Bea Morrissette loves to take people on travels through food—particularly to the streets of London where she grew up. But ultimately it’s not just about the food, delicious though it may be. “Within the cultures that I was raised, food was not just nourishment for the body, it was the center of family and celebration,” she says. That’s why she and her husband, Matthew—who grew up in Birmingham and went to John Carroll—started a British food truck, Little London, in a double decker British bus no less. And that’s why they are now opening a pub on Oxmoor Road in West Homewood in the very space that was once the Florida Grill where Matthew once worked. It’s all for the love of flavor that reflects Bea’s passion not just for food, but for celebration and adventure. Here’s what she had to say about it all as they prepare to open the pub in March, first for dinner, later for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, and always for soccer games.
You two met when you were living in Manhattan. How did you end up in Birmingham?
Matthew brought me here a few times to meet his family, after a while he asked, “Are we going to settle in Manhattan or London?” And I said, “Or Birmingham?” I was big-citi-ed out, and there’s trees and people talk to each other down here. Basically I won.
How did Little London Kitchen come to be?
I have always been really passionate about food. Little London Kitchen was born in 2012 when my friends asked me to cater for their parties in London, and then I had to push it to the side for my career. When I got to Birmingham, I spent about six months eating out trying to learn the fabric of the areas, and I saw Birmingham has this thriving food scene that is building and building. It was the perfect time to bring Little London Kitchen back. A friend of mine had afternoon tea on a bus in London, and she sent me a photo. I said to Matthew, “If I can get a British bus to Alabama, that would be really unique, and people would try the food and come back for the food.” What I miss about London is the specials list in the pubs influenced by cuisines from around the world, and that’s what I wanted to create.
What kind of reception did the food truck get?
It was exciting but also daunting. I didn’t know how everyone would respond to it, but it was remarkable. Social media was a great tool for us to be seen and made us spread like wildfire. People liked the Fish and Chips and the Beef Pies because they are familiar. After a month we had this reputation of the food being delicious, and then people got more adventurous and we added things like Scotch Eggs and Curry.
Why open your pub in Homewood? And what will be on the menu?
Homewood is the most reminiscent of a London suburb for me with people walking with their kids and small businesses. When we went to pubs back home, there was a row of houses and then a pub. We’ll have our core British favorites, and then for the specials I will have some fun with London street food with international influence. My parents are from the Caribbean and The Philippines, so I have some Caribbean and Filipino dishes, and some Spanish and Indian dishes. We also partner with R&S Catering, so Chef Richard Wilkins (pictured above) will do pop-up classes and kitchen takeovers. You’ll get his style of food too and we’ll have takeovers by other food trucks too.
What will the pub décor be like?
Because it’s a pub, we have to have quirky accents from us as owners but also some that remind us of London. I have sourced 90 percent of our furniture from Facebook Marketplace and flea malls. That’s very London: old meets new. I am picking out three pianos because Matthew and I play, and the piano keys will embellish the side of the bar. We are putting a false fireplace because we have to because it’s a pub, and a dart board. We are going to make a Little Little London bus for my nephews and families on the opposite side from the bar. We’ll have a projector screen for games. It’s supposed to be like your living room away from home, but it’s just a little fancier.