Chef Q&A: Tom Bainbridge, The Tilbury, Datchworth

PUBLISHED: 10:18 11 November 2014 | UPDATED: 10:18 11 November 2014

Rabbit and cake starter at The Tilbury

Rabbit and cake starter at The Tilbury


The chef/owner of The Tilbury restaurant in Datchworth gives an insight into his kitchen

Tilbury chef and owner Tom BainbridgeTilbury chef and owner Tom Bainbridge

Describe your style. Modern British with a nod to classic French cuisine.

How do you decide your menu? We like to evolve the menu in line with seasonal produce and where possible using foraged ingredients. There is always a spontaneous element to our menu, normally following a chat with head chef Chas Wheeler. We always likes to try new things.

Do you use Herts producers? Local suppliers include Bridget B’s, where we source a lot of our meat, and Dawlicious ice cream. We only buy local if it’s good enough not just because it is local, so this is testament to the quality they provide.

Which menu dish do you most enjoy preparing? I enjoy preparing my rabbit and carrot cake starter (pictured). This was the first dish I came up with when we bought the pub, and as I transitioned from amateur cook to chef, it has been on the menu ever since and been very popular.

What ingredient is most important to your cooking? Impossible to choose one, however, the food world without salt would be a bland place!

What’s been your best culinary idea? To go into the restaurant industry with my little brother Jamie. I was new to the industry and he has many years’ experience and has managed a three Michelin star restaurant. It is a very hard business but we have a great crack, work well together and love what we do.

Who did you train under and what did they teach you? I’m self-taught, for my 19th Birthday my oldest brother Simon bought me a cook book and a knife as I was the only sibling that couldn’t/wouldn’t cook, I have been hooked ever since. I have a great team at the Tilbury led by Chas, I have learnt a lot from the boys already.

What’s your prediction for the next food trend? I believe food will just keep getting better, be it a café, pub or fine dining restaurant, people expect more.

What’s in your fridge at home? Living at the pub, downstairs: a lot; upstairs: not a lot apart from snacks including cottage cheese and cracker bread.

Favourite quick meal? At the moment I take the heart, liver and kidneys from the prepared quail, pan fried on toast with a fried egg.

Top three tips for amateur chefs? Know your ingredients, don’t be shy when seasoning and go with your gut instinct.

Best ever cookbook? The Big Fat Duck Cook Book by Heston Blumenthal.


Pan fired mackerel with horseradish milk and apple sauce

Ingredients (4 as a starter) 4 pin boned mackerel fillets; 
For horseradish milk 200ml whole milk; 2g agar agar powder, 1 tbsp horseradish sauce;

For apple sauce 1 bramley apple (peeled and roughly chopped); 100g salted butter; 300ml water; 
For garnish ¼ cucumber; 4 radishes (both finely diced)

1. Bring the milk to a simmer, add the agar agar and whisk for five minutes. Add horseradish sauce and take off the heat. Blend mixture in a food processor and sieve into a bowl, chill in the fridge for an hour or until firm. When firm, break up mixture, return to food processor and blend until smooth, set aside.

2. Add water, butter and apple to a pan. Simmer over a medium heat until apple breaks down (approx 15 mins), allow to cool then blend until smooth and set aside.

3 Just before serving, heat a large non stick pan on a high heat, add the mackerel skin side down and press to prevent curling. Lower the heat slightly and allow to cook two-thirds through on this side (approx three mins) flip the fish and turn off the heat. Allow to finish cooking in residual heat.

4. To serve, spread a base of apple sauce on the plate with the back of a spoon. Pipe the horseradish milk on to the plate, trying to create some height to it, then place the mackerel fillet on the apple sauce. Garnish with radish and cucumber diced as finely as you can.

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