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Nicky Foley, the new head chef at Rotunda in King’s Cross, talks to Square Meal about his Irish upbringing, why a footballing career was a no-go, and running out of turkey on Christmas Day.
I’ve added my devilled Irish fry to the menu, but in general I don’t think there’s much difference between British and Irish cuisine. At the restaurant, all our produce comes from England, but I’ve given some of the dishes a few Irish tweaks. Even the Cambridge burnt cream we serve could have Irish roots – I was looking through a food-history book the other day, and found an Irish recipe from the 1500s called Ballyduff Pudding, which is the same thing.
The smell of fresh peas in early summer – we used to go out foraging for them. I come from a large family – I’ve got six brothers and three sisters – and my mum would always be baking bread, or cooking boiled bacon and cabbage for us – you can’t beat it.
I would say I’d have been a footballer, but I haven’t got the knees! My brother Mark is involved with a restaurant group in Ireland, so I would definitely still be working in the food or restaurant business even if I hadn’t become a chef.
Bentley’s, just for the quality of everything. The head chef when I worked there was Brendan Fyldes, who’s from Lancashire – he gave me a good solid background in English dishes. We now get our fish from the same suppliers.
I tell my chefs to have fun, learn, and follow the right procedures.
I love dim sum, as long as it’s steamed. I take my daughter to a great place in Soho called Super Star – the dim sum there is the best around. Something I hate on principle is microwaveable meals – I’ve actually never bought one.
The motto at Bentley’s was that fresh is best, and I still adhere to that. My other motto is: a clean chef is a happy chef, a happy chef cooks happy food, and happy food equals happy customers.
One Christmas Day when I was working at Butler’s Wharf Chop House, we almost ran out of turkeys! I had to ring round a few mates and rush across London, but I got hold of some in the end.
I started cooking in London eight years ago and in that time the quality and choice of restaurants has increased dramatically. There’s a lot happening in King’s Cross at the moment – Google is moving in and The Guardian is next door to Rotunda.