Head Chef Karl Martin of Old Downton Lodge speaks to Chef’s Table
Karl has worked in the hospitality industry for 20 years. Starting his career at a small golf club in the heart of England, where at the age of 13 he became KP in the kitchen of the local golf club in Wolverhampton where his father ran the restaurant, followed by catering training at Henley College in Coventry. Since that time he has gained experience working in many different restaurants in the Midlands, working with the likes of Peter Griffiths MBE, Simon Haigh F&B Director of the Eden Hotel Collection, Adam Bateman Group Executive of the Hotel Collection.
Karl is now Chef Patron at Old Downton Lodge, a restaurant with rooms on the Downton Estate near Ludlow.
“Here at Downton Lodge we never force a dish, we class the food style as natural. Everything has a purpose. Its British country dining with a modem twist, with the emphasis on the ingredients and the marriage between them. We focus on the flavour and believe in treating the ingredients with respect. Using nature and working with and preserving the seasons. We try to tell a story with our food. Where, nature to plate, is very important along with the traceability of the produce we use in the restaurant”.
Being situated in the heart of a country estate, there is a wide range of produce that Karl has at his fingertips, from wild game to foraged fruits, nuts, herbs and mushrooms. Giving the guests a unique dining experience where the quality of the ingredients and simplicity of the dish shine through.
The dining room is a small intimate 20 cover restauran, creating a 6 or 9-course seasonal tasting menu that changes every day, using the best of local produce in and around the estate and Herefordshire, Shropshire and the Borders of Wales.
FT: Who influenced you in the past? Who influences you now?
KM: There are a few, to be honest. My dad was a huge influence on me, I started where everyone should start, on the pots. Seeing the structure of a kitchen from the age of 13 has been a massive help and he was hard on me which has made me tougher as a person.
My two biggest cooking influences are Peter Griffiths and Simon Hauge. I learned so much from them. Focus, determination, drive, respecting people, ingredients and doing things the right way. Whether that be at work or in life. Both are huge inspirations.
Present day, it would have to be Claude Bosi and Gareth Ward.
Living in Ludlow I won’t go a day without hearing about Hibiscus or a story about Claude. A true legend of Shropshire cooking scene and his food is inspirational.
I ate at Ynyshir Hall 2 years ago and can’t stop talking about it to this day. As a chef, I try to get as much flavour as possible out of the ingredients, Gareth and his team just blow my mind with the amount of flavour in every course. I left speechless!! He has been great to speak to as well, always offering good advice. A true gent.
FT: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)
KM: Restaurant Frantzen in Stockholm Sweden. I follow them on every social media outlet I can. Their food blows me away! I remember seeing them for the first time on a video on Facebook, I just sat there with my gob open! It’s on my 2018 list. Can’t wait,
FT: If you could change any misconceptions about restaurants/food, what would they be?
KM: Fine dining! What is it! Some people have this misconception that some restaurants are “too posh”. I agree to a certain point but at Old Downton Lodge I couldn’t give a shit if they want to wear shorts and flip-flops. FFS they are paying customers. I want people to come here feel relaxed and have great food, wine and an amazing experience.
FT: How important is a Michelin star? A chef in France, who has 3 Michelin stars, recently asked that they are removed because of the pressure – thoughts?
KM: For some people, it’s not important at all, for some it’s a must (die trying kind of thing).
I remember a tweet from Michelin that said “cook for your customers!” A lot of chefs forget that they’re the most important people. I’ve never had a star, so can’t comment on the pressure, but we just try and enjoy it. It’s food at the end of the day. I’m here to enjoy my cooking, not drive my team into the ground. If it happens for us it will be amazing but if not and the customers are happy we are doing our job right.
FT: What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use produce from your most local supplier?
KM: Has to be the 3 day cooked Wagyu Feather Blade from Montgomery (supplied By Alternative Meats) it never comes off the menu! Only the garnish changes. We are very lucky to be so close to such an amazing product/producer! Really is world class.
FT: If you could invite any Chef past or present to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why?
KM: Claude Bosi – it would be great to cook with him in Ludlow and just a very inspiring chef. Marco in his hey day just would be amazing. An absolute hero of mine.
My Favourite Tables – Two restaurants I have visited and why?
Restaurant (1): Ynyshir Hall- I’ve only been once but another trip is planned this year. Just one of the best in the UK and is for me soon to be world class.
Restaurant (2): Simpsons in Birmingham. I’ve been 3 times 1st was 18 years ago and twice last year. Just keeps going and evolving. It’s a great mix of classic and modern working well together.
|Address:||Old Downton Lodge|
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