Deptford Dreams…

There is only one Tristan Scutt on the planet, fact!

Back in 2016 at the Timeout Love London Awards, I bumped into him and I knew of his business Little Nan’s Bar. I followed him fondly watching the brand grow from a pop up to permanent fixtures in the south London area.

We were award winners, me picking up best Brockley restaurant and him, best Deptford bar. Enthusiastic about food, drink and all things hospitality we bounced off each others straight away chatting and dancing the night away.

Now those of you who haven’t heard of Little Nan’s its a kitsch and camp cocktail bar, unpretentious and community led, think leopard print walls and disco, good times to be had.

Tristan’s hearts in Deptford, the high street in particular where you will find him sifting through the gems to be had in deptford market or viet rest slurping on a wonton soup.

I fell in love with his passion for business, his can do attitude, making Deptford dreams into reality.

He has a true passion for community, a one of a kind guy and I had the honour of being his business partner and working with the man for the last 18 months.

We had an idea which transpired from a pop up we collaborated on. A craft beer/cocktail bar with Pakistani street food, why not, it’s London baby, anything is possible!

Deptford Esquire was born, we just needed to find a suitable site, we scouted the SE8 area and stumbled across an ex shoe shop, number 29. I had such a good buzzing feeling I came home and told my partner ‘Gareth we are gonna open a bar!’

Illustration of my late grandfather Ch Fazal Hussain Cheema who passed away August 2017. Deptford Esquire branding.

Seeing as I had already launched a restaurant overnight in 2015, poor Gareth was not surprised that I would be taking this brave and exciting step, its me all over.

After operating as a pop up initially in October 2017 whilst waiting for the local council to grant an alcohol license we were really excited to put plans into reality in the new year with the bar, investing and getting ready for a fruitful 2018.

It wasn’t to be, whilst in a haze after the cancer diagnosis in April the bar traded for a little longer until I came out of the fog and the news of stage 4 lung cancer really started to sink.

The reality we faced, financially as someone who is self employed became apparent, the security net is non existent in this game. This was not part of the business plan, I only started getting good at this recently, having taken the leap from being an employee for retail companies 4 years ago.   

The bar needed investment not just financially, but it needed time to be invested in it and I could not provide either of these things.

Late April this year, facing radiotherapy sessions to zap the primary lung tumour, I had to call Tristan, one of the toughest phone calls I have ever made in my life.

‘Tristan, we are gonna have to shut Deptford Esquire down’

‘What, how?’ He seemed totally shocked but accepting, he always respected my opinion.  

‘Tristan i’m not working at the moment and that’s having a financial impact,I cannot commit to Deptford anymore.’

All our hard work, planning, our beautiful south london dreams, over in one phone call, just like that.

See it’s the whole picture with independent businesses, they are run by real people, individuals trying to make a living and if money comes that’s only a good thing.

My motivations were to give my immigrant Pakistani mother an employment opportunity, that’s the real reason why I started my first restaurant Masala Wala Cafe.

Photoshoot for Munchies by Poonam Duffer, mother Nabeela Muqadiss and me

Tristan, partied so hard running pubs for over 15 years that he now runs his own bars inspired by his amazing late nan to keep him on the straight and narrow. You will now see him at his bars sipping on cups of weak tea, checking emails. Where i’m sure the late night venues he used to run brought on late night activities which can take its toll after some time.

Following the emotional phone call I frantically sent him messages and emails with irrelevant information, any information to do with Deptford Esquire, I was in a state of panic, the belief was that I was going to die…. immediately!

I wasn’t well at the point of diagnosis, he had seen first hand my physical state, well I haven’t died so here I am reflecting on the experience.

There is no right or wrong way to run a business, organisation whatever you are doing because life’s gonna come at you anyway, you either bounce back or surrender.

From this experience although our vision was cut short and our union as business partners over due to my health, I have gained a life long friend who inspires me everyday. Mad as hell, artistic and super talented Tristan Scutt.

Cancer you are a bitch and definitely weren’t part of my business plan but i’m here waiting to see what i can learn from you.

Masala Wala Cafe lives on thanks to my beautiful sisters and family team, still serving up Pakistani home cooking, this is currently my primary income.

Its a scary time for all but we face it together in business and in health.

Yes that’s a working traffic light in Little Nans Bar Deptford

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