The man behind Michelin-starred Arbutus and Wild Honey, Anthony Demetre is a well known face on the London restaurant scene. In 2010 Anthony also opened Les Deux Salons in Covent Garden, and most recently Urban Coterie. We spoke to him about his restaurants, his cooking, and what he gets up to when he’s not in the kitchen.
1) You’ve won several Michelin stars and opened several restaurants – what is your proudest moment?
The opening of Arbutus (in 2006) was a pivotal time in my career, with the mantra and ethos that good food doesn’t have to cost the earth and be served in a formal environment. The awards garnered at that time were very humbling.
2) Urban Coterie is your latest restaurant opening – what inspired the name?
Coterie means a gathering of people with shared interests or tastes, and that is exactly what Urban Coterie aims to do – bring together the like-minded people from the surrounding area of the city for great food in a relaxed setting.
3) What can diners expect from a visit to Urban Coterie?
A menu that focuses on seasonality and provenance of ingredients, sourcing out the best local artisan producers, whilst looking out at beautiful views of the city from the 17th floor.
4) Which aspects of the menu would you say have the “Anthony Demetre” touch?
An emphasis on seasonality and provenance is something that is very important to my style of cooking and is highlighted throughout the Urban Coterie Menu. Not shying away from unusual ingredients is also an important aspect to my cooking, such as the dish of grilled ox tongue, green vegetable vinaigrette & oyster mayonnaise
5) What inspired you to become a chef? Have you always been into food and cooking?
Becoming a chef was a bit of an accidental vocation and not something I intended to originally do, having initially trained in the Navy. However, it was growing up around great produce and my Greek grandparents cooking that was key to my interest in food. Whenever I visited them I was energised by the use of local, fresh produce and it is what inspired me to later become a chef.
6) How would you describe your style of cooking?
I don’t think I have a particular style, though as discussed I focus hugely on seasonal produce. I like to create menus and dishes based around simple ingredients and what works together naturally. Sourcing the best produce and letting that speak for itself gives the best result.
7) Who has been the most influential chef on your own cooking?
Rather than chefs, I think great food writers have had the most influence upon my cooking. Writers such as Richard Olney, Simon Hopkinson & Elizabeth David, who have a great understanding of food.
8) Which restaurants do you enjoy dining in? Any favourite restaurants in London?
I don’t frequent that many restaurants as I’m always in the kitchen myself, but when I do get the chance I love to visit places such as Lyles, Dock Kitchen in Kensal Rise and St John Bread and Wine. Mainly restaurants that offer simple food that hasn’t been too tampered with.
9) Most memorable meal of your life?
I couldn’t put my finger on one specific meal, food does play a pivotal part but more importantly it’s all about the occasion, setting and the people you are with. For instance, a simple meal in the hills of Tuscany is much more memorable than a pilgrimage to a culinary mecca with a long tasting menu.
10) What trends do you see becoming the next big thing in London restaurants?
I think we are entering an era of simplicity and food provenance playing a major role in kitchens. Additionally, I think we will begin to see an end to multiple-course tasting menus.
11) What do you do to unwind when you are out of the kitchen?
I’m a keen cyclist and like to cycle around Richmond Park with my 2 young sons on a weekend, that is when I’m not supporting them at one of their many tennis tournaments! Dining al fresco is also one of my favourite ways to relax, firing up the barbecue and eating outside with family.
12) What advice would you give to aspiring chefs/restaurateurs?
Keep it real. Keep it simple. Price it well and always offer value for money.
13) If you could cook for anyone, who would it be?
Jacques Chirac made a comment some years ago that food in Britain is awful. I’d like to cook for him to prove him wrong. I think in many ways British cuisine surpasses that of France.