Restaurant welcoming autistic children ready to open on Isle of Dogs as Pepper Street gets spiced up

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 April 2018

Amir Blackwood ready to open his community restaurant in Pepper Street, Millwall. Picture: Mike Brooke

Amir Blackwood ready to open his community restaurant in Pepper Street, Millwall. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

A run-down street on the Isle of Dogs is being turned into an ad hoc community enterprise area with neighbourhood businesses setting up in empty shops.

Amir Blackwood... Amir Blackwood... "Families with autistic children find it hard to dine out because their kids are a handful." Picture: Mike Brooke

One of the first “adventure” enterprises is 24-year-old Amir Blackwood’s new Caribbean restaurant where he plans to run special nights for families with autistic children to be able to dine out.

He has been given an empty shop in Pepper Street, Millwall, close to Canary Wharf, to try out his venture.

“This has been a dream I have had for many years,” the father-of-two tells today’s East London Advertiser.

“I have managed to live out my dream and it’s all self-funded by the community. I’m just relying on the community to help me.”

1Love Community founder Jay Mtonga... 1Love Community founder Jay Mtonga... "Shops along Pepper Street have been closed up to seven years, the place was run down and businesses failed." Picture: Mike Brooke

He was given the keys to the empty shop by the ‘1 Love Community’ social enterprise which has been allowed by property developers to make use of the shops in Pepper Street for the time being before the neighbourhood is redeveloped.

“This is not a risk—it’s more an adventure,” Amir tells you. “I have the Isle of Dogs community behind me.”

The social enterprise organisation was set up by former Canary Wharf corporate banker Jay Mtonga, who got a deal with the property owners to use the space before Pepper Street is demolished. Some of the shops have been closed for seven years.

Jay recalls: “The place was run down. Businesses failed for different reasons.

Amir preparing different menus including vegan and diabetic. Picture: Mike BrookeAmir preparing different menus including vegan and diabetic. Picture: Mike Brooke

“The owners are working to create something more viable for the community and letting us use the space while they’re developing their plans. We’re on a rotating period until the buildings get demolished and we move onto a different site.”

Amir Blackwood, meanwhile, plans to open his restaurant venture next month when he is “living the dream”.

The family man from Tiller Road in Millwall revealed: “I’ve always had a passion for cooking and grew up with a brother who was severely mentally ill.

“My mum never got much help trying to go places with him. She wasn’t able to do simple things like go to a takeaway because of fear of him getting lost or other people having a problem.”

Amir smiles with a knowledge of the community behind him and the ‘1 Love’ social enterprise turning round the fortunes of the Pepper Street backwater at the end of the Glengall footbridge over the Millwall Docks—all in the shadows of the luxury Canary Wharf towers.

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