We caught up with him to find out more about his inspiration, his cuisine and what we can expect from his latest menu. Meeting in the elegant, high ceilinged Northall restaurant, we reflect on the grandeur of the architecture contrasted with the friendly informality of this all-day dining hotspot. Meeting André with his infectious warmth and energy together with a big vision and a serious passion for produce, it’s immediately obvious that this is a match made in heaven.
We started by asking André Garrett about his earliest inspiration. It was his grandmother, a huge influence on the him; she was once Maitre d’ at the historic Pump Rooms in Bath. He remembers visiting her at work, sneaking in through the kitchen entrance and witnessing the buzz of many chefs all at work. It was clearly an experience that left a lasting impression. With a formidable foodie in the family and inspiring childhood experiences, Garrett was destined for a career as a chef.
His passion led him to start work at 15 while studying in Bath and by 19 he had moved to London to work for Nico Ladenis. He went on to work with Bruno Loubet and Chris Galvin and as a young chef won the Roux Scholarship and moved to Paris. Later he became head chef at Galvin at Windows, where he won a coveted Michelin Star of his own. The rest as they say is history; Garrett has built on these inspiring experiences and relationships to build his own unique approach, he explains this as ‘freedom'. He doesn’t hold back, blending a style that is French and European led with a serious passion for British ingredients. The result is delicious and somehow perfect for the grand contrast of the Northall.
It’s clear he has relished creating the menu for this special restaurant and the room itself has provided plenty of inspiration. The huge windows and the spacious interiors mean that every season is visible, sun shining through in summer and golden leaves falling from the trees in autumn. A rare treat in London, this dining room makes the seasons visible inside and out and Garrett has seen this as a glorious opportunity for the menu to follow suit. He explains that he sources many ingredients from the UK, benefiting from the seasonal bounty and the sophistication of British farming: “I use such beautiful ingredients”, he says, “British asparagus, sea vegetables, jersey royal potatoes, fresh peas and broad beans, courgette flowers and Isle of Wight tomatoes”.
Garrett is a bit of an alchemist: he can combine simple ingredients to create the most exciting and satisfying flavour, taste and texture combinations. This creative sourcing often results in dishes which look as good as they taste. Perhaps surprisingly then many of the dishes we discuss are fresh, light and super healthy, very much in the mode of modern dining. But what about indulgence? So much of a hotel experience is escaping everyday life and indulging, what does this mean for this chef? Butter, he says is the secret to indulgence, that and native lobster throughout summer and caviar from Exmoor. Garrett explains that the caviar he uses from Exmoor is sourced from the first British caviar producer, and that adding Welsh salt and Cornish salt during the preparation of caviar creates totally different flavours. Garrett’s favourite fish coming into season is the wonderful turbot, line caught in Cornwall, along with clams, mussels and oysters from Porthilly. He takes sustainability and carbon footprint very seriously, so he turns first to British shores when choosing ingredients to work with.
With so much time spent thinking, talking about and making wonderful food at work, we ask him if and what he cooks at home. His home cooking is a little more humble and he doesn’t like being tied to the stove, however what he next describes, only a top chef could pull off. He cooks wonderful roast lamb with boulangere potatoes, he places the lamb on top of the tray so that the potatoes self-baste. Suddenly his eyes brighten and he interjects, “my all-time favourite is roast chicken with all the trimmings, it reminds me of childhood roasts”.
Sadly the interview is over too soon, this inspiring chef could talk food all day. Last question. What’s your favourite spot in the hotel itself? He glances behind him and decides: “that seat next to the piano. I don’t get to sit there much as a chef, but I find it quite peaceful. I also like perching at the bar at Kerridge’s, it’s so vast and always buzzing.”
Before he heads back to the kitchen he agrees to share some of his favourite summer recipes with us. He’s promised to keep it simple enough for us mere mortals to pull off. Both are delicious, beautiful, fresh, seasonal and surprising, so we think his grandmother would be very proud.