In 1988, when Soho was still edgy, Diane Thomas and Jane Muir opened Mildreds on Greek Street. Back then vegetarian restaurants were still stuck in a 60s vibe – doling out ‘worthy’ brown food into earthenware pottery placed on pine tables. The whole thing felt dated, or so it seemed to us. Our aim was to open a restaurant serving good value, fresh and colourful international vegetarian food.
Armed with the supreme confidence of youth (and little else) we took the lease on a small café that, in its former life, had been a seedy sex club… complete with an S&M padded cell in the basement! At that time our 60s porn baron landlords would come to collect their extortionate rent in person, usually with a glamorous brunette or blonde – wrapped in fur and wearing large, dangly earrings – in tow. After invariably asking for a bacon sandwich they would slip the wads of cash into the inside pockets of their cashmere coats and head out for a ‘real meal’, as they put it. The word on the street was that we would last 6 months but despite that we soon became a popular fixture in Soho.
With main courses priced at £2.95 we quickly figured out that we needed to turn those tables to cover the overheads, and so we made the unusual decision (at that time) to take no bookings. As our customers had nowhere to queue we sent them to the pub over the road and would spend a good part of each night running to and fro shouting out the names of waiting customers above the pumping rock music. After 12 years we took the opportunity to move to larger premises that came with a proper kitchen, bar and a private dining room. Mildreds had grown up.
We have now also opened in Camden, Kings Cross and Dalston.