Favourite Tables

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Chef Patron Michael Bremner Talks To Chef’s Table

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Michael Bremner is originally from Aberdeen in the North East of Scotland, he started out washing pots in the country house hotel where his mother worked as a chef. Remaining in Aberdeenshire he started a five-year apprenticeship at The Pittodrie House Hotel and attended a local college one day per week. Once qualified he moved to London to further his experience working as a Demi-Chef de Partie in the pastry section at the Michelin starred Orrery Restaurant. Staying in London he gained experience at a few restaurants including working for Curtis Stone at the award winning restaurant, Quo Vadis.

Michael then worked and travelled for a couple of years spending time in Australia and then Canada where he combined his love of snowboarding with cooking and was a chef in the kitchen of Pan Pacific Hotel, Whistler in Canada, before returning to the UK and settling in Brighton where he now runs his own restaurant 64 Degrees.

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Since it opened, 64 Degrees has gone from strength to strength, each year being awarded a Bib Gourmand by Michelin, awarded the number one spot on the Brighton Top 20 in 2016 & 2017 and being voted number 30 in the National Restaurant Top 100 list 2017.

Michael now has more than one restaurant to his name, he has recently opened a relaxed eatery called Murmur (the name comes from the word for a flock of birds moving in unison, a Murmuration) in the arches on the Brighton promenade.

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2017 has been a busy year for him as he also appeared, for the second time, on the popular BBC programme The Great British Menu, where his Main Course dish was selected for the final banquet held at Wimbledon.

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Q: If you were not a chef, what could you have been?

A: When I was younger I always wanted to be a stuntman.

Q: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

A: The Ledbury

Q: Is there a food or style of preparing food you would not eat?

A: I like to think that I’m quite adventurous but I don’t think I could ever eat dog.

Q: With the increased TV food programmes, is there a greater rivalry among chefs?

A: With my experience of being on Great British Menu I’d honestly have to say no. I think everyone involved is kind of in the same boat – it’s a very tough, high-pressure environment so if anything there’s a lot of unity between everyone.

Even between the chefs in Brighton, I would say that it’s the same unity rather than rivalry – we actually end up doing a lot of collaborations together

Q: How are you spreading your time between your two restaurants and what are the challenges of having two locations?

A; It’s not easy, I’m not going to lie! I am lucky enough to have a great team at 64 Degrees so at the moment I don’t have to be there every day to make sure the day-to-day running of the kitchen is how it should be, although I’m still heavily involved with working alongside Sam, my Head Chef, in developing the menu.

With Murmur, we opened just as the summer holidays were starting. In Brighton. On the seafront. It’s been pretty crazy and I’ve been in the kitchen there for the vast majority of my time over the past few weeks. It’s all coming together now though and the eventual aim is to get to a point where I’ll be splitting my time evenly between both restaurants. By then I might have forgotten how hard it is and try and open another one!

 

Q: What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use produce from your most local supplier?

A: It’s got to be the braised ox tongue, as much for sentiment than anything, as this is the dish I won Great British Menu with. In terms of the suppliers, pretty much everyone we use is local – BNFS for their great fresh fish, Barfields Butchers, plus at 64 Degrees we get a whole lamb each week from local Saddlescombe Farm and butcher it ourselves, serving different cuts throughout the week.

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Q: If you could invite any Chef past or present to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why?

A: I would love to have the opportunity to cook with Bob Ovington, who was the guy who first trained me at the Pittodrie House Hotel in Aberdeenshire. Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am today

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My Favourite Tables – Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

 

Locally I’d say that my favourite place is The Chilli Pickle. It’s such a great place to eat and my two little girls love it there too so we end up going quite a lot.

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The other place I eat at a lot is Pho. I really enjoy Vietnamese noodle soup and their spicy beef brisket pho dish is right up there for me.

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Oklava – ” I definitely can’t wait to return”

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The easiest way to start is review is to say that this is one of the best Turkish meal I’ve ever eaten, the flavours of each course were amazing.

This little restaurant set in the streets of Shoreditch was a real delight with a fantastic menu created by chef Selin Kiazim. When we looked at the menu, believe me, we just wanted to try everything but in the end, we went with the recommendations of our excellent & friendly waitress and so glad we did as they were fantastic choices. They also have a great selection of wine and most also seem to be by the glass

 

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They also have a great selection of wine and most also seem to be by the glass as well plus a great Izmir Beer.

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The restaurant has an opened kitchen so you can smell the amazing flavours before they reach the table. Well, I suppose I better get to the food which started with a delicious Baharat Spiced Bread & Date Butter before the amazing Pastirma Sausage & Grilled Hellim, this was followed by a stunning Flatbread which included Octopus, Ricotta & Caper Leaves then a fantastic Aubergine dish.

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I then came to the mains, Crispy Pomegranate Glazed Lamb & Seftali Kebab just food heaven. Do remember to leave room for dessert as you won’t want to miss out on these. One was a Kinefe a Crispy Kadayif & Cheese Pastry & the other a stunning Chocolate! Prune & Cardamom Delice matched with a delightful Turkish dessert wine. I definitely can’t wait to return and I would highly recommend a visit as the food, service and general friendliness of the place makes it a real pleasure.

