Local Heroes is our series where we big up the people, small businesses and neighbourhood spots that make London great, and now it’s the turn of Streatham-based London Smoke & Cure. The business creates artisan food products like sashimi-grade cold smoked salmon, 28-day dry aged bacon, and a range of air-dried charcuterie out of a bespoke unit inside a former 19th century horse stable on a cobbled mews.
Ross Mitchell founded London Smoke & Cure in 2015 after “wanting to do something more creative with my time, to take a risk and to break free of the rhythms and familiarity of life worked in an office. I wanted to feel more alive and connected with people and I get that every time someone buys our product because everything we believe in is wrapped up in that one little pack. There’s a simple honesty that comes with crafting and selling a product and it’s a very personal experience for me.”
Ross has grown from smoking test products in an old kitchen cabinet and building a smokery in the garden to create products to sell to a small team who produce the items, sell at farmers markets and run smoking and curing workshops. The commitment to craft hasn’t changed though; everything that London Smoke & Cure sells is made in artisan way using responsibly sourced ingredients, and that approach has won accolades from the Great Taste Awards and British Charcuterie Awards. The sashimi-grade smoked salmon is their signature item, as Ross says, “it is the product that started our journey and remains our best seller, it’s appreciated in Michelin-starred establishments and we’re still enjoying the warm glow of a recent two star Great Taste Award for it. The staff and I give it a thorough taste test every week (quality control!) and it’s one of my favourite parts of the week.” As nice as the awards are though, for Ross the real highlights “are every day working with the staff. To see them together as a team working so hard to always push the boundaries of product quality is one of the most exceptional experiences of my life.”
As with most businesses, particularly ones in the food sector, the pandemic proved to be a challenging time for London Smoke & Cure. “We experienced the very familiar story of the majority of our customer base being taken away overnight. But I think about it all quite philosophically, and I believe that it will come to be the most important time for us,” says Ross. “All the additional stress that was placed on our staff and our systems has meant we’ve had to improve things which puts us in a great position for the future. And I’ve been very humbled by the support by the local community, as well as those online. It has felt like a true coming together of effort, and in doing so we’ve grown in confidence and ability.”
Ultimately that experience of navigating the pandemic has set foundations for the rest of the year, “we’re continuing on our journey to put in place more sustainable practices, and widening that to look more at how we can make things better for the staff, and be more connected with our suppliers. Then the biggest piece of work is really focussing on giving our customers better experiences. It’s shaping up very nicely,” says Ross.
We like to share the love so Ross is shouting out Oblutak, “a small fermentation company that are local to us and they make the most amazing nuts and seeds chilli oil. It has literally changed my life” and Beefeater Gin, “they’ve been around for so long and maybe it’s easy to disregard such a big brand amongst the start ups, but these guys are the real deal, and true artisans. Even at their volume the gin is still made by hand and to me they’re a real inspiration.”