It is our great pleasure to speak with Steven Ellis, who is Chef Patron at the newly opened Oxford Blue, “a pub that serves great food” – that’s his introduction to what is one of the most popular New Openings of 2017.
Originally from Lancashire, Steven spent most of his childhood growing up in the Middle East. Aged 16 he returned to England, enrolling at the Birmingham College of Food & Tourism, before moving to London to follow his dream.
Steven’s talents were developed working in well-known restaurants such as Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and the three Michelin starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, but his vision of creating an extraordinary culinary experience within the comfort of a country style gastro pub came from his time spent at Andrew Pern’s Star Inn in Harome.
His passion to promote a part of our country’s heritage that hasn’t so much been forgotten but needs to be brought back to life drives him. His dishes are sophisticated yet familiar, a perfect match for the relaxed surroundings that this charming pub has to offer.
We asked chef how he would best describe the Oxford Blue:
” I think of the Oxford Blue very much as a pub. We have locals who come in for a drink and also people who like to come in to dine with us. The beauty of the Oxford Blue is that you can come for a casual drink while reading the newspaper by the open fire or come in with friends for a meal. But also you can bring the other half and enjoy a romantic meal for two. The Oxford Blue has the ability to change for everyone’s needs whether it be a quick meal at lunch or a long evening of 3-4 courses with friends and family.”
The Oxford Blue has had some amazing reviews and coverage in the press, we asked – What do you think about reviews?
“I feel reviews are healthy for restaurants but only if they are presented in a constructive way, so the owners and staff can take it on board and help better themselves and their business. It’s always good to get an outsiders opinion as sometimes the obvious things can be overlooked when you are working long hours and focused on delivering what you believe to be the best you can do. What I don’t agree on is when someone has a grudge towards a business or just unhappy with them and because of this come in with a negative attitude where everything the restaurant does is seen as ‘wrong’ “
You have worked in Fine Dining Michelin Star awarded restaurants. How important is a Michelin star?
“The benefits I feel a restaurant achieves by obtaining a star is that one, they earn the right to be listed in this exclusive guide but also become noticed by a wider audience of foodies, people who share the same passion for eating out as we do for delivering a high level food and service. But can also attract people who appreciate the hard work that is put into delivering a great experience.”
Achieving your dream here at Oxford Blue must have been hard work, who influenced you in the past?
“One of my biggest idols, since I was young, has to be Marco Pierre White. The passion he had to deliver the best experience to his guests is inspiring but, also the way he liked to push boundaries and not follow the trends proved to me that if you believe in something don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise because you have a responsibility to yourself to make sure it comes true! “
If you could invite any Chef past or present to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why?
“As I mentioned previously my idol being Marco Pierre White it would only feel right in saying that I would love to cook alongside this industry legend for one night”.
What is your favourite dish on the Oxford Blue menu in which you use produce from your most local supplier?
“My favourite dish has to be my ‘suckling pig’s trotter’. But, in regards to local suppliers and having such a huge passion for using game, I work very closely with the head game keeper of Windsor Great Park. Being able to use an abundance of different types of Game, it allows my imagination to run wild with ideas I only once dreamt of being able to create”.
Staying with favourite dishes, What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”
“Most likely a Venison Wellington, being such a lover of all things ‘game’ “
Finally, Favourite Tables, where do you like to dine when you get the chance and the time away from your own kitchen.
To be Confirmed…..
Rubino Kitchen is a lovely little restaurant set in a lodge on a farm in Maldon , Essex and a real credit to the county as this small team under the guidance of Head Chef Rob produces some great and interesting dishes from using great local produce.
It’s a small restaurant but has a great friendly feel from the moment you arrive until you leave . So onto the evening itself they have a good menu where you can choose from 1 to 5 courses which can come as a starter or main or as we did we went for the Tasting Menu so that we could try every course.
We started with a nice and refreshing White Grape Gazpacho which was delicious before moving on to what was my favourite course the Haddock Scotch Egg with peas , raisin & curried puffed rice it was heaven. Then a Beef Carpaccio delightful followed by a Sweetcorn Risotto which came with Balsamic Vinegar interesting but it worked then to balance the Menu we had a lovely Cod with Octopus Caponata it was beautiful.
Now onto the main course of Braised Lamb Tortellini & Smoked Aubergine Purée with Gem Lettuce & Beans a great hearty course to finish well almost because there’s always time for Desserts, yes Desserts .
