Group behind El Jardin and El Corazon has string of restaurants in mind

· The Pulse

The owners of the recently launched El Jardin have big plans to open several more restaurants in Edmonton.

The restaurant, whose name means "the garden" in Spanish, opened in the Mercer Warehouse in July. It's a second venture from business partners Hifa Maleki and Percy Wiredu, who opened El Corazon in Glenora's West Block in April 2022.

Maleki and Wiredu named their company 10 Hospitality Group, as they intend to open 10 restaurants, each with a unique concept, across Edmonton by 2027. They already have a third, named El Cielo ("the sky" in Spanish), slated for the Keswick neighbourhood in February 2024.

"We love Edmonton and want to see very exciting things done in the city," Maleki told Taproot. "We have to be momentum shifters. We want to inspire more people to open businesses in our community."

The space in the Mercer, which was formerly occupied by Rostizado, was an opportunity too good to pass up. Maleki said the landlord entertained 30 offers before selecting them.

"They wanted a restaurant to bring on a different clientele," she said. "We told them that we're going to do it justice, maintain the integrity of the building, and bring something classy."

Maleki said all of their restaurant concepts are developed organically, influenced by the spaces they inhabit. "Our thought was because this space is hidden from the street it's like a secret garden," said Maleki. "All of our cocktails also have some kind of botanical in them — rosewater, saffron, basil, rosemary. Same with our food, we use aromatics unapologetically. It may not look like you're in a garden, but it tastes like one."

Co-owner Hifa Maleki and general manager Mehraz Soltani in front of the bar at El Jardin

Co-owner Hifa Maleki and general manager Mehraz Soltani stand in front of the bar at El Jardin, which opened in July in the former Rostizado space in the Mercer Warehouse. (Sharon Yeo)

The menu at El Jardin is similar to El Corazon's in the way it highlights dishes from across the Latin American region. "We want to be influenced and inspired and incorporate more of a range of countries because it allows us to be more playful and offer more variety," said Maleki.

However, Maleki points out that El Jardin has a slight focus on Peruvian items, especially cold seafood plates such as ceviches and aguachiles. One of the most popular dishes since opening is the tuna tiradito, a seared tuna with Latin and Asian flavours.

El Jardin is not the duo's first venture downtown. Wiredu had been running El Beso for a few years before Maleki joined in on the ownership. Due to circumstances with the landlord beyond their control, they were forced to close El Beso in the same month El Jardin opened.

"We loved the brand and the location," said Maleki. "It was heartbreaking to open another business while we were closing one. There's a possibility we'll revive El Beso in the future, but we would look for a space that would do it justice."

Maleki is aware of the stigma surrounding downtown, but believes the spotlight has been disproportionately negative.

"There's not enough focus on the great things that are going on downtown," she said. "I am a female business owner and I am responsible for a lot of staff. If I thought they were at risk, I wouldn't have opened a business here."

While El Jardin has only been open for just over a month, feedback has been positive so far. "Everyone's been very receptive," said Maleki. "People are excited to see that there's something new downtown."