Photograph courtesy of Rajesh Parmar
Michelin-recommended restaurant, Silk, is located at the Courthouse Doubletree by Hilton in what was once the Great Marlborough Street Magistrates Court, which witnessed the trials of Oscar Wilde, Mick Jagger and John Lennon. Today the stars on trial are Silk's fusion dishes inspired by the historic Silk Route of Asia. Intrigued by such an exotic cuisine in such an unusual setting, we asked Head Chef Rajesh Parmar to the witness stand for our latest Chefspective interview.
Your “Silk Route” menu offers one of the more innovative dining experiences we've come across recently. How do you come up with your dishes? Are they based upon authentic, passed down recipes or created specifically for the restaurant?
Silk gets its name from the famed Silk Route which led traders across the Asian continent and into Europe for over 3000 years. Along the road different cultures and cuisines - especially spices, were introduced to new audiences, enriching lives and food. The dishes that I have created for the menu take inspiration from the ancient cultures and eating habits that have been passed down over the years. Based on authentic dishes prepared in those days, I fine tune these according to modern standards and presentation.
What's your experience as a chef? How long have you been at Silk and how does an “Asian fusion” kitchen differ from one serving just one specific cuisine?
Being a chef for the last 15 years, I have worked in many different environments both in London and in both India and Thailand. I have been Head Chef at Silk for the last five years.
An Asian fusion kitchen needs to spend a little more time on preparation and presentation, as it takes several ingredients and flavours that would not necessarily be found together and therefore it is integral that each individual component of a dish is prepared in exactly the right way to achieve the desired end result.
Even though it is fusion cuisine, one should always keep in mind to never overdo a dish and never lose the authentic taste, it can include subtle accompanying tastes or side accompaniments but kept simple without complicating the flavours and confusing the palate.
How important is presentation of dishes for you? Does food need to look good to taste good?
I believe presentation is equally important to taste as the first impression resonates throughout the whole meal and enhances the aesthetic dining experience. One bite should seduce the diner into devouring the whole dish.
We found your Kalimiri Bademiya beef dish, your blueberry sorbet and your deep fried banana spring roll to be as inventive as they were tasty. How important is creativity in your line of work? Is it fun coming up with new dishes for your menu?
Creativity is the key tool of any chef and especially in fusion cuisine as it takes much thought and consideration to create interesting and successful flavour pairings. Personally I do a lot of research by exploring new ingredients at food fairs and markets and use my background in Asian cuisine to forge new and arresting compositions.
At Silk, I would recommend adventurous diners to opt for a four course desgustation menu to get a truly comprehensive selection of exciting flavours and combinations.
Have any favourite restaurants in London that you'd like to recommend?
I don’t tend to dine out much and when I do I prefer casual food, such as my local Chinese in Hammersmith, which serves deliciously authentic and fresh food.
Silk is located at 19-21 Great Marlborough Street (W1F 7HL) inside the lobby of the Courthouse Doubletree by Hilton. Visit the restaurant's webpage for more information.