Once upon a time, a Canadian boy met a Polish girl. But the Polish girl didn’t cook, so her friends set about to get the Canadian boy hooked on Polish food. And Polish drink. And even Polish music. Because, let’s face it, some addictions are fun. Then those Polish friends had a problem, because the Canadian boy was SERIOUSLY hooked on Polish food (as well as the Polish girl, obviously). And now they had to find a place where Poles could take there non-Polish mates and introduce them to all the Polish tastes in the rainbow, because frankly, they were tired of cooking for him. But none of the 50 or so Polish restaurants inside the M25 made this mixed group of mates – Poles, Brits and Others – feel at home.
So the Canadian boy said, “This must be rectified! I shall build a home of Polish food, drink, art and music in the oldest run-down shopping centre in the UK, in the middle of the Elephant and Castle, call it Mamuśka! and introduce these Polish wonders to the world!” And then the Polish girl said, “Oh oh” and quickly set about advancing her career anywhere else and also making babies, in order to avoid working in a business side-by-side with the Canadian boy, whom she loved, but let’s face it, got on her nerves when they spent too much time together. Then one day a London boy walked in from the bus stop in front of the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre and said, “Hey! I once had a Polish girlfriend, and I recognise the accent on the ‘s’ and that means this place must sell Polish food, which I love! May I have a take-away?” And the Canadian boy said, “No. Eat in so that people see that our food is much better than our surroundings would suggest. And also, please host an Open Mic night every week and do all of our IT for us for the next 8 years and also manage the business for 12 months a couple of years from now, because in two years our Polish Air Conditioning guy will run off with our Polish General Manager, also to make babies.”
Then a Polish boy jumped off the coach at Victoria Station and came directly to Mamuśka! to seek employment as a cook. And the Canadian boy said, “Not only will I give you a job as a cook, but in a year, I will make you my Head Chef and a couple years after that give you 5% of the business.” And the Polish chef said, “I don’t know what you are on about mate, because I just got off the bus and don’t speak a word of English yet” but took the job, nonetheless. Then the Canadian boy decided to leave Location 1 and move across the street from the Elephant & Castle Shopping Centre, because he was quite sure that the place was about to fall down around their ears. So the Canadian boy asked the Polish boy to work with him to build a new restaurant across the street and the London boy to wire it all up with very modern IT stuff. “We shall call it Location 2, because I plan on building a lot of these things!” And the Polish boy looked at the London boy and they said to each other, “Oh oh”. But they did build it and actually it was awesome.
Then another Polish Head Chef, who was also formerly a Restaurant Manager and also formerly a Barista came to see the Canadian Boy and said, “Please may I be your Bookkeeper?” And the Canadian Boy said, “Well now. I think I like the idea of a Bookkeeper who can jump into the kitchen and make schabowy and also take orders from customers and also make drinks when other team members cannot come to work because their grandmother on their mother’s side has died yet again. That will be quite handy under these circumstances.” And the Polish Bookkeeper said, “Oh oh.”
And then 3 years later, the Canadian boy asked the landlord at Location 2 for a renewal of their lease as previously agreed on a handshake and the landlord said, “Actually, now that you have made the location viable, I will hand it over to my son so he can open a bar.” And the Canadian boy and his Polish Chef and the London IT Geek and their new Polish Bookkeeper looked at each other and then they looked around the restaurant they had spent a lot of time and money renovating and realised they would never recover that investment got a little bit annoyed, frankly.
But in the meantime, one of the development arms of the Department of Transport hired a commercial estate agent with a keen eye for talent and gullibility and the agent walked into Location 2 and said, “Never mind this place! Come down to Southbank Waterloo to a street that is actually not a street but rather, a scary tunnel that has no exit and a bunch of hipsters, smokers and jokers with a lot of spray paint, and spend all the money that the Canadian boy has left and open up a massive new site here because we ABSOLUTELY will make sure you are by no means left alone on Addington Street on the front of the development far away from the Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel that you are paying to promote and be part of, with no signage telling people where you are and how to find you, and with a hole in the ceiling that somehow every once in a while let’s in rain water from the platforms above even though they are covered, and also for good measure an uncompleted front entrance that will make your staff wonder why the massive heater they have running all the time is having no effect on their freezing toes. We are the Government, and we would NEVER do ANY of that, obviously! And also, you can call it Location 3″.
