I went to interview the Vogue House in-house café owner Tony Batalha of The Hatch to find out what kind of things Condé Nast staff eat. (It’s called The Hatch because they used to have a serving hatch in the wall. Just sayin’, I love a serving hatch.)
I’ve spent 23 years working at Condé Nast so far. Before I worked for someone else, but then I took over.
What’s the most popular meal here?
Avocado and smoked salmon on dark rye bread.
Is that what the models eat? Can you tell when they are models?
No. Everybody looks like a model in this building.
How many portions of avocado a day do you sell?
We sell avocado all day long. At least 32 portions a day of avocado on toast.
What other dishes are popular?
We have some traditional Portuguese bread, pao casero. House bread, made of rye, and the Portuguese custard tart.
I’ve noticed there are some cakes here. Who eats the cakes in Vogue House?
Tony laughs and shakes his head.
I look at the dishes on the menu; specials are posted overhead.
You started the courgetti about a year ago? Due to popular demand?
Yes. It’s very popular. They like it with meat, like spag bol with courgettes. They want low fat.
And people don’t want carbs. Who is eating all these carbs then?
That is a secret.
Tony and his assistant giggle.
Secret carb eaters?
In the morning, people are very worried about calories; they are very careful. But by the afternoon, they don’t care. That’s when they eat the chocolate.
Are there many vegetarians and vegans?
A few but not a lot. Not really.
Do you get the editor of Vogue, Alexandra Shulman, coming in?
Is she a Twix woman?
Normally she takes some nuts.
So she’s quite healthy?
Yes, and she likes a tricolore salad: avocado, mozzarella, tomato.
What about famous people? Do you get them in here?
Yes, sometimes. We don’t ask them. We don’t know them. They aren’t dressed up.
Have you got any plans for this place?
In January, House & Garden is going to do this place up. Change the cutlery, put in banquette seating, more tables.
At the moment there are only two tables off to the side, although there is a wall of work by famous photographers. Mostly people eat at their desk.
Water is very popular as a drink. We sell 10 to 15 boxes a week, and each box has 12 bottles.
We have two seasons. In the winter, we make soups and jacket potatoes. All are homemade, freshly made. We have pea and ham; butternut; basil and tomato. Also porridge in the winter.
In summer, it’s salad and juice. We sell at least 20 green juices a day. I had a deal where you got 10 juices a week. A diet plan. Carrot, orange, apple and ginger goes well.
But around here we have too much competition, with Pret and Eat and Caffè Nero. People come here when they have five minutes, grabbing something to eat at their desks. And people are careful with money since Brexit.
I thought they were all rich here.
No. Even people in Vogue House are being careful.
Tony serves me Marmite on toast. It’s fantastic. The bread is similar to Poilane – thin, sour, chewy, with caramel notes – and covered with melted salty butter and Marmite. Then I try the homemade tomato and basil soup. Fresh, thick and hearty, it’s perfectly seasoned.
I meet a slim, fashionably dressed young woman from editorial. ‘This Marmite on toast is so good,’ I say to her, mouth half-full.
I can’t eat bread. I can’t do gluten.
Are you coeliac?
No… but I find it makes me bloat.
She then pays by credit card for a courgetti dish.
You even accept credit cards, Tony?
Yes! And I have a credit list.
Is there anyone that owes a lot of money?
We get it docked from their wages.
I think he’s joking. Do you do Portuguese coffee? I order ‘um galao’.
Yes, we do, but they want flat white here. They want Australian coffee. I can do galao but it’s very milky, which they don’t want.