Chef Wesley Smalley cooked his way across the globe before settling in as head chef at Charlotte's Bistro in Chiswick. On recent foodie recon in one of West London's tastier areas, our palette was impressed enough with Wesley's creations to enquire for more info. Here's our subsequent interview with the chef along with his recipe for sticky toffee pudding.
How did you get your start as a professional cook and what brought you to Charlotte's Bistro? How long have you been head chef there?
I got my first job washing up in a local Brasserie when I was 15, and as soon as I stepped foot in the kitchen I knew I wanted to be a chef. I started peeling veg and chopping herbs when there became an opportunity for a commis chef position. So they took me on as an apprentice. I came to Charlotte's Bistro off the back of working for Jean Christophe Novelli for eight years as his executive chef. I was looking for a small neighbourhood restaurant that would give me the opportunity to make my own with the food and really show my style and skill, and Alex Wrethman the owner of Charlotte's really has allowed me to do that.
What inspired to pursue a kitchen career in the first place?
I travelled a lot as a child as my father was in the military. So being exposed to many different cuisines really was the catalyst. Also my Grandmother bakes and cooks a lot. So I would always be in the kitchen with her as a small boy.
You've worked in restaurants abroad. Any particular destinations and cuisines you're most keen about? How do the other places you've worked compare to the London dining scene? How does your experience working abroad now influence how you cook?
Well, Asia as a whole has always inspired me especially Thai cuisine - the basis of Thai cookery is sweet, sour, salt and bitter which we use in the kitchen to balance the right flavour combinations.
Can you sum up what sets Charlotte's Bistro apart from the competition? Do you think it's worth the trip out to Chiswick for folks accustomed to staying in Zone 1 for West End dining?
Charlotte’s Bistro epitomises the description that the Michelin guide gives to restaurants with bib gourmands, great cooking at moderate prices. I like to think that we cook crowd pleasing food that is affordable and accessible to our local clientele or people who want to make a special visit.
What are some of your favourite restaurants and food shops in London?
My favourite restaurants in London are Jose for great authentic tapas, Pollen Street Social and the Wolseley. My favourite food shops in London is Andreas Veg who is just a few doors down from us on Turnham Green Terrace.
Care to share a simple cooking tip or recipe with our readers?
Here's a recipe for sticky toffee pudding.
Sticky toffee pudding
Ingredients for sticky toffee pudding:
- 4oz chopped dates
- 7oz hot water
- 1 tsp bicarb soda
- 3oz butter
- 5oz caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 6oz self raising flour
Ingredients for toffee sauce:
- 3oz butter
- 6oz brown sugar
- 4 floz double cream
1. Preheat the oven to 155c.
2. Mix the dates, bicarb and water together and leave to soak.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together, slowly add 1 egg at a time, and then slowly add the date mixture.
4. Incorporate the flour. Keep mixing for a few minutes to get air into the mixture which will create a lighter pudding.
5. Pour into a greased baking tray and cook for 35-40 mins
6. For the toffee sauce: Melt the butter in a thick pan, add the brown sugar and stir and mix.
7. Add the double cream and bring to the boil. Serve over the pudding.
Charlotte's Bistro is located at 6 Turnham Green Terrace , W4 1QP.