What to expect at Kelly English’s new restaurant in Memphis, Pantà


“It doesn’t look anything like the original Iris, does it?” Kelly English said as he walked around her new restaurant, Panta.

English has dreamed of owning a Spanish-inspired restaurant for decades. On October 30, his dream will come true.

The building that housed its flagship restaurant Iris at 2146 Monroe was transformed into a colorful and lively Spanish tapas bar and restaurant.

It’s a departure from the Southern cuisine this chef is known for, but as he demonstrated in a pop-up last year, this Southern chef knows a thing or two about authentic Spanish cuisine.

A dream come true

Pantà will bring back the flavors of the English time spent in Barcelona.

“I lived in Barcelona for six months when I was in college,” English said. “That’s when I realized I wanted to be a chef.

For a few months last year, English hosted a Spanish-themed pop-up at Restaurant Iris. Dishes from Spain’s Catalonia region have replaced the southern-inspired menu for which Restaurant Iris is known. (Barcelona is the capital of this region in northeastern Spain.)

The success of this pop-up planted a seed.

“Over the past two years, I realized that a 12-table restaurant with valet parking was not viable. We had to change, ”English said. “We are moving Iris to the east where there is plenty of parking and a bigger kitchen to allow us to keep some of the pivots we made.”

With Iris Restaurant Relocates to Former Grove Grill Location in Laurelwood Shopping Center, a more casual Spanish tapas bar and restaurant suited Monroe’s space perfectly. (Restaurant Iris is slated to open in its new location in 2022.)

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What to expect when you walk in the door

The Englishman asked the Memphis designer for help David Quarles IV to help turn 2146 Monroe into his vision.

“When you walk through the door you know it’s going to be a good night,” Quarles said. “We have created an ‘experience’ that makes you feel transported to a different place.”

Quarles infused the once dark space with vibrant colors of yellows and reds, hand-painted murals, and bold wallpapers and mosaic tiles.

October 27, 2021 - Inside Chef Kelly English's new Memphis restaurant, Pantà.

Parc Guell, a park in Barcelona designed by Antoni Gaudi, was the inspiration for the remodeling.

“Gaudi is one of Kelly’s favorite architects,” Quarles said. “I dove deeply into his work. The color schemes at Panta were inspired by one of Gaudi’s first projects, Casa Vicens.

Art plays a big role in the design elements.

Quarles himself hand painted the fresco for the front window bench. Photos by Memphis photographer Ziggy Mack hang in the main dining room. A ceiling fresco by Memphis artist Frances Berry completes the theme of the private dining “The Dragon Room” at the rear of the restaurant. (English decided to incorporate a dragon theme into their logo and in locations throughout the restaurant due to Barcelona’s annual La Mercè festival, which features a colorful procession of fire-breathing dragons.)

“Even the bathrooms are Instagramable,” Quarles joked, adding that a soon-to-be-installed neon rooftop sign will add the final “Pantà” touch to the exterior of the historic Midtown home.

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October 27, 2021 - Inside Chef Kelly English's new Memphis restaurant, Pantà.

A taste of the Pantà menu

English described his vision for the new restaurant as “a great bar with great food”.

“The food is going to be bright and a lot of fun,” he said, adding that the decor and the menus complement each other.

The menu offers a selection of small plates that have their roots in Catalan cuisine.

Catalan classics like Patatas Bravas (Roasted garlic potatoes topped with Brava sauce) and Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimps cooked in a garlic, lemon and olive sauce) are on the menu.

English also adds a touch of Memphis to a handful of traditional Spanish dishes.

“We have an outright Catalan menu, but we reserve the right to ‘Memphis it up’,” English said.

Les Crus Peix in Pantà.  This Spanish dish includes fresh fish, citrus, burnt butter, tarragon and hazelnuts.

Bomba Barceloneta, a fried potato dumpling filled with braised meat, is stuffed with Payne’s pulled pork barbecue in Pantà.

Aaron Ivory (who is the senior manager of Pantà), Morgan McKinney (who was most recently behind the bar in Bari) and Laurin Culp (the beverage manager for all English’s restaurants) worked to develop a strong bar program.

Culp has organized a wine list made up entirely of Spanish offerings, making Pantà the ideal place to discover the wines of Spain.

“I let Morgan manage the cocktail program,” Ivory said. “Our signature Naked Dragon, a cocktail made with reposado tequila, aperol, yellow chartreuse infused with hot pepper and lime juice, is his creation.”

The bar will also offer a selection of gin and tonics. Spain is known for its version of this classic cocktail made with herbs, citrus fruits and other aromatics.

Spanish-style Gin & Tonics are part of the Pantà bar program.

Come for a drink, or stay for a meal

“We want to be a place where people who normally don’t have a place to go, feel they can go,” said Ivory, adding that they hope Pantà will be a gathering place for people from across the country. all walks of life.

English, along with Quarles and the entire Pantà team, worked hard to create a gathering space.

From design elements to different seating and dining options, Pantà offers its customers an option when the restaurant is the destination for a night out, or simply a place to stop for a drink and a snack on the way. of your projects.

“Pantà is a reflection of the community and feels inclusive,” said Quarles. “Think about it because that might be my cheers.”

Pantà will be open from 6 p.m. to midnight from Thursday to Saturday. Reservations can only be made from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. or at the window bench.

October 27, 2021 - Inside Chef Kelly English's new Memphis restaurant, Pantà.

On Sunday, Pantà will be open from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. for a “Siesta Service”. “Think of it as brunch, but later,” English said, adding that he hopes restaurant industry workers come on Sunday after they finish their brunch shifts. The Siesta service begins on November 7th.

English said he was most excited about late-night meals. “I like a fatty burger, but there’s definitely room for some bright, light food late at night,” he said.

“People who have dined with us over the past 13 years will recognize the tenets of our hospitality, but this is a big departure for us – in a good way.”

Jennifer Chandler is the Food & Dining reporter at The Commercial Appeal. She can be reached at jennifer.chandler@commercialappeal.com and you can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @cookwjennifer.

In one look


Or: 2146 Monroe Avenue

Hours: 6 p.m. to midnight Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday

Telephone: (901) 590-2828

In line: pantammphis.com


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