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The chef and owner of Pollen Street Social, Little Social and The Social Eating House chats about his favourite place to flash the cash, his love of Hong Kong dumplings and where to get the best pork pies in London.
‘I get a coffee every morning at Sunflower Café on Pollen Street, where this photo was taken. Gisella, who owns it, is of Italian descent, and Italians know their coffee. It’s a nice place – she makes it part of the neighbourhood. It’s where I like to hang out in the morning.’
‘I’m from Skegness, and the one thing you can’t get down south that you can find in the north of England is haslet. It’s basically all the offal, trimmings and off-cuts from pork, which are boiled up together, braised, processed, set and baked. You shave it very thin and put it into sandwiches. I know it sounds disgusting but I got addicted to it as a kid and I still love it.’
‘For a good blowout, flash-the-cash kind of evening, I love The Ledbury (pictured, left). Brett Graham is a really good cook (I use the word ‘cook’ because that’s what we are – we’re all cooks). He just understands food, and nails flavours and textures.’
‘For a romantic dinner, my wife and I go to Scott’s. It’s just very grown-up, very sophisticated. Sean McDermott, the doorman, always finds us a table. The guy is a superstar – he knows everyone who’s worth knowing in London.’
‘As a family, we love going to Burger and Lobster (pictured, right) in Soho. My two kids are addicted to it – especially the lobster rolls. The reason I like going there is that even though it’s ‘junk food’, it’s good-quality ‘junk food’. I think it’s cool that my kids like it.’
‘I love La Petite Maison (pictured, left) in Brook’s Mews. They’ve got that real French bistro thing down to an art form. The hustle and bustle, the intimacy… When you hear people complain about how close the tables are, you just think, “That’s the way they’re supposed to be, for goodness’ sake!”’
‘There’s a great pub around the corner from Pollen Street Social called The Windmill, on Mill Street. For me, it’s one of the best pubs in London. The pork pies are homemade on site and they’re incredibly good.’
‘My wife and I buy food from Waitrose quite a bit, as it is right next door to our house in Balham. Even though it’s more expensive than everywhere else, it’s just good-quality stuff. Sometimes when I’m in a rush, I’ll even buy pre-made stuff. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as it’s good quality.’
‘I cook a lot of Asian food at home. I just love Asia; it’s my second home. One day, I will live out there. I love the way of life – the heat on my back, the food – and I’m fascinated by the people and the history.’
‘When I go to Hong Kong for work, I get excited. We’ll plan our days out there with the team, make sure the afternoon is free to go to the market, clock off at 10pm and try to find some interesting dumpling shops. And when I get back to London, I feel like I’ve had a little holiday, even though I’ve been working solidly for a week.’
‘I was in Japan, at a very famous three-Michelin-starred restaurant called Sukiyabashi Jiro, and I was really excited – taking photos and tweeting my meal – and my wife looked at me like, ‘Really? Here we are thousands of miles away and you’d rather share the experience with other people than with your own family.’ And she was right. I completely overlooked that.’
‘To relax, I love to play golf if I have time. It’s my first love. If I couldn’t have been a Michelin-starred chef, I would have been a professional golfer. And I’m pretty good at it, I’ve got to say! You have to be super-disciplined.’
This feature was published in the spring 2013 issue of Square Meal Lifestyle.