Eleven98 was created by Aidan Brooks, a professional chef with twelve years’ experience working in restaurants in Barcelona, Valencia and London. Aidan moved back from Spain in 2010 and briefly worked with Nuno Mendes in Bethnal Green, helping to open Viajante, which would become the East End's first ever Michelin-starred restaurant.
Eleven98 Hackney Aidan Brooks
In 2011 he took some time out of the restaurant scene to hone his knowledge of cheese at London's renowned La Fromagerie. Before he knew it he had fallen head over heels in love with the stuff (a passion he's never lost), was co-managing the Highbury shop and ended up staying for a year and a half.
When kitchen withdrawal symptoms eventually kicked in he decided it was time to get back in the game and applied for a job at Ducksoup in Soho.
This was a complete change of scene for Aidan, having previously only worked in fine dining.
But it was also to open his eyes to an entirely different approach to gastronomy; the allure of natural and biodynamic wines, the spontaneity of daily changing menus and working closely with small food producers.
Ducksoup was also where Aidan was able to take his first real step up the ladder and take on more responsibility in the role of Sous Chef.
After two-and-a-half incredible years it was time for him to move on and take up a new challenge... and just such an opportunity fell into his lap in the spring of 2014.
The offer to reunite with a former colleague as his right-hand man in the opening of a new restaurant in Fulham was too good to refuse.
At Eelbrook, Aidan had the rare opportunity to be part of a team creating a restaurant from the ground up, making decisions that would shape the future of the business and going through the agonies and ecstasies of building up a kitchen from scratch.
Then one day in the winter of 2015, he was sat at home on his day off feeling like he was ready to take the next step in his career. He reached forward to grab his phone from the coffee table, thinking he'd send a quick text to a guy with whom he'd kept in touch from time to time after interviewing for a job a few years previously.
And as if by fate, at that very moment a text arrived from him saying he was looking for a new Head Chef at his restaurant and asking whether Aidan knew anyone who’d be interested.
"Hell yeah I did!" And that’s how Aidan ended up at the celebrated vegetarian restaurant Vanilla Black, running his own kitchen for the very first time.
This was a challenge unlike any Aidan had experienced before; taking creative control of a menu, nurturing a team, and pushing a business forward with new ideas... Being the number one.
It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride, but the time arrived for Aidan to open his wings and fly on his own. He’s got a lot to look back on, but a lot more to look forward to...
Eleven98 is a self-funded passion project, encompassing a residential social dining restaurant, pop-ups and collaborations with friends old and new.
The project is all about Hackney, the London borough in which Aidan was born and bred and which is so close to his heart.
Aidan sources all of his produce from within the borough, using independent butchers, fishmongers and artisanal bakeries.
Honey comes from family friends, fruit and veg are sourced directly from urban farms and community gardens, and dry store goods and ethical cleaning products are purchased from Hackney-based businesses.
In the spring of 2018 Aidan completely overhauled and renovated the back garden at his mother's house in the London Fields area. He grows whatever he has the space for, organically of course. He also does a fair bit of foraging for wild ingredients around the borough.
Eleven98 donates a portion of its proceeds from its social dining to some great Hackney-based charities, as well as various other good causes dear to Aidan.
After soft and press launches in June 2018, Eleven98 kicked off with its first events in July and the project will be going wherever the venture takes us. Keep up to date with what’s going on right now and what’s coming up next on Eleven98’s social media platforms.
Well, Hackney of course. Where else?
On many an occasion it’s come up in conversation exactly why it is that Hackney folk feel such a strong sense of identity for this wonderful place we call home.
"I’ve got friends who, if you asked where home was for them, would likely respond 'I’m from Bethnal Green' or 'I’m from Brixton'.
It wouldn’t necessarily occur to them to say 'I'm from Tower Hamlets' or 'I'm from Lambeth'. I’ve always found that quite curious.
There’s just something very special about the sense of pride, togetherness and community that unites us all, from Shoreditch to Upper Clapton and from Stokey to Homerton.
We are all Hackney!"
It’s exactly that sentiment that Aidan wants to harness and to celebrate with this project.
He recently moved back to the borough after a decade away, and whenever he'd come back to visit his mum during that time he'd always kept a keen eye out to spot what new things were going on.
Over time Aidan has witnessed the emergence of so many interesting local foodie businesses and collaborative social enterprises and it really makes us proud to see how much the borough has changed for the better.
So in essence this project is a romantic story of Aidan going back to his roots and once again becoming part of and giving back to the local community in which he grew up. Wholeheartedly Hackney-centric in its focus, this is a way of celebrating the progression and growth of Aidan's hometown over the last decade.