We’ve just heard you’re set to be a guest judge at this year’s Bombay Sapphire World’s Most Imaginative Bartender Competition. What’s your plan of action for judging the UK’s best gin-inspired serves?
Well, I love gin – it’s my favourite drink so I consider myself an absolute expert in the field. I’ll be looking for a drink that tastes bloody good, shows a lot of innovation and originality, with real depth and character, and something that really showcases the gin’s botanicals.
Why did you decide to accept the role of judge for this year’s competition?
It really is just my love of gin! To be honest, I don’t really drink anything else – it’s my favourite tipple in its various guises. My favourite way of drinking it is with a really fiery and spicy ginger beer, maybe some angostura bitters and some lime.
2013 was a pretty hectic year for you: you topped the 2014 Good Food Guide’s list of UK’s best restaurants, became Restaurateur of the Year and gained the Chef Award in this year’s Catey Awards and announced that you will be taking over the restaurant at Claridge’s this spring. What’s it like succeeding Gordon Ramsay to the Claridge’s throne?
Gordon wasn’t really the first person who came into my head as the charts came about. Obviously what he achieved there was amazing and if we can get anywhere near the success that he had, then I’ll be very happy. We’re very different; the product’s going to be very different; the restaurant’s going to be very different. We’ll certainly be doing our best to do follow in his success but we don’t open until the end of April. For now, we’re really enjoying getting to know the guys are Claridge’s and the challenge of what we hope will be something really fantastic.
What can future diners expect to see on the menu at the restaurant at Claridge’s?
We’ll be going in with a totally new repertoire – our development team have been working flat out on almost 200 new and exclusive dishes for Claridge’s. Here’s a sneak preview of the new dishes: first, anise hyssop short rib, chervil root and wildflower honey, eldery vinegar and puff tendons; and secondly, flakey crabs and stewed knotweed, goats cheese, endive and apple cider.
If you were entering the Bombay Sapphire World’s Most Imaginative Bartender Competition, what ingredient would you use?
I’d look at what’s seasonal and I’d think of a story to tell, not just about the flavour, the appearance and the provenance of it. It would probably incorporate flowers, herbs or even vegetable juices.
Will you still be stopping in at your two-Michelin-star flagship restaurant L’Enclume in Cartmel, Cumbria from time to time?
That’s still the plan! Although I will be taking residence in London, I’ve still got a home up here in Cumbria and we have got three businesses up here, as well as our farm. I’ll be dividing my time between the North and South, with a little bit of Manchester in between.
What’s hot on the menu there right now?
I never like to single out any dishes as the strongest or the favourite because it’s about the menu, the balance and the journey, the taste, temperatures and the textures for me. It’s about the whole thing that tastes really good.
But from the 21 courses we’ve got lop-eared pigs on at the moment, with celeriac, crow garlic and locally-foraged mushrooms. And also our specialty dish: raw valley venison garnished with fennel-infused Bombay Sapphire gin candies, and dressed in a coal-flavoured oil.
Roganic, the hugely successful pop-up you ran in Marylebone, London, closed last year in June. Do you plan to do any other pop-ups in the near future?
Not especially – if I do anything else aside from the three restaurants in Cartmel, the two in Manchester and Claridge’s, I’ll be starting to stretch myself out a bit too thinly. Although never say never!
Do you have a favourite ingredient that you’re growing and cooking with at the moment?
There are so many! I love cauliflower to be honest, roasted off in loads of butter and caramelized so it’s got a flat crispy surface, and then steamed with a lid on so it’s very soft on the other.
If you could take a plane ride to anywhere in the world, just for one meal, where would it be and why?
At the moment it would be El Celler de Can Roca in Girona because I’ve never been and it’s number one on the World’s 50 Best. I’d love to go!
What’s your favourite guilty-pleasure dish that you rustle up after a long shift?
I really love fish finger butties with nice thick bread, loads of butter and ketchup and mayonnaise on either side of the bread.
Read more about chef Rogan .