From one aficionado to another, it’s lovely to meet you Neil and welcome! Now let’s talk about Food & Wine, shall we?
How did you get into this industry?
My mum was a cookery teacher. So from the age of about 6 or 7, I’d be cooking with her. Fileting fish, prepping artichokes, making pasta, etc.
Then when I was 14, someone (I can’t remember who) gave me this big thick book called “The Illustrated Guide to Ingredients” for Christmas….. I read it obsessively (all 400 pages) until I pretty much knew it all, off by heart. In fact, I still have it somewhere!
Describe yourself as a dish.
Easy! A sandwich. Happy to fit into any occasion; from Royal garden parties to Spitalfield food trucks.
What is your favourite grape variety?
I’m going to have to go with Chardonnay. It’s enigmatic and it’s a grape that produces so many diverse wine styles. Chardonnay is like a blank canvas that expresses the wine maker’s style and it’s terroir so well.
Reims and Mersault are only a morning’s drive away from each other, but produce polar opposites in terms of wine, from the same Chardonnay grape.
I‘m sure you’ve been doing some Humble Grape research, meaning tasting some of our lovely wines of course! So, which has been your favourite so far?
I drink a lot of Chardonnay. Well, not a lot… I mean, just a normal amount, right?
So to pick something special out of all of the wines (as I haven’t tasted them all yet) I’d plum for the Von Winnig Weisburgund.
It’s a proper revelation! This is a really balanced wine, with lifted freshness bouncing off a rounded, hazelnut, malo-lactic richness.
It’s actually Pinot Blanc, but who knew?
Okay. Describe yourself as a wine.
Something form Haut-Medoc 2001. An unpalatable youth, full of potential, developing subtlety and complexity over the years. Getting better all the time, and is going to live to a ripe old age (hopefully).
2019 is set to be an exciting year for Humble Grape with lots of things to come. What can we expect from the menu?
Well, menu’s really! We’re very keen that each bar keeps its own identity, and each of our head chef’s have the creative freedom to showcase their own cooking style, to surprise and delight our customers.
We’re beginning to turn a bit of a corner this year in terms of our food identity, taking many of the basic philosophies of how we approach our wines.
Much more focus is being placed on provenance, modernity and creating menus that allow our guests to eat what they want, how they want it. There’ll be a transition to a menu consisting of dishes, around which each table can order numerous small plates between them. This gives everybody the chance to create their own bespoke table of food to share.
We are also developing our breakfast and brunch menus across all our places. Think homemade overnight vegan bircher muesli, Eggs Benedict on sourdough English muffins, 16-hour braised Dexter brisket hash and Clarence Court fried eggs, and Panettone French toast with mascarpone and Manuka honey.
All accompanied by speciality coffees, Bloody Marys and Mimosas. An exciting year indeed!
If you could have dinner with any one person, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
Only one? – here’s a list, in case one or two have prior engagements. (given the fact that they are either famous or deceased).
A.A. Gill – What restaurant do you walk in to and sit across from this guy, and not be spellbound by his precise and acidic (sometimes teeth-clenching) eloquence. (With half decent service!) The guy was a legend.
Alan Partridge – (as above).
Mo Gawdat – CBO of Google X / Author of “Solve for Happy”. The most considered (big picture-thinking) person in contemporary culture. I’d actually just like to meet him, have a chat and dinner would be a bonus! I think the Clove Club would be a good place to have a natter and some maybe some Le Montrachet, then a couple of glasses of Umeshu, in my imaginary world!
Elvis Presley – C’mon. It’s Elvis Presley for crying out loud! A cultural game changer!