One year on from his appointment as head chef at Outlaw's at the Capital in London's Knightsbridge, Tom Brown has made his mark. Katie Pathiaki went to visit
Tom Brown is an honest chef. He believes in using fresh, sustainable ingredients, simple plating and speaking his mind: "I really hate this rigidity that people have with food; that there has to be a protein and a potato. I purposely try to avoid using potato. Why can't people just do without it?" he asks.
At the Michelin-starred Outlaw's at the Capital, masterminded by Nathan Outlaw and 2017 Great British Menu competitor Brown, they rely on the catch of the day to shape the menus. Today's catch is lemon sole, which is served with oyster, smoked leeks and tarragon.
"It's nice to work a bit more freestyle and change the dishes as and when ingredients come in," explains Brown.
Although the chef, 29, has creative freedom when it comes to the menu, he always consults Outlaw before making changes. "I have so much respect for Nathan as a person and as a chef. He's so humble that if I have something I want to make, he will say ‘let's try it and work on it together'. I think as an employee it's disrespectful to come in and start changing things or ruining a chef's] repertoire," he says.
"We look back through dishes we have done before and recipes we know will work, and think of ways to improve them. I constantly say to myself ‘stop, strip it back, think about what is best and relax'."
What's really striking about the cuisine at the Capital is that the dishes look so simple, but in reality are complex in technique and pack a whole load of flavour and depth.
wn's favourites include red wine braised octopus with seaweed dressing and beans. The octopus is braised overnight in red wine, and the stock is then used to make a reduction with butter, tomatoes and rosemary. It is then warmed with cannellini beans and served with a seaweed gremolata made from chopped garlic, lime zest and juice, seaweed and oil.
"I love this dish because it's such a nice embodiment of Nathan's style," says Brown.
"Every time we do it we strip it back more so it has fewer garnishes. I think it's at its best now."
The most popular choice with diners is the cod with devilled butter, brown shrimps and celeriac. "It's important to have something that reads nicely on the menu," says Brown. "Of course it's interesting to see that things have been fermented or extracted, but they aren't very appetising words. When you hear things like cod, shrimps and butter, your mouth starts going straight away."A
Although there are a couple of non-fish dishes on the menu, such as quail and duck, it's probably unsurprising to learn that only 10%- 20% of customers opt for them over fish.
"People always say ‘we fancied the meat but we wouldn't order it at a Nathan Outlaw restaurant'," laughs Brown."This dish looks really pretty with the rhubarb discs fanned round the outside. It's a variation of Chris's \[Simpson, head chef at the two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Nathan Outlaw in Port Isaac, Cornwall\] ice-cream sarnie and changes with the seasons. We've done a pear one and will change it to strawberry when it's in season," he says. Brown joined the Capital in 2016, after four years working with Outlaw at St Enodoc in Rock, Cornwall. The kitchen at the Capital has seen the likes of Jeff Galvin, Tom Kerridge, Brian Turner and Richard Shepherd (the first Englishman to achieve a Michelin star in London) so was it daunting? "There are big shoes to fill, but you forget about that when you're working; you just focus on what is in the kitchen," says Brown. The 32-cover restaurant sees 50 covers on a busy night, and turns over around 300 a week. Brown thanks his presence on social media for that. "It's so hard for a restaurant like this that has been going for decades - you have to keep reminding people that you are here. My photos are honest and people like that," he says. This is only the beginning for the young chef, who has a busy second year scheduled at the restaurant. "I am in no rush to change anything; it's only been a year! Who knows?" he says. For now, he has a box of lemon sole to attend to. From the menu Two courses, £49 Three courses, £62 Starters Cured monkfish with smoked almonds, preserved herring and basil Crab risotto with orange and tarragon Mains Grey mullet with Porthilly sauce and cabbage Duck with chicory, pistachio and pink grapefruit Desserts St Clement's pavlova with almonds and yoghurt sorbet Chocolate fondant tart with cream cheese ice-cream, espresso and lime Outlaw's at the Capital 22-24 Basil Street, London SW3 1AT [www.capitalhotel.co.uk/dining Save Save Save