And then the Canadian Boy did spend all his money, but 6 months later the massive new restaurant and bar was not quite finished because the Government Agency gave them the wrong building plans and delayed their construction, and the Canadian Boy, his Polish Chef, the London IT Geek and their Polish Bookkeeper looked at each other and said, “Oh oh”.
And then the Canadian boy said to the Polish Girl, “You are very smart for saying “Oh oh” 8 years ago and for building your career elsewhere. Will you please financially support me and our children for the next few years?” And we don’t want to tell you what she said. Then the London IT Geek said, “I am very tired of you guys calling me a geek. And also, I am tired of fixing the printer. Printers are NOT part of IT!! ” and he left to start a life with, you guessed it, a Polish girl he met at Mamuśka! And shortly after that, the Polish Bookkeeper, who obviously spent more time looking at the numbers than the other three, also bailed and went and got a job where he did not have to break out in a sweat every pay day wondering if the funds would clear.
Then the Canadian Boy put his head in his hands and had a good cry. And the Polish Chef handed him some delicious pierogi and said, “Don’t be such a baby” because chefs are just like that. But then the Canadian boy and the Polish Chef got their heads down and drove the business forward, creating amazing Polish food and importing craft Polish beer and vodka, and creating wonderful experiences for their customers, just as they had done in Location 1 and Location 2. And the customers came. Some customers were called Stalkers because they followed them from Elephant and Castle. New customers were called Newbies because they would never dream of dining out in Elephant and Castle but are very trendy and love the fact that they could eat pierogi in Southbank, darling.
Then after about 14 months, the business ALMOST reached sales high enough to financially break even. And then the Man came on the TV and said somebody did something inappropriate with a wet bat or something and everything went very, very dark for a long time. The Polish Chef kept the kitchen open because “Even in a pandemic, people need to eat. And they should be eating pierogi. Stop crying!! Why do you keep crying, Canadian Boy??” And the Canadian Boy waited, and kept selling things to pay the bills, and yes the Government Landlord decided that even though they will not do anything about the signage, the rubbish, the leaks and the cold air, at least they will do a revenue-based deal on the rent. And then the pandemic was over, and the Canadian boy said, “WE SURVIVED!!” And then he looked around and realised that even though he had paid out a LOT of money in Furlough top-up payments, no one was there to listen because Boris Johnson saw his opportunity to be PM back in 2016 and sided with the Brexiteers and helped them win a referendum and now in 2021 there are no Europeans to work in hospitality businesses like theirs. And the Canadian boy looked at the full reservation book and the complete absence of job applications and said, “SERIOUSLY!!!?????” rather a bit too loudly.
Then, when the Canadian Boy was trying to figure out how he was going to be a Server as well as Managing Director, General Manager, Restaurant Manager, Marketing Manager, Head of It and Financial Controller, the former Polish Bookkeeper who left two years ago came in for some pierogi and said, “Hello” and the Canadian boy said, “You had me at “Hello””. And then the Canadian boy immediately gave the Polish Bookkeeper two or three of the afore-mentioned jobs.
And then some very young local people and some Polish true believers pulled together and said, “This Canadian Boy is very strange, and keeps referring to himself in the third person, but he’s actually ok, and this venue is extremely cool and the staff meals are delish and the team are fun and the customers are cool and everyone is happy, so let’s work here.” And because those true believers and local talent pulled together you may now eat and drink. But you may need to use our website or app to order, because we still have a lot of work to do and very few people to do it.
Welcome to Mamuśka! Polish Kitchen and Bar. A true mission of love, fuelled by determination, aided by naivety and cheered on with a little bit of crazy.