Questions of Taste: Gary Foulkes

Gary Foulkes, head chef of Michelin-starred London fish restaurant Angler, explains why British seafood is the best in the world  

The British have a strange relationship with their island. Separated from the European continent by 20 miles of sea, the concept of Britain as something different and other has done much to define the current political atmosphere. And yet, unless you live near the coast, you could be forgiven for thinking that Britain’s towns and cities are locked within a vast landmass, such is the diminished status of the sea and, in our diets, of fish.

The national preoccupation with meat is something that Michelin-starred chef Gary Foulkes struggles to understand. As the head chef of the fish-dedicated restaurant, Angler, he is naturally convinced of the culinary potential just off our shores – as he tells me, with a certain degree of pride, British fish is among the best in the world. And it’s this passion for local, sustainable and high-quality seafood that is manifest in the food served at Angler, on the top floor of the South Place Hotel in the City of London.

Having taken some time out from preparing the lunch service one morning, Foulkes and I sat down to discuss the seasonality of fish, his life changing round-the-world trip and the world-beating quality of British fish.

What was your earliest memory of food?

My nan was a terrible cook, so my granddad used to do all the cooking – stews and pies mainly. Just tasty, delicious, home-cooked food.

How did you go from there to being a chef?

I’m not sure, really. I got sent on work experience to a hotel and did a day in each department: in the restaurant, with the porters, on reception. My final day of the week was in the kitchen, and I remember everyone enjoying what they were doing. At that age, fifteen, sixteen, it’s all about having a good time, so I thought: “Yeah I’d quite like to get paid to go to work and have a good time.” That’s how it all started.

And then you went to Manchester?

Yes, I worked for Gary Rhodes in Manchester. Rhodes is a fabulous cook, his food is very ingredient-led, and he treats ingredients properly and cooks them properly. That was quite a big thing for me. It’s something I learnt when I was young, and I still think that’s the best thing to do.

You’ve said before that it was at The Square in Mayfair that you really started to understand food. What was it that made you feel that way?

It was the whole ethos of it. It is very seasonal and everything’s based around the ingredients, and cooked correctly. If it wasn’t good enough, it didn’t get used. It’s a huge thing when you see, day in, day out, the passion that goes into producing the dishes, and the work in sourcing the right ingredients for the dishes.

While working at The Square you took some time out to travel – what was the motivation for this?

About a year and a half before I went travelling properly, I took six months out and went to Asia. While I was away I came to the realisation that it wasn’t long enough to do it properly. I came back to London, married my wife, and decided to do some real travelling. We took three years, and off we went.

How did that develop your work as a chef?

You see so many cultures and different ways of life, as a person, and as a chef you see so many ingredients you haven’t seen before, and how people treat those ingredients. You see things and think, “I could use that in my cooking, I quite like that technique.”

What initially drew you to Angler?

I’ve always enjoyed cooking fish and shellfish because fish is so seasonal. There’s so much you can do with it – especially turbot, for instance; you can steam it, you can roast it, you can cure it, you can have it raw, you can serve it on the bone, it’s very versatile. So there’s always something constantly changing. I’m also quite impatient, so if something’s been on the menu for a couple of weeks I feel like I’ve seen enough of it! It’s constantly changing and developing.

Tartare of yellowfin tuna with hass avocado, wasabi and shiso

I didn’t realise fish were so seasonal

It’s really like vegetables or fruit. For instance, red mullet is better when the water’s slightly warmer, so they’re at their very best during the summer. Then when it gets colder in the winter the red mullet will drop off, and you’ll get something like monkfish coming in, because that’s a cold water fish and it’s best in the spring tides when they’ve been feeding. Turbot goes into summer and starts to roe, so it makes the fish a bit smaller and it isn’t as good as it was before. I only use Cornish lobsters, and they’re at their best in the summer, so that’s when I use them – I don’t use lobsters outside of June, July and August.

Has the quality of British fish always been of a standard to serve in Michelin-starred restaurants?

Since I’ve been cooking, yes. I just think that more people are aware of it now. Obviously things like peaches are not going to be as good in Britain as they are in Italy, and you’re never going to grow mangos here, but Britain has some fabulous produce. You go to Orkney and the langoustines and the scallops are the best in the world.

