What is your earliest memory of being interested in food?
At around 5 years old, boiling noodles while talking to A team figures, giving running commentary to Murdock about how to cook them properly.
Do you try and recreate many of the flavours and dishes from your childhood in your cooking today?
I grew up in the Middle East and we ate out a lot. I was exposed to lots of different food cultures from a very young age. I am not sure I try to recreate those flavours but I definitely try to recreate the feeling I had as a guest eating in those restaurants. The whole sharing thing with a big emphasis on flavour and getting stuck in as large family appeals to me.
Who has influenced your cooking the most?
Ironically probably Robin Hutson. I have worked with some amazing chefs over the years that have taught me so much about how to cook and appreciate produce, although seldom have I come across a guy more passionate about his food than Robin. He really pushed me to believe in product and produce over technique and fashion. He got me to think about the guest more than anyone else when cooking. He made me question why I put something on a plate as a head chef. For that I will always be thankful.
What’s it like working with an inspiring chef like Angela? What’s your relationship like and do you share a lot in common when it comes to flavours and the sorts of dishes you like to prepare?
Working with Angela has been incredible. She is all about the food. Once I got over the initial fear of meeting her, I think we started to click. We met at Arbutus for lunch and then went and ate at 4 different restaurants it soon became quite apparent that we like the same style of food. That then made things a lot easier. We also share the same sort of humour and I can quite honestly say I have never enjoyed working with someone as much as I do her. I hold a huge amount of respect and admiration for what she has achieved and think our relationship is a good one. We love talking food and menu writing together is a joy. We like flavour to be everything and seasonality is essential. When talking about the type of restaurant we wanted to create in the early days, we really wanted a place that served the sort of food that chefs like to cook for each other out side of work, as opposed to the type of food we create for restaurants.
Simple, honest, more ambitious than the average cook, but ultimately great to eat.
How would you describe your defining philosophy?
Produce lead. More time sourcing it less time cooking it.
Hartnett Holder & Co restaurant is situated in a fantastic location, right in the heart of the New Forest in the 5* Lime Wood hotel. What kind of experience do you hope to give to guests who come to sample Lime Wood’s hospitality and your fantastic fare?
I hope that they feel relaxed and that they are eating in a restaurant full of atmosphere: a place that can be a casual experience as well as something to get dressed up for and special, all at the same time. A meal is more than just the food. When Anegala and I remember the best meals of our life, some of those weren’t at the 3 Michelin star places, they could have been the simple bistros or the unexpected place when the atmosphere, service and the people you were with made the whole thing so memorable. We hope the restaurant we have created gives our guests a space with an atmosphere and energy with a food offering that is simple and exciting. But more than anything, that they leave feeling loved, cared for and spoilt.
What dish are you enjoying preparing at the moment and do you have any seasonal ingredients that you couldn’t live without?
I love the smoked cod roe, it’s sweet smoky and simple. It turns what was a rather an un-enjoyable food experience I remember having myself as a kid into something quite elegant. I couldn’t live without garlic. It changes nearly every dish you use it in. It gives depth and can be so many different things depending on how you use it
If you could take a plane ride to anywhere in the world, just for one meal, where would it be and why?
Koh Samui. I used to live there. My one regret was never getting the recipe to the tamarind sauce at the local chicken and rice stall. It still hangs in my memory now and no matter how hard I try to recreate it, it’s never the same. That humble street stall still ranks as one of the best places I have ever eaten at and all for 30 baht, about 50 pence!
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