Interviews

Marianne Lumb

Photo by Jean Cazals

We talk to the chef-owner of Restaurant Marianne in Notting Hill about trying to enjoy goats’ cheese and her love of sliced white bread with crisps

Describe a life-changing moment
When I was private chef to Lord and Lady Bamford, I would ride their horses. One day I jumped a high hedge, went flying and broke my collarbone. I couldn’t cook. I had battled with cooking up until then – it’s so unsociable and the hours are brutal – but, with my injury, I was forced to consider the future. I realised how much cooking meant to me. As soon as it had mended, I said to myself, “Right, I am opening a restaurant.”

What childhood food do you still crave?
My grandparents ran a pub and Grandma would make grated cheddar sandwiches using sliced white bread, which we were never allowed at home. She cut off the crusts and served it with crisps – usually salt and vinegar, but prawn cocktail were the best. Wonderful! Then there was my mum’s dish of steamed courgette filled with cheese soufflé. It was adapted from an Elizabeth David recipe, and absolutely delicious.

Describe your kitchen at home
I have downsized for 12 months and spend my life in the restaurant or eat out. So I confess that my kitchen is currently where I park my bicycle. I use the oven to store some things, and there’s a printer on the hob. But I’ll move soon and will have a lovely kitchen.

What do you listen to when cooking?
I like music in the restaurant kitchen and am a bit of a rocker on the quiet. So it’s Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe and Kasabian. We all need a pump up before Saturday night service, and that comes courtesy of AC/DC.

Where do you like to eat out?
In London, I love Hereford Road and Phil Howard’s Elystan Street. In Paris, I adore L’Arpège.

What drives you on?
The legacy of my father. He was a butcher and his shop was close to home. He died when I was just 17; a sudden heart attack. He was an amazing inspiration. So often I wish I could ask him how he cooked this or that, such as his amazing hams.

What food don’t you like?
Goats’ cheese. It just feels wrong, and smells like it’s going off. But I am trying my hardest to like it.

Share one cooking tip
If gravy or stock is fatty, throw in a load of ice cubes and leave them for 20 seconds. The fat will coagulate around the ice, which can then be removed.

What’s your favourite junk food?
Good old fish and chips with mushy peas. Preferably haddock.

Favourite kitchen gadgets?
I couldn’t live without my Thermomix, Pacojet and Vacupack machines. But I also treasure a very cool Japanese knife and a pair of basic kitchen tongs that have been with me since I started cooking. None of the other chefs like them but to me, they are extremely special.

What irritates you about restaurants?
When you book and they say they need your table back by a certain time. I get it, but that doesn’t stop it being really annoying; it’s like a slap in the face.

What is your favourite cake?
If ever I go to a WI event, I head straight for the cake stall to buy a slice (or two) of coffee and walnut cake.

Describe your perfect feast
It is set in the Alps, beside a cosy log fire. I’d start with Beluga caviar and a glass of delicious champagne, followed by steak, béarnaise sauce and chips, with lots of Swiss gamay wine. I’d finish the feast with chocolate soufflé. Perfect and perfectly simple!

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