Callum Graham stepped up to the plate at this Jersey restaurant barely two months before lockdown kicked in. He tells Katherine Price how he's making the menu his own as things return to normal
While many restaurants are less than two weeks or even days into their reopening, Bohemia in Jersey was Britain's first Michelin-starred restaurant to reopen nearly a month ago. Callum Graham had only been head chef for barely two months when it closed, having stepped up following the departure of Steve Smith. "It was an interesting start to my tenure," he says.
Graham worked under Smith for four years, working his way up from senior chef de partie to sous chef. His previous roles include demi chef de partie at the Lanesborough hotel in London, working under Paul Gayler; chef de partie roles at the Grand Hotel Kempinski and Auberge du Lion d'Or in Geneva; and junior sous at the Michelin-starred Le Céladon restaurant at Paris' Hôtel Westminster.
Although he says he is constantly developing his style of cooking, working in Europe has greatly influenced him. His relaunch menus at Bohemia are seasonal and light, making use of the produce of Jersey and France. He says feedback so far has been "incredible… Everyone's just happy to have a bit of normality".
His current menus include sea bass from St Helier-based Fin and Feather on the à la carte with roasted red pepper and harissa purée, a courgette and coriander purée, braised octopus, courgette flower stuffed with ratatouille and courgette couscous. The sea bass itself is simply pan-fried and served with a cherry tomato sauce. "Visually I've gone quite simple because the flavours all just work, and I think it's a really well-balanced dish," says Graham.
Fin and Feather also provides him with turbot for his tasting menu, which he serves poached with a generous grating of black truffle, a summer fricassee of broad beans, peas and girolles, and dots of confit lemon purée and garlic purée. He describes the sauce – an infused vegetable and fish stock, split with butter and lemon-thyme oil – as not quite an emulsion and not quite a beurre blanc.
The dish he is most proud of is a white chocolate, pistachio and raspberry dessert: "It makes me smile when I see it because it's so good." A pistachio feuilletine base is topped with a white chocolate mousse, filled with a raspberry insert and liquid pistachio centre and covered in a white chocolate and vanilla glaze. It is served with a rocher of raspberry sorbet, a pistachio tuille and a crumb of candied, roasted, salted pistachios.
The restaurant initially launched on 20 June with just a lunch and tasting menu and fewer services, "giving ourselves time to make sure everything was right", Graham says. The restaurant is still operating at reduced covers and with a smaller team (down from 50 to 34 covers and 12 members of staff to eight), but it is ‘fully booked' at weekends and has reintroduced its six- and seven-course tasting menus and à la carte.
Graham says weekdays are "quite up and down" but he is hopeful things will pick up now the borders have reopened and that Jersey will prove to be a popular staycation for Brits for the rest of the summer. It is hoped the remaining team will be brought back off furlough as the restaurant gets busier.
In the meantime, Graham and his team will be continuing the Bohemia At Home service on weekends and even hope to get it to England.
He is also keen to bring back his duck menu for two: a Challans duck served across three courses – starting with a foie gras cream, duck fat brioche and madeira jelly, followed by braised duck legs served with a smoked duck consommé and kohlrabi textures (poached, salt-baked, pickled and kohlrabi tops).
The climax is a duck crown presented in the restaurant, his take on duck à l'orange with an additional fennel twist. "It's a bit of theatre, a bit of fun. It's a nice thing for the atmosphere of the restaurant that gets people talking," he says.
As restaurants across the UK reopen, Graham is looking forward to what could be "a really exciting and interesting time for British restaurants… through no fault of their own, they [chefs] have all been given three months off – can you imagine the dishes they've been able to think of?"
He adds: "It's not been ideal for anyone… but what can you take from it? It's given chefs a nice breathing space for once to just sit down, reassess everything and put a really good plan together. I'm excited to see what everyone's going to come back and do."
From the menu
- Crispy suckling pork belly and shoulder, turnip salad and consommé
- Heritage tomato terrine with local crab salad, wholegrain mustard ice-cream
- Slow-cooked hen's egg with vegetable fricassee and ‘Wiltshire' black truffle
- Roast saddle of lamb, braised lamb shoulder, artichoke and Chardonnay purée, barigoule artichokes, black trompette, cavolo nero
- Roasted cauliflower steak, broccoli, carrot and cumin flavours
- Macadamia Paris Brest, cherry and tarragon textures
- Chocolate, peanut, yuzu and yogurt sorbet
£75 per person
Bohemia, Green Street, St Helier, Jersey JE2 4UH www.bohemiajersey.com
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