Few of us match up to the lives our Instagram feeds depict. But when it comes to Lucy Carr-Ellison and Jemima Jones, their online images are, somewhat enviably, a truthful reflection. The founders of Tart London are a cool, female foodie duo who seem to have it all: model good looks, bright ideas, and a successful business based on two of life’s biggest joys: food and travel.
The pair first met in New York in 2008 when Carr-Ellison, then a photographer, was introduced to Jones, a model who was working as a fashion intern at Vanity Fair. They discovered a shared affinity for good food and met regularly to try out restaurants and exchange ideas. "While our friends were all at home curing hangovers with oversized pizzas, we’d be at foodie markets," Carr-Ellison says. "We’d sit and daydream of having our own restaurant, our own herb garden or, ooh, maybe our own chickens."
"What if we did have chickens?" Jones chimes in excitedly. "We could put them on the roof with a beehive and make our own honey..." Suddenly the pair are off and running, with one idea sparking another, and then another, providing a glimpse into their dynamic. "I think we just share a huge love for being greedy," Jones says.
Tart began in 2012, after Carr-Ellison moved back to the UK and began helping out at a friend’s location house in her native Northumberland. But instead of assisting on shoots, she found herself doing all the cooking. Jones joined the business and, due to their experience in the fashion industry, they knew the type of catering required – from hearty, healthy meals to occasional diva demands. ("The worst was thinly sliced turkey and low-fat cottage cheese," Jones says. "I mean, seriously? That’s what you’re ordering?") Soon they were sought out by the likes of Vogue, Saint Laurent and Mulberry, and began cooking for celebrities including Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne. "We had such a fun time cooking in hot little London studios," Jones says nostalgically. "Everything we made was seasonal. A great deal of thought went into each dish so there would be something zesty, something crunchy, something a bit naughty... it was a huge spread."
"We’ve never been faddy with anything," adds Carr-Ellison. "There was always a long buffet that would suit any requirement. We looked at colour and flavour to make things exciting, because we were cooking for the same crews every day – but essentially we made things we would want to eat."
Beyond the food, Jones thinks part of their success was down to tapping into a market that was tired of immaculate white tablecloths and artfully plated food. "Six years ago, we were doing a lot of work with [fashion photographer] Tim Walker," she says. "Lucy used to raid her grandmother’s china collection, and we’d serve the food on mismatched plates. There was a slightly messy vibe, with lots of edible flowers and herbs. But it would always look beautiful when it was brought together." And it was while working with Walker that the name Tart came about. "Sometimes I’d wear little shorts and he’d say, 'Here comes the kitchen tart,'" Lucy says with a laugh. "We’re both still quite tarty!"
Much of the testing for Tart’s recipes takes place in Jones’ extended 300-year-old country home in Bruton, Somerset, which she shares with her financier husband, Ben Goldsmith, and their two children. It’s the kind of house that exudes effortless style: parquet floors covered in flatweave rugs, oversized sofas piled high with embroidered cushions, a worn straw sunhat on a vintage coat stand, and antique cabinets adorned with a dozen framed photos of happy, smiling people. The home’s expansive grounds include a large vegetable garden, wild flowers and a greenhouse filled with creepers bearing ripe fruit. Do they find inspiration in what they grow? "If I say I do, does that make me sound really wholesome?" Jones asks, laughing. "Honestly, though, our ideas usually come from eating."
On the lawn at the back of the house is a blanket strewn with toys, while various dogs poke around looking for someone to play ball. It was in this idyllic setting that the Tart ladies wrote their first cookbook, A Love of Eating, which is filled with recipes for sharing dishes inspired by their travels. The collection references the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia as well as their very different backgrounds. "My favourite food memory would be something like roast chicken and potatoes," Carr-Ellison says, "whereas Jemima’s would be spicy Vietnamese noodles. I don’t think I had anything spicy until I was about 12."
An eclectic mix of cuisines will be on the menu at their first restaurant, Wild by Tart, in Belgravia, which launches this autumn. "It’s not your normal restaurant," Carr-Ellison explains. "There will be an all-day-dining restaurant, a deli, a smoothie bar, a photography studio and a shop that will sell crockery we’ve designed. We’ve called it Wild because there might be a few wild parties," she adds with a grin. Count us in.
- Photographer Issy Croker
- Fashion Editor Poppy Rock
- Hair & Make-Up Salina Thind @ Untitled Artists
- Digital Operator Stephanie McLeod