We’re fortunate in that we’re close enough to use it and appreciate it, but I think a lot of it has come from British people being more interested in where their food comes from and how it gets used then they were a decade ago. Today there are farmers markets where you can find produce you’re not going to get in a general supermarket, and foraging has become a big thing, with people getting into wild garlic and elderflower. I think the ingredient quality has always been there, but people are now more aware of it.

What’s next for Angler? Do you have your eye on a second Michelin star, perhaps?

Everyone says: “Oh it would be nice, but I’m not chasing it,” but of course everyone’s going for it, they just don’t want to say. I’d love to get two stars, but I’m fully aware of how much hard work and dedication goes into getting to that point and maintaining it. So we’ve got hard work in front of us but it’s definitely something I’d like to achieve in my career.

anglerrestaurant.com

The Bistro: Art and Eating

George Upton reflects on the bistro, the humble eatery that has spawned revolution, some of the most important artistic movements of the 20th century, and a uniquely Parisian way of life

Bystro! Bystro!

It’s 30th March 1814 and the streets of Paris are ringing with the cries of Cossack troops. For almost two years, following Napoleon’s failed invasion of Russia, the soldiers have been chasing the French army back across the continent, and now they are in the capital, victorious and hungry. “Quickly! Quickly! Bystro! Bystro!” they shout impatiently, quite possibly becoming the first foreigners to complain about Parisian customer service, as well as inadvertently coining the name of one of the most important social, cultural and, of course, culinary institutions in French history.

At least that’s one theory; the ranks of France’s gastronomic historians are yet to agree on the etymological heritage of the humble bistro, though there is a consensus that these cheap, informal eateries – part bar, part café, part restaurant – have been central in shaping French culture. After all, not long before the impatient Cossacks, it was in these simple Parisian dining rooms that – fuelled by inexpensive, traditional fare – debate and discord would boil over into the revolution of 1789.

Later the bistro would help foster some of the most important artistic movements of the 20th century. Still cheap and unassuming, it was at this time that the bistro would come of age: jacketed, white-aproned waiters floating through tables of solitary readers and rowdy drunks, carrying casserole and carafes of wine, the bustle of the street half muted by curtains pinned just above eye level. It was here, amidst the pimps and anarchists of the Lapin Agile in Montmartre, that Picasso would talk and drink and define the course of modern art with Modigliani and Maurice Utrillo, as Satie and Debussy sat at the piano. Or where, across the Seine at the Polidor, Hemingway would write – recording the trials of his lost generation and fellow literary expats, James Joyce and Henry Miller – and drink, and fight.

Today, the number of bistros has dwindled – 8,000 in Paris, down from 50,000 at the turn of the century – and many of those that remain have moved away from their uncomplicated culinary origins, but the tradition of the bistro remains strong. Immortalised in the ideas they fostered, still populated by thinkers and drinkers, the bistros are a living museum to a uniquely Parisian attitude to life, art and eating.

This is an extract from issue 21 of Port, out now. To buy or subscribe, click here.

Kombu: Chris Denney & 108 Garage

Chris Denney, head chef and co-founder of 108 Garage, reflects on his favourite ingredient, kombu

The whole umami thing, the fifth taste, really started to become popular around 10 years ago. People were talking about the inherent properties of umami, the savoury taste that you find in Parmesan or Marmite, and it brought a lot of Japanese chefs and their cooking into the light.

This is when I discovered kombu. A type of seaweed, it doesn’t have the most typical flavour – it’s so light you almost don’t realise you’re eating it. But it’s a very clever engineering tool: You can use it to elevate a peach or detract from a note of cherry in a cream, or even make it into a butter to eat on sourdough. At 108 Garage, the restaurant I founded with Luca Longobardi in autumn last year, we make a pickle with the kombu in five-litre batches at the start of the week.

We use it a lot because our menu is constantly in flux and it lends depth and structure to our dishes. It’s almost a given now that all restaurants should be designing their menus seasonally, but there are always slight differentiations – a tomato at the beginning of a season is different to a tomato at the end of a season. Hence, we use things like the kombu pickle. As in the recipe below, it’s a great balancer; we can add some acidity to the peaches and level the butterscotch if it’s too salty, no matter what stage the produce is at.

DUCK, PEACH AND KOMBU PICKLE

(FOR 4 PEOPLE)

INGREDIENTS

20cm2 kombu
350ml rice wine vinegar
80g castor sugar
150ml carbonated water
4 ripe peaches
250g white miso paste
80g diced unsalted butter
100g muscovado sugar
80g black sesame honey
1 piece (approx 200g) white radish
1 large duck breast
Malden sea salt

KOMBU PICKLE

Bring the ingredients to just under a simmer (boiling will destroy the flavour of the kombu) and leave for 50 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover with cling film and leave to infuse for a minimum of two hours. Pass the mixture through a sieve before leaving to cool to room temperature in a plastic container and storing in the fridge.

