The Brigade Bar and Bistro opened on Tooley Street in 2011. It was the culmination of Simon Boyle’s hard work towards forging a relationship between Pricewaterhouse Coopers, De Vere Venues and the Homes and Communities Agency. Together they made an £800k investment in a restaurant that serves not only customers, but also the wider community. Since then, all profits have been shared with other charities and social enterprises.
The name Brigade refers not only to a collection of chefs, but also to the building’s past as one of the first fire stations of the 1865 Metropolitan Fire Brigade. This was the first public fire fighting facility in Britain, established after the fire at Cottons Wharf on Tooley Street. Today Brigade honours its history of social responsibility by providing a home for the not-for-profit organisation, Beyond Food. Apprentice chefs whom the charity has helped back into work after homelessness and unemployment prepare the restaurant’s food. Brigade is a social enterprise as well as a classic British restaurant, offering a path into long-term, meaningful employment for vulnerable people.
Since it’s opening, Simon’s vision has seen 76 people through United Kitchens Apprenticeships. His professional connections have allowed apprentices to find employment in some of the top restaurants in London, including the Savoy Hotel, Corbin and King Restaurants, Bruno Loubet’s Grainstore, De Vere Venues, Brassiere Blanc and many other famous establishments.
Simon has always believed that the building’s historic social responsibility should be echoed in all of its uses, not just his restaurant. For this reason, only organisations with a social mission are able to rent the office space above. It has become the home of Social Enterprise UK and other, similarly minded, organisations. When Mayor Boris Johnson opened the restaurant, he agreed that ‘this is ethical capitalism,’ ‘social enterprise at its best.’ The entire building challenges modern interpretations of business, proving that creating a profit does not have to come at the expense of a social conscience.
As Brigade’s success has become more evident, partners and visitors alike agree that Simon’s enterprise should become a model for other like-minded organisations. It offers a modern combination of profit and social awareness that Simon hopes to one-day replicate across the country.