How the party started…
With no professional experience, just a love of people, good wine, good food and good cooking, we opened Los Gatos in Wood Street on 10th April, 2006. During the previous year, like a miniature plague of locusts, we had eaten and drunk our way across Spain in the name of research, learned kitchen Spanish and amassed a library of Spanish cookery books. When we opened, we were as enthusiastic as we were certain of humiliation. But luckily for us, it turned out Swindon wanted a tapas bar and from our first night, the customers were packed in like Cantabrian anchovies in a can…
Behind the scenes, it was chaos (actually it wasn’t much better in front!) We knew how to invite people in, give them a drink and cook for them, but we had no idea how to run a commercial operation! The kitchen was like a war zone with all ranks suffering cuts, burns and blisters on hands and feet. The dishes piled up like the bills. There was no time to worry. But you know what? We were having fun! It was like having a party every night!
And it got better. We developed systems, found suppliers, managed stock, replaced the dodgy equipment we had inherited. We found more staff to help us – some still with us after 10 years, more than 100,000 individually hand-rolled meatballs later!
From day one, we were under pressure from customers to find a bigger space, but for many years we resisted, believing small was beautiful and more authentically Spanish. However, in October 2014, with friends telling us they could no longer get in to see us, we felt a move was irresistible and Los Gatos, Devizes Road was born. Gluttons for punishment? No, just passionate about sharing our love of good food and wine.
We have learned so much. We’ve been nice to nice people and pretty rude to some others; shared the joys, tragedies, trials and tribulations of business and bars. The growth of the business (and the onset of arthritis) took us increasingly out of the kitchen and more behind the scenes to the joys of personnel, VAT and stock management. Since the middle of 2018 we have stepped back further spending more and more time at our house in France, but the party at Los Gatos continues nightly with a great team, always there with a friendly welcome.
Phil & Shareen
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