When I first mentioned to one of my nephews that my next restaurant was going to serve traditional British dishes, he said: “What – like Chicken Tikka Masala?”
It was never a challenge to serve to London diners dishes usually only seen at home or in pubs. What we did was take those same dishes and do them with care and quality so vegetables weren’t boiled to death, the chicken wasn’t on a two-for-one deal from Asda, professional chefs prepared them and they were served by properly trained waiting staff in an elegant environment.
We didn’t “re-invent” British cooking; there was no intent to place say kaffir lime leaves in our potted shrimps, for example. We simply “re-introduced”.
Four and a bit years in, we are starting to loosen the strait jacket that comes with the territory of authenticity. We have been featuring mozzarella cheese made by our friend Jody Scheckter from his Laverstoke Park farm in Hampshire. The other day I tasted some locally made halloumi cheese which was every bit as good as you’ll get in a Mediterranean restaurant.
Recently I asked our head cook Lawrence to make a burger for our Saturday brunch menu – but only if it was the best burger ever. Without any hint of bias I can confirm that it is. We were worried that people would ask if it was British. Nobody seems to have – presumably because our diners are food lovers and not immigration officials.
Dining yesterday with two food writer friends of mine, they made an invention that should the occasion ever arise, make this dish pass the citizenship test. Instead of having chips with their burger, they had roast potatoes and gravy. I feel a cult following for this coming on….