Chapman on Life After Heston
In January 2007, you moved from the Hinds Head in Bray
where you were head chef to the Royal Oak. How did that
My partner had been working at the Royal Oak for
two years and knew that Nick Parkinson the owner had
been looking for the right chef for a while. I met him
and restaurant manager Mo and we got on well. It's as
close to owning my own restaurant as I can get without
having to take on the risk myself.
What was it like working for Heston Blumenthal?
I loved it, he's a brilliant chef. Heston is unique;
what he does is technically brilliant, the flavours
are brilliant, no one can touch him. The Fat Duck was
a very important part of my cooking experience, it made
me realise that even a small amount of attention to
detail can make all the difference.
when you're working under a big name chef like Heston,
you come to a point when you've done everything you
can and you want to expand your own ability so I felt
my time at the Hinds Head had come to an end.
How would you describe your style of cooking at the
I'm about fresh seasonal ingredients cooked simply
- wild sea bass as big as I can get; big scallops from
Scotland and longhorn beef direct from the farm.
love discovering new things. One of my fish suppliers
introduced me to sand eels a couple of weeks ago which
are like whitebait but longer. I deep fry them in special
"frying flour" from Spain which has a larger
grain than usual and makes them really crunchy.
So the food's British?
I'm very interested in British ingredients but I
don't want to be restricted by them. I've got buffalo
mozzarella on the menu but it's not the stuff made in
this country! There's Italian, French and Spanish influences
but I'd never put curry on the menu.
Is the Royal Oak a gastropub?
I've got a real problem with that term; it sends
a shiver down my spine. It's been exploited, bastardised
and devalued. I used to work at The Cow in London -
that was a gastropub but now every Wetherspoon's is
a meant to be a gastropub.
Royal Oak is a restaurant really. We get regulars at
the bar on a Friday night and Sunday lunchtime, but
it's mostly diners.
Are you limited in what you can do in the context of
Well, we do a bar snack menu of sandwiches, burgers
and omelettes and if we didn't we wouldn't be as busy
for lunch. So that's where you meet your limitations;
you have to give people what they want.
important to know your identity and I think we've got
it right. People come for dinner but you can come in
for a pint and a scotch egg at the bar if you want it.
What's it like having Michael Parkinson as a boss?
He's a lovely bloke. He comes in for lunch everyday
and chats to everyone. He loves fish but he'll order
the hare and trotter pie or a special if there's one
on. He used to go to Scott's of the Ivy after his show
but now he comes here because he thinks the food is
Chapman is the head chef of the Royal Oak
Paley Street, Littlefield Green, Berkshire
620541 - www.theroyaloakpaleystreet.com