Interviews

Robin Gill, The Dairy & The Manor

We talk to the owner of London restaurants The Dairy and The Manor

What inspired you to become a chef?
Summers spent on my aunt’s farm in Cork, where they cured ham and grew organic vegetables. It was an early introduction into food culture. I then followed two best mates into the cooking world with huge aspirations of travel and learning different cooking cultures.

What would you be doing if you weren't a chef?
I'm from a musical background, so music would have been a tough but equally satisfying career.

At the end of a long day, what do you like to cook?
I'm a huge fan of Italian dishes, having spent two years cooking on the Amalfi coast, so a linguini zucchini with plenty of Parmesan is a quick, comforting dish that takes me back to Nerano.

What's your favourite junk food?
Chicken wings and the cheese and chilli fries from Meat Liquor.

What food could you not live without?
A good sourdough and cultured butter. The breaking of bread is such a wonderful ritual – the feeling and comfort of a warm crusty loaf is hard to beat.

What is the vital ingredient for a successful kitchen?
Teamwork and respect for the people who work so hard. Without a team working together a restaurant would have a very short existence.

What’s your favourite dish on your menu?
Our bread course of house-cured meats and chicken liver mousse with smoked bone marrow butter. It is a plate of traditional artisan skills that can take months to mature and really represents the way our kitchen is moving. The breaking of our warm bread, served in bread sacks made by my mum gives the guests a true family style welcome.

How do you start developing a new recipe? 
It always starts with the core ingredient. Then we work together as a team, playing with no more than two or three ingredients, to enhance the core idea. After that, we brainstorm and prepare the dish over and over again, tweaking and tasting together until we are happy with it. It then goes in as a special, and we look for feedback from our guests before it takes a spot on the menu.

What is the most unusual cooking/preparation technique you use?
We have started to make our own miso from seasonal vegetables like pea shells, wild garlic, and calcot onion trimmings, which is new to us. Working with a fermented product that has a life of its own is truly fascinating.

If you could cook for anyone (past or present), who would it be, and what would you cook for them?
I'm a huge Jack Nicholson fan, so I would cook a whole wild turbot on the bone and serve it with some British coastal vegetables, Jersey Royals and fermented dulse butter.

Who is the most interesting person you have cooked for? 
I cooked for Björk when I joined The Oak Room in 2000. She wore the most stunning red dress. I think she is a genius.

What is the strangest request you have had from a diner?
A very wealthy businessman asked for a bowl of salted onions and a tub of caviar.

Which chef do you most admire at the moment?
My old mentor Raymond Blanc, whose own success has led to the success of thousands since he started his massive journey in the UK.

Do you have a favourite restaurant?
Barrafina, Adelaide Street, London. I've eaten there more than 60 times.

And finally, tell us something about yourself that will surprise your diners
My mum is a famous choreographer who was a driving force in the success of Riverdance. She was responsible for the line in the dance that blew everyone away during the interval at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994.

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