Ivan Tisdall-Downes

Ivan Tisdall-Downes

The small restaurant contained just thirty seats, but managed to catch the eye of national critics, who were impressed by the innovative cooking of ingredients rarely seen on restaurant menus. With game, foraging and low-waste food at its core, the restaurant enjoyed a successful run until 2018, when Camden Council refused to grant Native a permanent restaurant license (justifying this – rather oddly – by saying there were too many restaurants in Covent Garden).

This was a blow to both Ivan and Imogen, who had worked tirelessly to get their restaurant off the ground. Rather than throw in the towel, however, they both launched a crowdfunding campaign to open a larger site in Southwark, just next to Borough Market. It was a smash hit, raising over £50,000 and opening the current iteration of Native. This is now where Ivan and Imogen continue to explore and showcase the wild flavours of Britain in exciting, inventive new ways.

A successful self-taught chef is a rare breed, but Ivan has proven that with enough hard work it can result in something a little different from the norm. Panna cottas flavoured with gorse, jelly mushrooms coated in dark chocolate, woodruff-infused custards; this isn’t the sort of stuff you’re taught at catering college. Ivan’s curious mind and a lack of a traditional, ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’ mentality works wonders in the kitchen, and makes Native one of the most interesting places to eat in the UK today.

Three things you should know

As well as showcasing the UK's wild meats and foraged ingredients, Ivan and Imogen source sustainable farmed ingredients and employ a low-waste approach to how they manage the kitchen.

In addition to running Native, Imogen looks after her family falconry business, handling Rufus the hawk, who is responsible for keeping Wimbledon tennis matches free of pigeons.

Before opening the larger site in Southwark, Ivan completed a stage at Dan Barber's Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York to get a better understanding of how a larger restaurant operates.