Chef Q&A: No 1 Church Street
PUBLISHED: 15:36 07 July 2015 | UPDATED: 15:57 07 July 2015
Simon Martin, head chef at Wheathampstead restaurant No 1 Church Street, opens the door into his kitchen
Describe your style Modern European. I’ve been trained in classical French cooking, so the use of sauces and offal is applied to most of my cooking. However, a lot of European and British produce takes priority with some dishes.
How do you decide your menu? We change the menu every three weeks. Some dishes stay on but the aim is to keep everything as seasonal as possible. We run a full-time set menu and have good relationships with the suppliers so we can take advantage of the offers that the seasonal market brings.
Do you use Hertfordshire producers? Yes. Most are from Welwyn, Tewin and the surrounding areas. I also have a few local gamekeepers on the phone. It’s nice to be able to trace everything that comes in and get a more personal experience with the food.
What dish do you most enjoy preparing? At the moment it’s got to be the lamb. It comes in on the saddle and we keep the bones to make a lovely Madeira jus. We also take the fat to confit potato. We pan roast it with garlic, tarragon vinegar and rosemary and it comes out perfectly.
What ingredient is most important to your cooking? There are too many to mention – I love garlic and herbs, but it has to be vinegars. We get some specialist vinegars in to finish each of our sauces with, and I can’t live without them now! The difference in flavour that it gives is amazing.
Your best culinary idea? Something we’re working on at the moment – duck liver mousse with white chocolate crumb and rhubarb. It tastes so good. We did a 10-course tasting menu that included a course of home-made raspberry vinegar parfait with whitebark raspberry cells, candied pistachio and sorbet and it went down a treat.
Who did you train under and what did they teach you? I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some very talented chefs, all focused on amazing flavours and natural ingredients. I worked for John Burton-Race in London with head chef Stephen Humphries, who trained at various Roux restaurants. A great guy called Terry also had a big influence on my development.
Prediction for the next food trend? Simplicity is really coming back. A few years ago everybody was so concerned with getting every technique possible on a plate of food without any real substance. Most chefs I know now prefer to let natural ingredients shine. Foraging and thrift is becoming fashionable again and I love it.
What’s in your fridge at home? Nothing! Sometimes some bacon if I’m lucky.
Favourite quick meal? A sandwich of eggs, bacon, beans, hash browns and cheese.
Top three tips for amateur cooks? Don’t be afraid of trying something new. A little salt goes a long way. Get to know your local butcher – he’ll help you out.
Best cook book? Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall The River Cottage Meat Book (it even teaches you how to cook a squirrel!)