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Chef Damian to open Gastropub with International theme

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It is not enough that one of our favourites, local Chef Damian Wawrzyniak, cooked with the fabulous Mary Berry, he is now spoiling us with the opening of  House of Feasts in Eye Green, near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire next month.

The 70-cover restaurant will serve a hearty menu with varied influences, according to Wawrzyniak.

He told Favourite Tables: “We will be serving an international menu with lots of meat dishes. The House of Feasts also has a large garden and we will be running BBQ’s and hog roasts in the warmer months.”

The current plan is to close the site (previously the Maccaloo gastropub) for refurbishment at the end of May to a grand opening on 9 June. Damian’s wife Alicja, an accomplished interior designer, will be project managing the refit and design concept working alongside him and head chef Dominik Pietrzyk.

Damian is a “local” chef hailing from St Neots, but with an international reputation. Early on in his career he worked at Noma in Copenhagen, at the London 2012 Olympics ran the Seafood restaurant and has recently taken restaurants from concept to successful launch in London together with a project at Park Royal London developing a culinary academy owned by the Maroush Group. He has also graced our TV screens cooking his now famous Babka, the brioche style polish cake traditionally baked at Easter, which he cooked on the BBC Two programme Mary Berry’s Easter Feast.

Favourite Tables first met Damian back in 2013, he was one of our first Chef’s Table interviews. Back then he had the vision to one day run his own restaurant, stating then that his restaurant would be a place where customers could find “honest prices and traditional flavours.” He had planned to open a restaurant at the end of 2016 and had investigated a number of options for funding even initially via a crowdfunding project. House of Feasts is for both Damian and Alicja a realisation of their dream with the pair financing the lease, refurbishment and rebranding of the restaurant themselves. Damian told us: “It was a long journey and the hard work will start now, but Alicja and I are looking forward to welcoming everyone to the House of Feasts in June.”

Favourite Tables is looking forward to visiting House of Feasts and catching up with Damian soon!

 

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Favourite Tables at the Italian Embassy…again!!

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Imagine our excitement at being invited to the Italian Embassy again ( Chefs Table with Danilo)

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The occasion:  MasterChef The Professionals 2015 finalist and head chef at the Italian Embassy in London Danilo Cortellini would be launching his new cook book

 

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‘4 Grosvenor Square’, the first cook book from Danilo Cortellini is a celebration of his time at the Italian Embassy in London, featuring recipes that reflect the day-to-day life at the Embassy; from business lunches to grand gala dinners and family meals to drinks receptions.

The reception was attended by world famous chefs, television celebrities, food writers and critics who all welcomed the fresh approach Danilo has applied to his book. Chef’s family and friends where also on hand to lend support.

 

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The hardback book contains authentic Italian dishes using some of the finest produce available. Featured dishes include some of the Ambassadors personal favourites; multi-coloured burrata tortellini with Sicilian red prawns in a smoked artichoke broth; Veal Cheek “pizzaiola”, and a Pumpkin panna cotta with apples and mosto cotto.

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You can read about Danilo’s culinary career in his “Chef’s Table Interview

The book is divided sections that reflect the running of the embassy based on style of occasion instead. This provides an insight on how Danilo plans his menus at the Italian Embassy, and how certain recipes are perfect for particular events. If you are looking to impress someone at home, each dish is applicable to home cooking and home kitchens. Nothing is regimented in this book, and Danilo encourages you to experiment and interpret dishes and elements of recipes as you like.

Danilo says: “I never underestimate the comforting side of food and cooking is truly an act of care and love. He is a great believer in using quality produces and also an advocate of not wasting food. A section of his book is dedicated to supporting the food charity Food Cycle (@foodcycle) and the work they do supporting people at risk of food poverty and social isolation.

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Despite no Ferrero Rocher.. the evening was a great success and we wish Danilo every success with his book “4 Grosvenor Square” – the address of the Embassy if you were wondering.

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4 Grosvenor Square is published in English and Italian and available for pre-order from Amazon now with general released on 30th November from Waterstones and all good book shops. RRP: £25.00.

 

 

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The Flying Scotsman, A Frog and the BBC

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The Flying Scotsman:

Chef Adam Handling could be described as the “Flying Scotsman”. His culinary career is certainly steaming ahead with cook books, artisan chocolates, olive oil and even his own branded Gin. His restaurant, Adam Handling at Caxton and Adam himself have received critical acclaim and accolades over the past months since he came to the attention of restaurant goers, foodies and the avid fans of the BBC MasterChef, the professionals in 2013, where he reached the finals.

