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Silvena Rowe certainly had a lot to talk about when Square Meal met up with her. The cookery author, food columnist, TV cook, consultant and soon-to-be chef-patron of Quince at The May Fair Hotel has managed to pack a lot into life, and shows no signs of slowing down. Read straight-talking Silvena’s take on celebrity, what she thinks of ‘greasy doner kebabs’, and the real reason she can never go without dessert.
Yes I do. I enjoy TV, I’m good at it, and I love being able to inspire people with my recipes. I’m also funny for some reason – maybe because I say what I think. I have a great relationship with people like James Martin [from Saturday Kitchen] and Phillip Schofield [from This Morning], so I’m a regular on those shows.
I’m one of those greedy people who pack their lives with highlights. The highlight of my life has been the realisation that you can turn from a greedy child into a greedy omnivore into a professional chef. I turned what was a glorified hobby into food writing and took it as far as I can. Get up and go is the answer. And now, of course, the highlight has to be Quince. It’s the best thing that’s happened to me professionally.
That’s what I’d like to do very much. The concept of this restaurant came from my book Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume. Quince will be based on 'Ottoman opulence'.
It’s my favourite fruit – it’s very alluring, interesting and misunderstood. It’s a very elegant fruit, very princely. It’s also a quintessentially British fruit – it was a favourite of the Victorians. On the menu at Quince, we get the best of British and we give it an Eastern Mediterranean twist, so I thought Quince was very fitting as a name.
The menu is nearly ready and quince will feature throughout it in various forms. The menu will consist of sharing dishes, then a small number of signature dishes, plus meat, fish and dessert. Some of the signature dishes are twice-cooked baby pork ribs with blueberry and coriander molasses, served with a cashew nut dukkah, and spiced quail and foie-gras filo parcels with pistachios.
I could see myself as a lawyer but I don’t know why. It’s totally unconnected, but I quite fancy myself as that.
I used to work for a travel company, and it was just something that I never should have done. I didn’t learn anything. I'm not the sort of person who can sit behind a desk for eight hours a day?
You know my scandalous saying, don’t you? Dinner without dessert is like sex without climax – I cannot eat dinner without having anything sweet afterwards. I’m greedy, my body wants both. If I had to, though, I would probably choose savoury because I put sweetness into everything I cook, so I could get away with savoury because of the sweetness in there.
I go through stages – at the moment it’s wild fennel pollen. I make the most amazing blend with it. It’s incredibly potent, so a little goes a long way. I use a pestle and mortar that I love. It’s the most beautiful thing, made of pewter, and it’s so solid.
Stuffed vine leaves. I love them, absolutely love them. But my guilty pleasure is kebabs. A greasy doner kebab with lots of garlic sauce. I don’t care how dirty a kebab is, I’ll just have it.
Quince opens in May 2011.