Chef Lee Clarke – Prévost
It may be an overused phrase but “living the dream” could really be applied to Chef Lee Clarke. Now back in his home town of Peterborough and with his own recently opened restaurant Prévost, Lee is now able to apply his Michelin class experience at this rarity of a high end fine dining restaurant in the Peterborough city centre.
Why Peterborough, we asked Lee when we recently met with him at Prévost. “Well, I grew up in Peterborough, and having all my family around me including grandparents, my early influences were from within the family and based in Peterborough.” He has also held one local ambition for a very long time which we will return to later.
“My mother and grandmother were a big influence as they encouraged me to help them and try different things to cook. I attended Peterborough Regional College and got my diplomas for Hotel and Catering on a two year programme. I then started work in London to gain experience and to develop my style of cooking, working in 5 star hotel kitchens and at The Ivy, Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor and Daphne’s. Two years at Marco Pierre White restaurants including Mirabelle and The Oak Room followed and then I spent four years with Roux Fine Dining. This was followed by a spell in a corporate dining environment at Shell London working for the Compass Group. During this period I was a Roux Scholarship finalist three years running achieving a third place in 2004”
“In 2006, I was given the opportunity to take on the Head Chef position at Ickworth Hotel in Bury St. Edmunds, slightly nearer to home. It was here that I started to really develop my style of cooking. The ground provided lots of opportunities for foraging and the estate keeper helped with catching rabbit and hare for the menu. The lamb came from farms on the edges of the estate. Under Lee’s guidance, the restaurant gained and held two AA rosettes.
In 2011, with the help of a group of investors, Lee opened Clarkes in Peterborough. “I was employed as Head Chef and really enjoyed most of my nearly six years at Clarkes. But, as Head Chef, I could only take things so far and had to be mindful of what style of restaurant the owners wanted.” Clarkes was listed in the Michelin guide 2012/14 and was included at number 62 in the BMW square meal guide of Best Restaurants outside London.”It is still my main ambition to have the first Michelin starred restaurant in Peterborough and I could not see it happening if I was not the owner. You can only suggest and push things so far, I understand that.”
Fast forward to April 2016 and Lee and wife Teresa have just opened Prévost on Priestgate in the city centre.
Housed in what was once the “Flying Services Club” founded in 1939 by RAF members in the local area.
Following some major remodeling, it is now a relaxed fine dining restaurant where he can create dishes that he has long wanted. Lee has created a place that is not only welcomed by the local diners but is also welcoming visitors from outside of Peterborough. The six years Lee was at Clarkes has created a very strong local reputation, reaching the West Midland where chefs like Alex Claridge of the recently renamed The Wilderness (formally Nomad) has already express an interest in possible pop-up collaborations.
The regularly changing menu offers 3, 5, and 9 course tasting menus which favourite tables was lucky enough to sample elements (too tempting to say no!) and were told to expect brilliant ingredients and bold flavours as Lee guided our palates on an exploration through freshness, texture and taste. Everything on the plate is meticulously sourced, made from scratch and as local as possible: beef aged by local butchers in Stilton; wild mushrooms foraged from nearby woods; artichokes picked straight from their own allotment. Our verdict – the recent visits by Michelin and the AA should soon see a star and rosettes being bestowed.
Our final conversation was about his favourite tables.
“The Olive Branch in Rutland is a favourite for my wife and I. Being local to us here in Peterborough it was a really delight when we first discovered it and we have been returning on a regular basis, which is unusual for us”
“Whenever possible I will head to London to visit one of the restaurants that are pushing to develop further. So either they are driving for their first accolade or maybe their next Michelin Star. I really do like Simon Rogans food and what he is doing at Fera but recently I have been very impressed with Tom Sellers at Restaurant Story”
|Address:||Prevost Restaurant Peterborough|
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