There were three on offer so of course we had to try them all the first being a Blackcurrant Panna Cotta with Honeycomb which I got to eat myself as my wife decided to have some Gorgonzola Cheese & Crackers. Next was Mille Feuille and to finish a Baked Alaska with Lemon Ice Cream nicely made by Dana .
I have to say it was a really pleasant evening good food and very friendly service so look forward to returning soon
What a beautiful view I had at the weekend – the bar at Titchwell Manor – in gorgeous Norfolk countryside – looks out to sea, white sails bobbing about on what was a stunning day!
Working up an appetite with a long walk along the beach in Hunstanton, the drive to Titchwell took us past Eric’s Fish & Chips the group’s casual dining restaurant, renowned for some of the best fish dishes in the area. *Note to self… The Cod and Chips looked amazing, must try next time*
Arriving at Titchwell Manor the welcome of the cool decor, country house feel was delightful. Alfie, the FT dog, was also welcomed! He is of course, exceptionally well behaved, so welcome in most places….but not necessarily with home made biscuits and a silver water bowl…..he wants to live there!
Eric and his team have obviously worked hard to create a beautiful place – it’s cool interiors, high ceilings, a gorgeous conservatory and walled garden. Eric was having a well deserved day off but it was great Eric – your team were warm, friendly and nothing was too much trouble.
Andy brought over the Sunday Lunch menus and organised the drinks for the humans…
A perfectly created amuse bouche arrived together with some of the freshest bread we have enjoyed in a longtime.
My starter of Norfolk asparagus with poached egg and hollandaise was scrumptious – the asparagus, slightly charred but still firm, were beautifully prepared and the poached egg was cooked to perfection. I may be changing back from sous vide eggs to the old fashioned way!
My Chauffeur, sorry Mr FT… had the Brancaster Crab with Dill, Sable, Watercress and a lime gel. Very fresh and full of flavour, the quenelles of crab matched the buttery Sable exceptionally well.
In honour of #FTbadboys, it was inevitable that Beef with Yorkshire Pudding was ordered! In deference to the badboys, the Yorkie came first! I have decided that there must be a secret piece of kit that inflates these huge yorkshire puddings that only chefs know about…but I digress. I had been told about the deliciousness of Dingley Dell pork so I had to try it for myself.
Everything said was true – it was matched with barbequed beetroot with crushed hazlenuts which was divine.
There is a truly lovely feel about Titchwell Manor and I am already looking forward to another visit soon. It’s warm and welcoming and next time we will stay over in one of the beautifully appointed rooms and will sample the Conversation tasting menu
Jahdre Hayward was born in Bermuda, at 15 he moved to the United States to live with his aunt and uncle while he studied culinary arts in Tampa Florida. When his studies were complete he moved to the UK and gained a commis job at The Savoy Hotel, London under Anton Edelmann, where he progressed quickly up the rankings to Chef de Partie. Jahdre`s employment in London and the Home Counties also includes Hanbury Manor, Rules Restaurant, the Oxo Tower, Novelli in the City and The Ritz.
Amanda Hayward was born and brought up in Essex and lived in the family owned traditional 17th century free house the Forest Gate Inn which is situated on the outskirts of Epping Forest and the charming market town of Epping. Amanda knew from an early age she was interested in cooking and after leaving school she took a place at Westminster College and trained to be a chef. She has gained experience in many fine restaurants in London and abroad including Simpsons on the Strand, London Capital Club, and then started her own catering company.
Jahdre met Amanda when they both worked at The London Capital Club. They travelled to Australia in 2003 and Jahdre worked briefly at Guillaume at Bennelong, Sydney Opera House whilst experiencing life in Australia. They returned to London for 3 years before migrating to Australia and settling in Melbourne. Jahdre worked as a sous chef at The National Gallery then moved on to become head chef at the Melbourne Wine Room followed by The Millswyn Restaurant. Amanda whilst in Melbourne went from being a chef to a waiter and after working at Grossi Florentino`s and Maze by Gordon Ramsey went on to work at Circa, The Prince and became assistant restaurant manager of the two hat restaurant.
After five and a half years in Melbourne and gaining Australian citizenship, Jahdre and Amanda decided to return to the UK to oversee the development of Haywards in the grounds of the family owned pub the Forest Gate Inn.