PEACH

Thinly slice the peaches into crescents and bring 150ml of the kombu pickle to just under a simmer. Place the sliced peaches into a plastic container, pour over the pickle and leave to macerate in the fridge for a minimum of 12 hours.

MISO BUTTERSCOTCH

Bake the miso paste on parchment paper for 12 minutes at 180 degrees until slightly burnt at the edges. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Melt the sugar and honey on a medium heat, gradually introducing the butter, before adding the miso paste and finally 120ml of kombu pickle. Pour into a piping bag or squeeze bottle and chill until required.

PICKLED WHITE RADISH
Peel the radish and slice into fine medallions. Place on a tray, season with salt and bring 100ml of kombu pickle to just under a simmer. Pour over the radish and leave for a minimum of two hours.

DUCK BREAST

Lightly season the skin with salt, place skin side down in a frying pan at medium heat and render for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Turn the duck over for a minute, place on a tray and finish in the oven for 10 minutes at 180 degrees. Rest for a further 10 minutes before combining with the peaches, miso butterscotch and radish, and serve.

Photography Tori Ferenc

This is an extract from issue 21 of Port, out now. To buy or subscribe, click here.

At Home with Mark Hix

From his south London home, the celebrated chef, restaurateur and food writer speaks to The Modern House about what modern living means to him

I lived in Shoreditch for 20-odd years, as well as Notting Hill, and I wasn’t considering south London before I bought this place. My friend Richard, who’s a search agent, showed it to me on The Modern House website, and I zipped straight over on my scooter to take a look. I said yes straight away. I didn’t even come for a second viewing because I knew I was going to redo it.

Space was the main consideration, but I’ve found that Bermondsey is a really interesting area. It’s also easy to get to any of my restaurants… I nip over London Bridge to get to the Oyster & Chop House. I’m close to lots of bridges here! I visit at least two of my restaurants every day. I’m not really in the kitchen any more; I’ve got lots of other things to look at, mostly overseeing the creative side.

This place is my home, and I also do some work from here: writing and experimenting. I might start doing some cookery demonstrations, like I do in my Kitchen Library at the Tramshed.

I worked with Tekne on the refurbishment. Originally they’re shop fitters, but they’ve fallen into doing hotels and restaurants. They did my Bankside restaurant, Hixter, and the one in Soho. I recently put them in touch with my friend Robin Hutson, who owns The Pig Hotels, so they’ve done the last two projects for him. When Robin buys old buildings for the hotels he clears them out, and he’s given me a few salvaged things for the flat – a shower and some old Crapper loos.

I designed the space, and then Tekne worked as the contractors and architects. I gave them the ideas, and they put it all on paper. We gutted the whole thing, taking it right back to the bare bricks. We played around with materials: the wine racks are made out of scaffold planks picked up from building sites around here – some we paid for and others we were given for nothing. The same with the bookcase. Because they’re old, they’ve got a bit of character.

The kitchen counter is made from liquid metal. You can pour it over MDF to create curves at the edges, and you don’t get joins. Underneath are pieces of cast concrete from Retrouvius; I think they were originally columns in a mid-century office block. I wanted simple, natural oak units, something that would wear in naturally. Cooker hoods are normally so boring, so we went to a foundry and made a semi-industrial-looking unit that’s wrapped over the top of a normal extractor. We went back to the natural brick on the wall behind, which would have been the end wall of the original factory.

The spoon on the wall is a Michael Craig-Martin – it’s the cover of one of my books, The Collection. The ‘Vacancies’ neon piece is a Peter Saville art piece that he made. The fridge came from an antiques shop in Paris. It was made in the 1800s – originally they would have put a block of ice in the middle compartment to keep the whole thing cold. The refrigeration guy that I use for my restaurants converted it and made the top bit to match the bottom. It’s got different sections: dairy, wine, glasses, negroni cabinet!

I buy a lot of stuff from junk shops and reclamation yards. The kitchen lights are from Trainspotters in Gloucestershire, and I’ve collected midcentury Stilnovo lights over the years.

