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Kitchen Confidential: Polpetto’s Florence Knight


kitchen confidential autumn 2012_florence knight - Florence-Knight_Polpetto.jpgFlorence Knight, head chef at Polpetto, talks Stuart Peskett through the kitchen of her Soho home.

'I’m a real early bird. I get up at 6am – it’s my favourite time in Soho, plus we have a cockapoo, Guinevere, who needs walking. This part of London has got a real village feel, and it’s full of characters. You do have to learn to be a bit streetwise, but I absolutely love it here. I used to live near Portobello Road, but the commute was a nightmare – I’d get home at two in the morning.

My boyfriend, Richard, and I have been here for 18 months. Originally, I’m from a little village near Godalming in Surrey, and where we are now is very different to where I grew up – we had chickens, cats and dogs, and so on. But I love London and I always have; I’ve been coming here from a young age.

I’m renting, so I haven’t done too much to the flat, but I have stapled some waxed linen to the front of the cupboards – I don’t like modern stuff and they were all shiny silver before – and I’ve put a metal rack above the hob; that was done for me by a guy called Bela, a Soho metalworker. It was a glass rack before, which is hardly practical. When you’re in a small flat, you need somewhere to hang things.

I’m not really much of a lunch person, but I love a good breakfast – I tend to make pancakes on Fridays. I’m a real grazer, which is why Polpetto works for me. For dinner, I’ll have things like saucisson, put a few plates together, and just graze. But I eat out a lot; it’s good for inspiration. I love Koya, particularly the special lunch menu. Quo Vadis is great, too – I enjoy Jeremy Lee’s cooking. And I really want to go to Brasserie Zédel and Donostia, the new tapas place near Marble Arch.

Polpetto is closed at the moment while we look for a bigger site, but I’m in the middle of writing my first cookbook. I have a very short attention span, so having to sit at a table and write is torture at times. But once I get into it, I can’t stop, although I prefer to write everything down longhand, rather than use a laptop.

But when I’m at the restaurant, I’m the first one there, to get all the deliveries in, and I never stop in the afternoon, because it makes me feel sleepy. I find it quite hard to leave work, too! And I’m a tidiness freak. Everything has to be spotless. But I could never work in an office; I don’t have the attention span.'

kitchen confidential autumn 2012_digital clock - digital-clock.jpgDigital clock

The clock was a present from my mum. The numbers are really big; I can’t miss it, so it keeps me punctual! The bird lemon squeezer is from an antiques shop in Surrey. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw it.

kitchen confidential autumn 2012_coffee pot - coffee-jug-and-milk-aerator.jpgCoffee pot and milk aerator

I’m not a gadget person, but I’m into my coffee, and this little aerator is great. You just pump it up and your milk is frothed. It is so good! The coffee pot is from Algerian Coffee Stores in Soho. algcoffee.co.uk

kitchen confidential autumn 2012_knives - knives.jpgKnives

The two knives on the left are hand made from Japan. They are very light, and very, very sharp. I bought them in the Japanese Knife Company shop in Bateman Street, Soho. japaneseknifecompany.com

kitchen confidential autumn 2012_jelly mould - jelly-mould.jpgJelly mould

I got this mould at Columbia Road market. For my nieces’ and nephews’ birthdays we make a rabbit-shaped jelly. I always had a rabbit jelly as a kid. My mum made it, but it was usually just a big splodge!

kitchen confidential autumn 2012_pans - pans.jpgCopper pans

These are from The French House near Russell Square. They look lovely and heat up quickly. To clean them, use egg white and salt. They’ll come up really shiny – a tip I got from cookery school.

kitchen confidential autumn 2012_glasses - glasses.jpgGlasses

Those glasses were actually passed down from my grandmother. I love the shape – they’re so comfortable to hold. I serve wine in them as well as using them for soft drinks – I like serving wine in tumblers.

kitchen confidential autumn 2012_pot and saucer - pot-and-saucer.jpgSugar pot

I’m a real magpie – I found this cup at a market. I actually use it as my sugar pot – I keep brown muscavado sugar in it which I use for my coffee and tea. The saucer keeps the flies out…

This feature was published in the autumn 2012 issue of Square Meal Lifestyle.

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