The restaurant was converted from an old coach house, stable and skittle alley. Amanda and Jahdre oversaw the whole process to create their dream restaurant, sympathetically restoring the buildings and retaining many original features. Haywards opened in May 2013 and has gone from strength to strength and both Amanda and Jahdre are passionate about continuous development and progression for the business. The Haywards kitchen garden is thriving and the restaurant has been working with a local bee keeper to keep some bee colonies and produce their own honey.
With Jadhre’s global background, our questions were many. Here are some of them:
Influences – now and then?
“My grandmother, with her love of food and family, was really inspiring and I used to love to watch her in the kitchen. The chef who has really influenced me is Brett Graham at The Ledbury. His passion for the industry and for sourcing quality local produce is something that we have adopted at Haywards. He is also passionate about his customers and our many conversations have influenced decisions we have made”
What are your views on the difference between Australian and British restaurant industries?
“There are quite a lot of differences between restaurants and food styles. All are positive differences, and in terms of gaining experience and developing my career, I feel very privileged to have worked in many great restaurants in both locations. Australian restaurants are often slightly Asian inflenced and there are many different products available and not so much emphasis on the seasons. Due to the warmer climates across the country there is more produce available year round. There is also access to beautiful and more unusual fresh fish such as snapper, barramundi (similar to sea bass and delicious!) and yabbies, which I love. However, here in the UK I really enjoy the fact that our native produce is seasonal and we can change our menus accordingly. We also have fantastic, quality British produce and our scallops are amazing!”
If you were not a chef – where would you be now?
“My career path was destined to been an aircraft mechanic but whilst studying, I took a part time job in a kitchen and my fate was sealed!”
Are there restaurants you would like to go to?
“If I am lucky enough to travel to the Far East again, I would love to dine at Sukiabashi Jiro, a three Michelin starred sushi restaurant in Japan. Another three Michelin starred restaurant is Michel Bras in France which is also high on my list.
Haywards Honey – what is your favourite honey dish?
“We have a beautiful dish on our menu described as Honey, Dill, Almond. It is a honey parfait garnished with honeycomb, bee pollen and dill ice cream”
A chef to work with – past or present?
“I would love to work alongside Michael Caines. I have dined at Gidleigh Park twice and really admire him for his determination, drive and skill” I saw that his latest venue Lympstone Manor is featured on favourite tables so I will be booking dinner there soon.
Finally – where are your favourite tables?
One of my favourite tables has to be The Ledbury in Notting Hill. Always an amazing experience and I love everything about this restaurant.
I also think The Artichoke in Amersham is a fantastic restaurant. They are gaining a lot of recognition but deserve more!
Finally, I celebrated my birthday just before Christmas at the Bildeston Crown in Suffolk. We had a wonderful stay and a really great meal in their restaurant so I am sure that they will go on to achieve great things.
This was the first time we’ve been here for an evening and what an excellent dining experience it was . A very warm and friendly greeting on arrival then escorted to our table to let the festivities begin. We decided to go for the Tasting Menu with matching Wines and I have to say it was heaven.
Starting with a fantastic Trout dish then an amazing Crab Thermidor followed by a delightful Artichoke dish and stunning Cod course then on to the main courses and my highlight a glorious Venison with orange curd and the braised Beef which was very rich .
The matching wines were a delight coming from Italy,Hungary,Austria,South Africa and France. Now to dessert a fabulous Poached Pear Galette and a Cambridge Cream & Rhubbarb .
All in all it was truly a fantastic evening which was made even better due to the great warm and excellent service from every member of staff . So if it’s a fantastic evening with amazing food and wine in a great little town then take a trip to Amersham and visit this restaurant. I’m already looking forward to returning in June
Lympstone Manor, which is already featured in Unique Destinations on Favourite Tables, is the new hotel and restaurant from Chef Michael Caines MBE, probably best known for his 21 years running the kitchen at Gidleigh Park. The new property will be opening for business on April 3 and is taking bookings now (at the time of publishing this article online booking is not available, therefore telephone booking is recommended).
Following a major refurbishment costing more than £7million of what was Courtlands House. Lympstone Manor with its 28 acres of gardens, grounds and parkland has a commanding position overlooking the Exe river estuary near Exmouth and will feature 21 luxurious guestrooms and suites, 3 dining rooms and its own vineyard.
A contemporary country house hotel surrounded by the beauty and tranquility of East Devon and the Jurassic Coast offering acclaimed fine dining cuisine by Michael Caines and a world-class wine cellar, we predict Lympstone Manor will soon become a top request on Unique Destinations.
