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Family Affair

Issue: TW11 May '13

THE LANGELLA FAMILY, OWNERS of Shambles Bar and Restaurant on High Street have been a driving force in Teddington for over forty years. In those years they’ve seen Teddington evolve from quiet suburb to dining destination.

Jackie and husband Franco, both having a background in catering had a dream to open a restaurant, and found themselves moving from Chiswick in 1973 to convert a shop into what became their first business, a cafe called Spaghetti Junction where Carluccio’s is today.

Jackie says ‘Teddington was a bit like a ghost town in those days. There were only two restaurants then, an antique shop or two, Keith Luxford’s fabulous Saddlery shop where Elements and Jenny Blanc are now. There was a music shop, two fishmongers and a couple of boutiques had opened, but it really was
very quiet.’

In 1982 they acquired the then derelict ex-butchers shop where Shambles stands today. Jackie says ‘The building was in a terrible state, having been empty for some years. It was a huge refurbishment and took nearly a year. What surprised us was the amount of space that came with the site. There had been a butcher on the spot since it was built, which was pre-1740. At the rear of the premises there had been a farm area and slaughter house with the butchers shop at the front. The restaurant took its name from the old term for a butchers – A Shambles.’ Today a large garden dining area stretches behind the premises which even includes a boule alley.

Jackie recalls ‘We opened as a wine bar initially, which was a first for Teddington. Of course in the eighties wine bars were hugely popular. It certainly helped that Thames Television were based in the area, we’d get regular visits from the This is Your Life team among others, Michael Aspel was a favourite customer.’

Eight years ago, after their chef of 16 years wanted to retire, Franco and Jackie had to make the decision to carry on or sell the business. Massimo, their son and head chef at Shambles says, ‘I was living in Rome at the time when I got a call from dad asking if I wanted to come back and take over the kitchen. I’d trained as a chef and worked in kitchens in London and Australia, most notably for Giorgio Locatelli. It was a big decision to take, I remember it was a Monday and I asked Dad if could tell him by the end of the week, Dad replied “sleep on it, I need to know by tomorrow”. And here I am. It was daunting at the time to take on the head chef role. Although I’d learnt the theory in chef school, it’s not until you have real experience that you know what works and what doesn’t. Getting to grips with the managerial side of the business was a steep learning curve.
With Massimo’s sister Margherita already managing the restaurant, his return made Shambles a truly family affair.

Massimo has been constantly evolving the menu which showcases modern Italian dishes. ‘Ingredients are the most important thing,’ says Massimo, ‘we source the best quality suppliers. And we’ve got a great space at the back of the restaurant where we are creating a our own vegetable patch. I’ve got high hope to be able to grow some excellent and hard to find varieties for the kitchen.’

‘That is an aspect of cooking that I really enjoy, finding new ingredients to use creatively. Around five years ago I discovered a fabulous Calabrian sausage called N’duja, which is like a salami but when you peel off the skin it’s more like a pate. You see it everywhere now, but for a long time it was my little known discovery. We pride ourselves on making as much produce as we can in-house, with breads, biscuits and pasta made to our recipe, it helps to give an extra dimension to the dishes.

Jackie and Franco has been very active in the evolution of Teddington over the years. Instrumental in setting up the High Street Association, which later became the Teddington Business Community, campaigning to save the Landmark Arts Centre and Teddington Memorial Hospital as well involvement with the original village fair.

Jackie says ‘When you are busy you can do so much more than if you slow down. There was a point when we had three businesses and three children at different schools. People used to ask me how I did it, and I’d think, I really don’t know. We’ve been in business 40 years, and in at least 30 of those we didn’t have a weekend or bank holiday off, we could rarely take a holiday together. Sometimes I’d think why am I doing this, but it was the only thing we knew.’

‘But now it’s different, we are making up for lost time. It’s nice to see our children take on more of a role. The great thing about family is you can rely on them to look after things as you would want. Which means we can relax more.’

With Marghi and Massimo safely at the helm, Jackie and Franco can finally take that well deserved weekend off!

Shambles Italian Bar and Restaurant
83 High Street, Teddington, TW11 8HG