky Wombat, which distills all the imagination of the highly acclaimed bartender, Nico de Soto, founder of Mace in New York ten years ago.

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