Each month we ask a different chef to reveal their favourite UK restaurants – and where is next on their list to visit – in our series, Chef Secrets.
Scottish chef Bruce Rennie moved to Cornwall 12 years ago to open his own fish restaurant, The Shore, in Penzance.
A sustainability pioneer, Bruce has always had strong ethics when it comes to food. He’s on first name terms with the local fisherman in his area and serves up a menu centred around the freshest seafood caught that day.
Prior to that he worked at restaurants run by Gary Rhodes, Martin Wishart and Rick Stein.
Here he tells The Boutique Handbook which restaurants he visits on the epic ‘eating trips’ he takes once a year – and what real sustainability is in the UK food industry today.
Restaurant Martin Wishart, Edinburgh
I spent five and a half years working at Restaurant Martin Wishart, but I’ve come back to eat many times since and never had a bad meal.
I would always recommend it to people. It feels like home to me.
Martin Wishart is a brilliant chef and his palate is absolutely amazing. His food really pushes the boundaries.
The minutiae of detail and balance to his food – which is everything – is spot on. That’s what I learned from Martin.
The Old Stamp House, Ambleside
I have to mention my pal and former colleague Ryan Blackburn, who is chef-owner at The Old Stamp House up in the Lake District. He’s such a nice guy and a brilliant chef, and I was made up when he got his Michelin star.
You can see the origins of where he’s come from in his food. Everything is from his local area, which is how it should be done.
There are too many people these days in our industry mis-using words like local, organic and sustainable. It’s become more of a marketing term than a reality.
Organic is not so much about us, it’s about the planet, and not spraying pesticides which kill off our pollinators and the environment. It really upsets me.
In my own restaurant I only use the freshest fish – the fisherman near me know I won’t take anything less. Seasonal for me is what is really local. I don’t lie to my customers.
Restaurant Sat Bains, Nottingham
Every January I shut up my restaurant, as it’s not worth opening just for locals, and go on one of my annual ‘eating trips’. They last two to three days and I eat as much good food as I can in that time.
My visit to chef Sat Bains’ restaurant in Nottingham was one of these trips and I stayed overnight in one of their rooms, which was really nice. You get breakfast as well.
Sat Bains serve one tasting menu, but the food is so thoughtfully provocative.
I had the wine pairing, so it was all about tasting the food, trying the wine and re-tasting the food. One of the dishes was a venison tartare and it was just perfect.
The chocolate sea salt dessert was also awesome. My go-to of any dish is ‘could I eat a whole bowlful of this?’ If the answer is yes, you’ve done a good job. It was such a darn good meal.
New Yard, Helston, Cornwall
New Yard on the Lizard Peninsula, which is only about 40 minutes from me, got a Green Michelin Star recently and is run by chef Jeffrey Robinson.
He’s a bit of an icon to me. I really admire his ethics. We share a lot of the same beliefs when it comes to food.
I’ve been down the ethical route for decades, people just didn’t make a song and dance about it then, so we have that shared interest.
The restaurant is so focused on using the food that is around them. They have a ‘no dig’ approach in their gardens to protect the soil – and the location is phenomenal.
It’s part of a 600-year-old walled garden estate which isn’t what you expect in Cornwall. It’s red brick and looks much more Home Counties.
They have two dining areas; the Pantry, which is more casual dining with an outdoor courtyard and serves fresh pizzas and bagels, and the New Yard restaurant, which has a set supper menu. Definitely visit.
Whatley Manor, Cotswolds
It was dark when I arrived at the two Michelin star Whatley Manor, but the drive up to the entrance was phenomenal. It had fires going either side leading up to this magnificent building.
I actually ate the first course in the kitchen as I got invited back to meet the chefs, which was cool we got to connect on that level.
Back in the dining room for the other courses, I was really impressed with the turbot which was served with caviar and a butter sauce.
Working in a fish restaurant myself, one of the things I’m always less wowed with at Michelin star restaurants is how they cook the fish, but this was really well done.
Next on Bruce’s list: Chez Bruce and Trinity, both in London.
Bruce Rennie regularly shares recipes, video tutorials and more through his Bonus Bites channel which you can sign up to here.
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