CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

West Hampstead restaurant owner chases down wine thief

Andre Millodot who runs The Wet Fish Cafe gave chase after being targeted by thieves twice in one week

16 July, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby

Restauranteur Andre Millodot Credit: Justin Ng

THE owner of a popular West Hampstead restaurant said “something just kicked in inside” of him when he chased down and tackled a wine thief.

Andre Millodot, who runs The Wet Fish Cafe & Brasserie in West End Lane, was left with a bruised arm and cuts, but said he “felt sorry” for thief and decided to let him go. He decided to run after the man after being targeted twice in the same week.

“One evening last week he came into the restaurant when we were full at around 9pm and essentially grabbed four bottles of wine and scurried out,” he said.

“We couldn’t believe it, everyone was stunned to be honest. “During the lockdown we turned into a fishmonger and grocers and put all our produce up front to sell like in a shop, and because it makes a nice display we’ve kept it like that since we opened back up as a restaurant.

Mr Millodot’s injured arm after tackling wine thief

“The lockdown has been tough on everyone and the incident really incensed me so when I saw the guy come in again at around 5pm on Sunday afternoon and grab three bottles something just kicked in inside of me.”

He added: “It probably wasn’t a good idea, but I felt protective of my staff and business. “We both stumbled across the street and I tackled him and the bottles went flying and smashed.

“He and I were both in pain and to be honest I felt a bit sorry for him so I let him go.” A passing police car then took up the chase, said Mr Millodot, but he added: “I haven’t heard anything so I assume he got away. I heard someone had shown up in ­other restaurants trying to sell the bottles so I think he was trying to make a couple of quid.”

Since reopening as a restaurant, Mr Millodot has decided to continue operating the shop service selling fish and groceries.

“The lockdown has really taught us some stuff,” said Mr Millodot.

The cafe & brasserie are back open 

“Although it was depressing if I looked at the numbers – because being just a shop really wasn’t viable – we learned that people loved getting fish from us and we’ve kind of remodelled ourselves to now link the fish we sell with our menu each day.

“It’s different and quite exciting and people are feeling it.” The restaurant, which was allowed to reopen on July 4 with social distancing measures in place, is currently operating at just over half capacity.

But even if restaurants are given the green light to pack in more tables again, Mr Millodot said he prefers the change of pace that fewer tables have brought.

“We don’t want to go back to how busy it was before the lockdown,” he said.

“While I’d like to have a couple more tables we want to concentrate on offering customers a high quality service.

“We’ll see what the next few months bring us but for now I feel there is potential and am cautiously optimistic, and grateful it’s given us the time and opportunity to experiment.”

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