The Palomar founder Layo Paskin on building a culinary empire / Food & Drink
The Palomar founder Layo Paskin on building a culinary empire

The DJ turned restaurateur behind The Palomar, The Barbary and The Blue Posts on his journey from spinning records to spinning plates.

The DJ turned restaurateur behind The Palomar, The Barbary and The Blue Posts on his journey from spinning records to spinning plates.

As career trajectories go, international DJ to restaurateur isn’t up there with the most obvious. Nevertheless, that’s what you’ll find on Layo Paskin’s chequered CV.

You might not have been to The End, his legendary London nightclub that put the capital – and countless hitmakers – on the global clubbing map. But there’s a chance you’ll have visited one of his restaurants.

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Together with sister Zoë, Layo opened The Palomar in 2014 (which has recently reopened after a facelift courtesy of Archer Humphryes) serving food inspired by modern-day Jerusalem and the Middle East.

Next came The Barbary, in Neal’s Yard, where the culinary compass shifted to Southern European and North African food, and a coffee shop, Jacob the Angel, which relaunched as The Barbary Next Door earlier this year. 

The siblings then pivoted again, this time to publicans, taking over The Blue Posts, a Soho pub dating from 1739. British craft beer and elevated bar snacks (think Neal’s Yard cheeses and lamb and cumin sausage rolls with date and hoisin ketchup) await at the ground floor pub. Upstairs there’s a wine bar, The Mulwray, and in the old cellar, Evelyn’s Table – an intimate 12-seater counter restaurant that pairs Mediterranean flavours with Japanese techniques – overseen by head chef Luke Selby. 


Layo is clearly no stranger to reinvention, and so far, it seems to be serving him well. “We live in a world these days where we seem to lurch from one crisis to another,” he says. “The last lockdown was very long for hospitality. There was quite an aftermath beyond. There were cultural shifts, ups and downs with variants and public confidence was low.”

But the Paskins’ empire is bouncing back. There’s the aforementioned relaunch of The Palomar, which now boasts a lengthened dining counter, secluded velvet-lined booths, and larger tables that accommodate up to 10 diners, plus a new menu devised by head chef Omri McNabb to match. Highlights include manakish, a Lebanese flatbread with zucchini tahini and candied walnuts, Romanian kebabs and dover sole with Arak sauce cooked over an open fire.

© Christopher Horwood
© Christopher Horwood

There’s also last year’s Michelin star for Evelyn’s Table – an achievement at the best of times, but perhaps even more so given the rocky patch the hospitality industry has had to ride. 

“It’s a funny thing. I was talking to the head chef Luke about it and you work so hard for certain things and when you get them it’s almost a relief rather than success. It’s absolutely brilliant for the group,” enthuses Layo.


Does it come with extra pressure though? “When you run restaurants there’s a constant pressure because let’s say you’re told to go there by a friend because it’s really good. You go and you love it and then the next time you visit, it’s got to be as good. It’s one of the not very nice things about the hospitality business – it’s a constant hub of pressure.”

It’s also not a business he envisaged he’d be part of when he opened The End in 1993, aged just 24, in a dilapidated building that was once used as stables by the Royal Mail. How did it compare to opening restaurants?

“I hate to say it, but I think life felt simpler then. Easier. Maybe that’s the thing about being 24, life is simpler,” he reflects with a laugh. “We had to get a deposit together. We raised a reasonable sum and we got a loan for a quarter of a million pounds, which was a lot for a bank to give a nightclub.”


It was while running The End that Layo met DJ Matthew Benjamin and became one half of duo Layo & Bushwacka, kickstarting a decade of recording and touring. During that time, Zoë took up the role of managing director while Layo stepped into the shoes of creative director, positions they still hold today. 

After selling up in 2009, Layo spent a period DJing internationally. The idea for The Palomar was born from a brainstorming session with Zoë during a work trip to Tel Aviv. “It was quite an abrupt change because as a DJ, everyone looks after you, whereas when you run restaurants, you’re looking after everyone else,” he muses.


In a roundabout way, though, the career move made sense: “We’re a very foodie family. Everyone is a keen – dare I say, slightly competitive – cook. What used to happen as a DJ is that you’re always being taken to some city and you start hanging out with young people who know all the good places to go. So, you’re constantly being exposed to great restaurants. If you’re really into food as well, it’s an amazing kaleidoscope of experiences you pick up on.”

Travel remains a source of culinary inspiration for the restaurants, which span wide-reaching epicurean influences. “In many ways, it would be easy to open five Palomars, but from our point of view, we’re always learning and the learning is interesting to us; it’s what drives us. And it means we get to work with lots of different people,” Layo explains.

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Food aside, a passion for design is also clearly in the Paskins’ DNA. Their architect father has acted as a consultant on each project, helping the siblings to interrogate creative mood boards that have then been brought to life by Gundry + Ducker and the aforementioned Archer Humphyres. 

Creating places they want to go to has always been a driver for Layo and Zoë – it’s also the mission statement of their new hospitality studio PASKIN & Associates, which launched this summer to coincide with the opening of their first design project, Gleneagles Townhouse, a hotel, restaurant and members’ club in the former British Linen Bank in St Andrew Square, Edinburgh. “It’s a whole new type of work for us,” Layo admits.


The recipe for success, he believes, comes down to reliability. “It could be a coffee shop, it could be a bar, it could be a fish and chip shop – if there’s a consistency they deliver that makes you really appreciate them,” he says. 

So, where does the man behind some of the capital’s most celebrated restaurants like to eat?

“I’ll go to Bistrotheque for brunch, Scott’s for fish, Dinings or Zuma for sushi, Hawksmoor for a steak – it always comes back to reliability. Then I’ll try all the new places, like Sessions Arts Club, Manteca, Brutto. I love to eat out,” he smiles. “I go to other people’s restaurants really wanting to enjoy what’s on offer.”

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