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Adam has recently parted company with the Hotel Group which housed his restaurant and Adam Handling at the Caxton is to be rebranded with a new image and a pared down menu, introducing a grill restaurant, offering steaks and burgers. So the leap forward, excuse the pun, for Adam is the opening of the first of a series of restaurant he plans to open over the next 8-10 months. Welcome The Frog (brilliant logo concept created by the inimitable @fatpunkstudio )

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Plans will see another two “Frog” concept locations and an eponymous flagship restaurant in the West End. The first Frog will be found in East London in part of the Old Truman Brewery (Hanbury Street/Brick Lane area). When Favourite Tables meet with Adam and the team, Head Chef Steve Kerr, Development Chef Jamie Park and Sous Chef Connor they were all on site, shirt sleeves rolled up. Work was just starting on converting what was previously an Italian restaurant in Ely’s Yard.

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When we re-visited a few days later,  lots had changed in the kitchen area, the bar and cocktail area.

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Equipment suppliers, installation companies, builders, electrical engineers and Adam were all onsite and working very hard to meet the opening night date of 7th June. When asked how confident Adam was to having everything ready for the 7th, his immediate reply, “oh we will be open”

The menu, still in development, will be based on a 5 course taster menu, at around £40 per head, which will be listed on a daily blackboard. As much as possible, ingredients will be sourced from the local suppliers on their doorstep. So if they only have six mackerel then the course will be replaced on the Blackboard when all have been sold. When pushed for a little more detail of the types of dishes available the detail of “Mad as a Box of Frogs’ were explained: Frogs Legs and Chicken lolly pops with a Wild Garlic emulsion served in a wooden box. An A La Carte menu is also under development, which, knowing Adam as we do, will be worth waiting for.

The BBC…

On the day of our revisit to Ely’s Yard, it had just been announced who this years BBC Great British Menu chefs would be and Adam Handling was confirmed as representing the Scottish Region.

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Although filming had taken place several months ago, whilst he had been competing in the Chef of the Year, Adam remained tight lipped about how he got on and the outcome. Some secrets are meant to be kept!

We will be glued to the television when the programmes are aired later this month and cheering him on nonetheless.

 

The Frog, 2 Ely’s Yard, Old Truman Brewery  Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR

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Reigning MasterChef Champion – Mark Stinchcombe

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Can you keep a secret?  Mark Stinchcombe can, and he had to from mid summer last year until the airing of the finals of BBC Masterchef the Professionals before Christmas. Only a handful of family members and the owners of Elkington Manor knew that Mark had been crowned champion before the rest of us in the last couple of weeks in 2015.

Having grown up in Bath, Mark was just a teenager when he set out on a career in the kitchen. He attributes his early eagerness to cook meals and to experiment with ingredients to Mrs May, his home economics teacher “She was so passionate about food that her enthusiasm really came across to us.” Straight out of school he secured himself valuable work experience with the team at the esteemed Royal Crescent. After the Royal Crescent, Mark moved to the nearby Ston Easton Park.

Mark’s culinary CV lists some very impressive experiences at top British restaurants such as The Fat Duck, Le Manoir and The Square. Following this, he started working at Lucknam Park under Chef Hywell Jones. It was later at Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham, where he also met his future wife, Sue, that he focused on classic French cuisine during his two and a half years there. He also mentions amongst his influences Chef Chris Eden at the Driftwood Hotel under who’s tutelage Mark began to hone his fine dining chef skills. Taking a year out Mark and Sue traveled extensively visiting Australia, Thailand and New Zealand, on a gastronomic culinary adventure.

Mark now runs the kitchen at Eckington Manor with wife Sue, who he married on the 3rd of October last year.

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When we spoke to Mark he had only just returned from a delayed honeymoon in Boston and New York. Why the delay, well he had been a little busy with some television and media interviews brought about by winning a certain major cookery competition on the BBC. It was because of the couple’s passion for what they are  both doing at this restaurant and cookery school that he took part in the show in the first place. “I entered the competition to share with a wider audience the style Sue and I create at Eckington Manor, our style of cooking could be considered unique as we are able to select the very best of ingredients, at the perfect time and our menus and recipes are developed using produce direct from Eckington Manor’s award winning farm, orchard, vegetable and herb gardens.

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What parts of the competition did you enjoy and which were the most challenging: I struggled in the critics round when we had to cook for three of the U.K.’s best-known food critics: Jay Rayner, Charles Campion and William Sitwell. You have to produce eight plates of food in an hour and a quarter from raw ingredients. It’s a phenomenal amount of preparation, and the time just flew by.

My highlight has to be when we cooked at the Law Society. We all had to cook together as teammates in the kitchen and then went back into the television studio kitchen and we all produced some amazing food. That was the episode that everyone went through to the next round. The guys in the finals week were fantastic chefs and that really made me push myself. Fellow finalists Scott Barnard and Nick Bennett were incredible and we have stayed in touch.

Where are the places you like to dine at, where are your Favourite Tables:

As I mentioned earlier, Chef Chris Eden has been a big influence and I have visited Driftwood Hotel several times to enjoy his food. It’s an amazing experience.

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And I would have to also mention Michael Wignall when he was at the Latymer at Penny Hill, but I will have to now plan to visit him at Gidleigh Park as he has moved there in January this year.

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