As you've probably gathered, Londonist is partial to a great variety of cuisine and we love living in a city with such a diverse selection of food on offer. This doesn't, however, mean that we never look closer to home for a good meal, and we're delighted by the recent proliferation of London establishments serving decent, traditional British food. (No, they're not just fish and chip shops..) Alongside Great Queen Street, which we mentioned to you last week, another Londonist favourite is Hereford Road, which we love for its fantastic, reasonably priced food and relaxed environment. As part of our chefspective series we were recently lucky enough to chat to Tom Pemberton, the thoughtful and talented part owner and head chef of this restaurant.
What inspired you to set up your current restaurant, Hereford Road?
Interesting question. Funnily enough, it was nothing in particular. I was approached with a proposal from my business partner, who was the real driving force behind choosing the site, so by chance I was given the opportunity to develop some ideas that I'd had in my mind for a while. We wanted to do good British food at accessible prices, and to move people away from the idea that their neighbourhood restaurant has to be Italian or French. We also aimed to concentrate on freshness, seasonality and simplicity.
What can people expect from their dining experience there?
They will eat things that they may not have tried before; for example at the moment we have sea trout, samphire and several varieties of aged pork on the menu. We always use a lot of offal, as well as other old fashioned ingredients.
Is it hard to get people interested in offal?
It's a lot less hard than it was 10 years ago, but you tend to find out whether you like it or not at quite a young age.
Do you think that there is a future for other restaurants in this genre?
There is a strong future for them. People are getting used to the idea of ‘British’ food again, and re-discovering that it can be good. I hope that travellers will start coming to London in search of English food. Several British restaurants opened just before or after we opened Hereford Road, and there does seem to be a certain trend in this direction.
What made you want to become a chef? Where else have you worked?
An interest in food and enjoyment of cooking, really. Before here I’ve worked at the Chelsea Arts Club, the Anglesea Arms, St John and St John Bread and Wine, amongst others.
What is your earliest food memory?
I’ve always really loved food and I remember people telling me I was a good eater - I always tried everything. I remember really liking liver and kidneys and my siblings not liking them. I have really vivid memories of trying mushrooms and kidneys for the first time.
What is your favourite season for food?
Autumn. It's very common for a chef to say that but it is amazing, you have lots of game and late summer berries, as well as wild mushrooms. Spring and Summer have their merits too but January and February can be a bit bleak.
Any special moments in your career as a chef?
Every time that we do a good service, it's special, although the opening night of Hereford Road was undoubtedly a highlight. When I first started cooking, every move up to the next level of understanding or progression was special.
Got any kitchen secrets or shortcuts that you'd like to share with our readers?
Use a sharp knife, and make sure that the pan is really hot when you cook in it. The two biggest mistakes that people make are putting stuff into a cold pan and wondering why it sticks, and chopping things with a blunt knife. Also, make and freeze your own stock, because so many recipes call for it.