Couldn’t think of a better way to end the year than visiting our favourite local restaurant Haywards. This was our 21st visit of the year and the food & service was consistently as good as always .
If you like fine dining but don’t want to go into London then this is the place for you. The restaurant serves excellent European Cuisine and also has great Wines to match your food . The restaurant has a nice friendly atmosphere and is a great place for couples or groups and can host bigger parties in the Stable
#epping #Essex #restaurant
Favourite tables do enjoy the most outstanding good luck! We recently had the good fortune to enjoy some of Chef Nick Bennett’s food at a Pop-up event he had put together with a Chef’s Table featured chef Danilo Cortellini, more of that in a minute, but we could not pass up the chance to chat to this BBC Masterchef finalist and invite him to join our Chef’s Table.
Born in Royal Leamington Spa, he first became interested in cooking at school through lessons called Food Tech “My mum and grandmother were both keen cooks, at home constantly baking and cooking amazing food. I was therefore able to experiment and practice with their gentle guidance and encouragement” Then Nick had the chance to working part-time in a family friends local pub and loved it there. Starting off pot washing, prepping for the starter courses and sometimes serving at table. One Monday evening he was thrown the challenge of running a service and he was hooked. Nick chose to go the Stratford-upon-Avon catering college, taking 3 courses whilst taking on a part time apprenticeship.
The apprenticeship led into a position as a commis chef at the Brasserie at Mallory Court working under the direction of Executive Head Chef Simon Haigh. A year later Nick moved to work alongside Head Chef Andrew Scott in the Michelin starred main restaurant. Nick’s career developed there and he became junior sous chef
In late 2012, Nick and Andrew both left Mallory Court to take up positions at the Curlew restaurant in East Sussex. Nick said “working with Andrew has helped refined me as a chef, as well as influencing my creativity, without limits”. During their time at the Curlew the restaurant won and retained a Michelin Star.
Nick is now senior sous chef at Restaurant 56 at the Sudbury House hotel in Farington Oxfordshire and his partnership with Head Chef Andrew Scott has continued. Sudbury House holds 4 AA Silver Stars and Restaurant 56 holds 3 AA Rosettes.
Late in 2014 the BBC approached asking Nick if he would be interested in taking part in MasterChef 2015. “I entered the competition to push myself and to see how I stacked up against other chefs in the country. I’m extremely proud that I got to the final three, the final tests with Scott Barnard and the eventual winner Mark Stinchcombe in front on Monica and Marcus were the most challenging.
Nick has stayed in touch with all the chefs from the final weeks of the competition. That’s how the pop-up came about. Held at Venturi Tables in West London, Nick and Danilo shared the four courses, with Nick presenting the starter of Salmon Mi-Cuit, Violet Potato Mousse, Watercress and Salted Lemon:
and the desert course of Cherry and Pistachio Cheesecake, Cherry Sorbet and Cookie Crumb:
It was an amazing evening and a fascinating collaboration, which we hope will be repeated sometime soon.
Favourite Tables then asked Chef about places he would call his “favourite tables”
“The Hand & Flowers is a firm favourite” he replied. “Its not too far from home and we have enjoyed evenings and Sunday Lunch. I really like what Tom Kerridge has created and the food is always excellent”
“Then, when I feel like spoiling myself and loved ones, we visit L’Enclume Simon Rogan’s restaurant in Carmel. I believe this restaurant is as near to perfect as you can get. Food is always of a very high standard and the service is perfectly balanced, attentive but never over bearing”
“Can I mention a couple of other great places locally… is that ok?” – how could we say no.
“These are two “Gastropubs” I love going to and I think a lot more people should know about and try, they could become peoples Favourite Tables” ( we see what you did there chef….)
“Firstly the Star Inn in Sparsholt, great local with amazing food, Sunday Lunch is very good”
“And the Maybush in Witney great location right on the Thames by one of the oldest bridges across the river. It has recently undergone a major refurbishment, but kept lots of it’s charm”
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- #Win Tickets for You and a Friend to cook some great Thai Food on
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About Favourite Tables
Our ethos is about places people love – always has been, always will be.
We know that most people choose where to eat based on recommendations from friends and family, a social interaction – a Social Marketplace
Favourite Tables is just that – our recommendations and reviews are from people who love where they go and go back to.
The popularity of each Favourite Tables restaurant is assured on the Social Marketplace and through the restaurant reviews they receive.
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