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26 July 2014

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Grill the Chef: interview with Andrew Pern

(menu)

Andrew pern Star Inn the City 2013 - Star_Inn_the_City_York_2013_apingarden1.jpgAndrew Pern opened the thatched Star Inn at Harome, in North Yorkshire in 1996, raising the bar for pub food in the county (and beyond) with his gutsy, regional and seasonal dishes. Since then, he has collected a mantelpiece of awards including a Michelin star, which he held for nine years until 2011 – although that didn’t stop loyal customers continuing to support him and his trademark ‘cuisine terroir’.

Now Pern has joined with his old college pal and rugby-playing friend Justin Brosenitz to take on the derelict Lendal Engine House in York’s iconic Museum Gardens. After a £500,000 refit, which includes the addition of a contemporary wood and glass ‘garden room’ and a deck overlooking the river, the 130-cover Star Inn The City promises to be Yorkshire’s most exciting opening of the year.

by Jill Turton

star inn the city 2013 - Star_Inn_the_City_York_2013_Bridgeviewhighres.jpgWhat prompted you to open a restaurant in York over, say, Leeds?

There was no contest. York has history and heritage, and it’s scenic and accessible. York gets eight million visitors a year – the second most-visited city in the country – and you can get around easily on foot. We’d been looking for a site (pictured, left) for ages, then the possibility of this one came up. It’s a brilliant location, in the park and by the river, although it took 18 months of careful negotiation with the Museums Trust and others to get where we are now.

Will you have a different approach in the city to the rural village enterprise you have in Harome?

We want to bring the country into the town. By that I mean we’d like to introduce York to the local produce that’s on our doorstep at Harome. The city restaurant will have a similar menu – that’s what we do – but with a few additions that you would expect in an urban space, like a cocktail list.

Andrew pern Star Inn the City 2013 - Star_Inn_the_City_York_2013_AP_JB2.jpgYou’ve teamed up with old friend Justin Brosenitz (pictured, right, with Pern). What’s his role in the business?

We met when we were at Scarborough Technical College. Justin went into management and has run his own pubs, so he has a lot of bar experience. He will manage front of house and I’ll be in the kitchen.

Will you be cooking in the new restaurant and how will you divide your time?

We are going to be an all-day operation, starting with breakfast at 8am and going right through the day into the evening. We’ve taken on two very experienced chefs: Matt Hunter from Michelin-starred Northcote and Mike Cushing from York’s Living Room, so they will be running the kitchen. But I’ll be there two or three mornings a week, as well as Friday and Saturday evenings – and I’ll be behind the stove if they need me.

What will the food be like?

The food will be similar to Harome, though not quite as ‘fine dining’. We’ll be doing what we’ve always done, which is to fly the flag for Yorkshire produce. We’re incredibly lucky to have such great ingredients on our doorstep, so we will have dishes like venison cottage pie, Harome partridge risotto, mallard, fresh fish from Hodgson’s of Hartlepool, honey from our own bees, and fig tart made with fruit from the Star’s garden.

What are your signature dishes?

From very early on I’ve cooked what I call ‘rich-man, poor-man’ dishes, which means putting humble and luxurious ingredients together – as in black pudding with foie gras, roe deer cottage pie or lamb rump with pearl barley and bubble and squeak. Some of these will go on the menu in York.

The_Star_Inn.jpg

Has the recent batch of Michelin stars, many awarded to relative newcomers and relatively casual places, spurred you on to try and win one for this venture?

We held a star for nine years in Harome (pictured, left) and lost it in 2011, but we have carried on doing what we’ve always done and actually we are busier than ever. But it would be wrong to say I wouldn’t like a star – whether in York or Harome. I got a tweet the other day from Antony Worrall Thompson after he stayed with us, saying ‘Michelin has missed a trick here’. A star is an accolade for any chef and we won’t stop striving, but it’s difficult to know what the inspectors are looking for.

You open on 22 October – what keeps you awake at night?

My 10-month-old baby! I had about three hours sleep last night. I’m not worried about the new restaurant, just excited.

Which chefs do you most admire?

Raymond Blanc because he’s a character – and I like characters: guys such as Paul Heathcote, Newcastle’s Terry Laybourne and Lancashire hero Nigel Haworth, who are all doing the ‘cuisine terroir’ that we feature here.

This feature was published on 16 October 2013.

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