Fresh crab meat is a beautiful thing – I grew up in Skegness so seafood is a love of mine. I’ve eaten different crabs from various parts of the world, but I still feel that our British brown crabs have the best taste and texture. The meat is delicious with simple, clean flavours like apple or lemon.
I remember tasting Pierre Koffmann’s pistachio soufflé for the first time when I worked for him – just fantastic. When I launched City Social last year, it was the first time I’d put a soufflé on the menu in one of my restaurants, and it’s become a real signature dish. We’ve had a few different flavours – strawberry, earl grey, rhubarb & custard – you can have some fun with a soufflé once you’ve got the basics down.
Beans on Toast
Beans on toast was one of my favourite meals growing up – my dad used to cook if for me as a young lad in Lincolnshire (it was that or tinned sardines on toast, which I hated). It’s a great quick comfort dish to rustle up now and again.
New York Cheesecake
I love all kinds of cheesecake, but those dense, baked American style cheesecakes are a favourite right now – I’ve just come back from three months in New York launching my first U.S restaurant The Clocktower. I made sure to sample a few slices whilst I was out there!
I can’t tell you how many churros I devoured during my time working in Spain. They’re great eaten just out of the fryer – crunchy and soft at the same time. I love them served traditionally with chocolate sauce, but savoury churros are great too – we do them with goat’s cheese and truffle honey as a canapé at Pollen Street Social.
There aren’t many ingredients that I dislike – I’m a chef after all. However, okra is a vegetable I’ve never understood. A bit too slimy.
Balut (an egg with a chicken or duck foetus inside) is one of the national dishes of the Philippines, where my wife is from. Once on a trip over there I thought I’d be brave and try a 12 week aged egg – never again. Unforgettable and not in a good way!
Low Quality Produce
For me, there are no real good or bad ingredients – there’s just good quality produce and bad quality produce. The difference between a beautifully ripe tomato picked at the height of its season, and a watery, tasteless one in the middle of winter is just huge. It’s why maintaining good relationships with suppliers is so important for a restaurant – you want to get the best of the best.
I never eat on planes – the cabin pressure plays with your digestion, and the quality can be hit and miss. It’s a real challenge to get right and hard to replicate high quality dishes 30,000 feet in the air. Your tastebuds change hugely when you’re flying too – so I stick to water, or bring something with me.
Service is just as important as the food, and I want my restaurants to be as welcoming as possible. My new restaurant Social Wine & Tapas is my first in London not to take bookings – we want it to be a relaxed place where you can just drop by after work for a glass of wine and some tapas. We’ve recruited sommeliers for most of the front of house team too, so guests can easily get a great recommendation – a big wine list can be intimidating.