Martin Lange is the owner of Islington’s charming Modern European joint Salut!. Having grown up around restaurants, he initially opened the place with his brother in 2016. However, these days it’s the workings of him and his partner who, when they’re not out exploring the London restaurant scene together – or fishing – work tirelessly to run what is an incredibly warm neighbourhood restaurant, where, in Martin’s words, everyone should feel like a regular.
We had a chat to him about his restaurant, Islington, and some of his favourite local haunts.
Where did you grow up, and what was it like?
I grew up in a little village close to the Seaside in the North East of Germany. We grew up surrounded by loads of nature – we’d go fishing and run around in the forest building little hides. We’d also go foraging for mushrooms and berries with our mum or our granddad, who lived nearby. It was very peaceful and protected.
Do your parents cook?
Both my parents are chefs and my grandma (on my mother’s side) was also a very good cook. We would spend loads of time at her house, sitting in the kitchen whilst she was cooking, watching, helping and talking. Thanks to that, I can now prepare most of the classic dishes that my grandma prepared.
What made you decide to open a restaurant?
My parents opened their own restaurant when I was about ten years old and I witnessed the process – both the hard work and the benefits of being your own boss. Before opening a restaurant I worked in hospitality and I never liked having a boss so I always had the plan of opening something myself.
Why did you decide to set up in Islington?
I lived in Dalston for about ten years. When I decided to open my restaurant I knew I wanted to be close by. I wanted to be with the restaurant I was opening so I started looking at what was available in Dalston, Hackney and Islington.
How has the London restaurant scene changed since you first opened Salut!?
I think that the pandemic has “taken out” a lot of businesses that relied on tourists or passing trade. The businesses that have thrived are mainly independents that have a regular, loyal customer base. Everyone had to really adapt and the ones that didn’t had to close, so now there are less competitors in the market.
What’s your favourite place for a post work drink?
Dalston Superstore with my partner. Otherwise The Duke Of Wellington on Balls Pond Road.
If you weren’t a restaurant owner what would you be?
I was always quite entrepreneurial so if I didn’t run a restaurant then I’d definitely run some other type of business. When I was a kid, I would always bring fish home after I’d gone fishing with my friend. The old ladies in the village heard and asked my Grandma to tell me to pop round to theirs when I had some spare. I ended up with 3 ‘clients’ that each bought fish twice a month. I never gave them a price though, they always just gave what they thought was right.
If you’re hosting friends, what are you cooking them?
Barbecue. Nothing beats a fire, a couple bottles of wine and a nice piece of Cote de Boeuf, or a lamb fillet, or chicken, all with grilled vegetables and some salad.
What do you want people to feel when they eat at Salut!?
I want them to feel comfortable, even if they are dining the first time, I want them to feel like a regular.
What are your passions outside of the restaurant?
I love going to restaurants and I still enjoy going fishing, although now it’s ‘catch and release’ only. I’ll go away for two or three days. It’s nice to have some solitude as a balance to the busy work life.
If you could only use one herb, what would it be (and why)?
Rosemary. It goes really well with meat as both an ingredient or a garnish.
Have you ever felt like throwing in the towel?
Every now and then yes. Brexit was terrible people hardly went out due to the uncertainty and then boom pandemic. By now I’m so experienced in dealing with problems and drama that it’s fine though. One just must adapt and make the best of it.
Favourite local restaurant?
Favourite restaurant further afield?
My parents’ restaurant. I was lucky to have lunch there and chat to my mum nearly every day daily school. It’s classic German food: schnitzel, steaks, etc., all done really well. I’ve never had a Schnitzel as good as my dad’s anywhere else.
Like dining in Islington? Check out our favourite Islington restaurants.