I bought the cocktail cabinet years ago at the Paul Smith shop. It had a horrible Chinese painting on the front, so I got my artist friend Mat Collishaw to make a replacement. The taxidermy mice in bell jars are by Polly Morgan, and the Bridget Riley is one of the first pieces I ever bought. There’s a shop across the road – a sort of Lithuanian shop – and they were selling what I thought was a mandolin, but I couldn’t work out why it was so big; it turns out it dates from 1903 and was used for slicing white cabbage.

The guitar comes from an event in Lyme Regis called Guitars on the Beach. A friend of mine said: ‘If I get a Fender guitar sponsored, can you ask Tracey Emin to draw on it?’, and she did. I thought it was going to be a silent auction, but it ended up being a raffle at a pound a ticket. So I bought a thousand tickets for £1,000 to narrow the chances down! It’s signed by Paul McCartney as well. I go back to Lyme Regis maybe three weekends a month. I’m part of the local community, I suppose. I get involved in local charity work and I do a food festival, which brings quite a few people to the area.

I made the garden room because the little terrace is quite small. In the summer you can open the doors up and feel like you’re inside and outside. I put the bi-fold doors in, and then got lots of crazy plants from Covent Garden. It’s a nice place to have tea in the morning. I found the old plantation chair on eBay. The artwork is by my mate Henry Hudson, who works in plasticine. That’s an Australian Moreton Bay Bug [on the ceiling]: it’s a sort of prehistoric crab. Then this is an old python skin I found rolled up in a box in a junk shop. I guess there’s a touch of the macabre, but really I just thought this room was crazy enough that you could put anything in it.

I’ve got a fishing and shooting cupboard here. The wallpaper is by one of the guys who works in the gallery, Tom Maryniak; he’s done a few different types of wallpaper in the loos at my Bankside restaurant. And then the wallpaper in the main bathroom is by Jake and Dinos Chapman.

The photographs above the bed are by Susannah Horowitz – she was one of the winners of the Hix Award. Every time we do the award I end up buying something. And this one isn’t from the Hix Award: it’s just two fucking flamingos with a little bird watching… I forget what its name is! The rooflight was already here; it was quite a weird space before, with a pool table and not much else.”

This feature is an excerpt from The Modern House, read more here

 

 

Questions of Taste: Douglas McMaster

Meet the pioneering chef and restaurateur behind the UK’s first zero-waste restaurant 
 
Douglas McMaster has to think more creatively than many chefs today. With his Brighton restaurant Silo, the 27-year-old is leading the country’s zero-waste movement. From sourcing to serving, his mantra is: ‘Waste is a failure of the imagination.’ Everything arrives to the restaurant directly from the farmers, cutting out processing, packaging and food miles. Compost machines are used to turn scraps and trimmings into compost that is then used to support the growth of even more produce. Given his uncompromising approach, the finesse of his dishes is even more impressive.
 
McMaster dropped out of school and, for him, the kitchen was the only place to go. He found it an environment he could be himself. ‘It was liberating as I hated that school made me feel like I was just another brick in the wall,’ he says. Since then he has gone on to win BBC Young Chef of the year and has worked at a handful of high profile restaurants such as St. John Bread & Wine in Spitalfields, London. He also ran a pop-up restaurant called Wasted in Sydney and Melbourne where he trialled his zero-waste techniques before opening Silo in 2014. ‘I worked under the grandmaster of zero waste – Joost Bakker. It was his idea, I just made it happen from day one,’ he explains. ‘I believe it is my mission to continue carrying the flag and I love to see other innovators in the industry doing the same.’

McMaster’s menus are driven by season and the environment. ‘If there is a large crop of cucumbers, we put cucumbers on the menu. If the forager finds mushrooms, then mushrooms it is. We don’t dictate nature, nature dictates us.’ Recently, he collaborated with Patron Tequila for a Secret Dining Society event, and alongside Mr Lyan founder Iain Griffiths, presented a zero-waste cocktail pairing menu. ‘We even printed the menus on 100% recycled agave to save the agave fibres from tequila production going to waste,’ he says. 

The Nottinghamshire native is intent on spreading the zero-waste message and believes that even small actions can be effective in making a difference. ‘Start by looking at every purchase as a vote. If you buy fast food you are voting for fast food to exist, if you buy organic food you are voting for an organic future, if you buy something with no packaging you are voting for zero-waste.’ 
 
Silo is located in Brighton’s North Laines
 
Photography by Xavier Buendia