How do you go about putting your menu together?The menu is seasonally changing, so we use produce when it’s at its best, and are conscious of the menu being well balanced/ hot / cold /substantial / light /rich / fresh.
Where do you source your produce and how?Lauren (Lauren Murdoch, Head Chef, Felix) and I try to source as much local produce as possible from regular contact with our suppliers. I also chat regularly with other chefs in the Merivale group to get their feedback and keep an eye on what products are being used on TV, magazines and social media - all good tools for the modern chef!
What are the key food trends you’re most excited about this year?I don’t follow food trends. As with anything in fashion, one minute it’s in the next it’s out - who decides? I like food and restaurants that have a bit more substance and integrity.
If you had just three ingredients to cook with, what would they be?Foie gras – a food luxury that I miss working with.
Fresh vanilla – a simple classic flavor that just improves everything.
New season lamb – roast lamb is about my favourite thing to eat.
Where did you learn your culinary skills?Over 18 years cooking in London in everything from big hotels and brasseries to small busy Michelin-star fine dining. I also worked at Sydney restaurant Banc back in 1998 and I spent 18 months in Dubai
From where/whom do you gain inspiration?
My inspiration comes from changes in the season and from the team I work with who are always looking to learn and try new things or cook something they haven’t done before.
What’s your idea of an incredible meal?Good food, good service, good company.
What’s your favorite dish to cook and why?Roast lamb rump with dauphinois potatoes & rosemary jus, perfectly balanced flavors that taste great together
What’s secretly your favourite dish on the menu and why?
Grilled pork neck with crackling, wilted spinach honey and mustard. An example of classic flavours with modern technique. We cook the pork neck at a low temp in a water bath for 5 hrs and this gives it the most amazing texture. It’s then finished over the wood grill and served with a few simple garnishes.
Are you into food + wine pairing? Do you think it makes a difference?Yes, a good wine knowledge from our waiters and sommeliers will only improve the dining experience for our guests. I always rely on them to help with wine choice when I go out to eat
Who would you most love to cook for?The Roux brothers - they kick started the rapid improvement of the restaurant and dining scene in the UK. Most of the kitchens I’ve worked in have been influenced by them.
Can you share three top tips for home cooks?1. Prep early, you don’t need to leave everything to the last minute
2. Taste and season everything, a basic skill that is easily forgotten
3. Find a good local fishmonger, butcher, fruit and veg shop and bakery. Start with good produce and half the job is done.
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Nathan Johnson's RECIPE: Rhubarb Eton Mess
EVENT: March Into Merivale 2012
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