Wednesday 24 July 2019

An Interview with
Tredwells Founder 
Marcus Wareing
& Chef Patron
Chantelle Nicholson

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Winner of AA's London Restaurant of the Year, Tredwells creates contemporary British cooking in the heart of the West End. Here, founder Marcus Wareing and Chef Patron Chantelle Nicholson reflect on their latest launch. 

Why is Seven Dials an ideal location for Tredwells?

CN: For me, Seven Dials is a perfect representation of London: its location couldn’t be better, as it sits on the cusp of the bright lights & talent of the West End and is central to so much going on. All of the shops, restaurants, cafés and bars here have been carefully selected to create a bespoke and interesting offer.

Where and when was your lightbulb moment for Tredwells, and is it true to your original vision?

MW: In 2013, 2 years after The Gilbert Scott had opened in King’s Cross, Chantelle and I started speaking about a 3rd restaurant (the flagship, Marcus, opened in 2008 at The Berkeley hotel and is where Marcus holds his two stars). In the two current restaurants, we had a number of hugely talented employees that Chantelle strongly felt needed to be part of something new. With both current restaurants in hotels, we were keen to have a separate operation to enhance the value of the group.
CN: I happened to have a quick pre-theatre meal (before the ENO at the Coliseum) at Dishoom, on Upper St Martin’s Lane, and looked across the road to see a David Coffer Lyons leasehold sign in the front window of what is now Tredwells. I put a business plan together, approached the landlords and won the site. The restaurant opened just over a year later.
MW: Down went the white tablecloths, in came the reservations system, a Head Sommelier was recruited and we upped the ante with the food, which is when Chantelle returned to the kitchens. It wasn’t long after we won AA Restaurant of the Year - London 2015 / 2016.

What was the real appeal of opening there?

MW: Location.
CN: And buzz. The atmosphere around Seven Dials is infectious, especially around Christmas time.

How is Tredwells different to your other restaurants?

CN: All 3 of our restaurants have a different personality. I liken Tredwells to that of the younger sibling. The one who wants to try new things but still has a firm attachment to the family, and home. Tredwells is the most relaxed of them all but still has an attention to detail that sets it apart.
MW: It’s a more pared-back restaurant, due to its design, and also its location, therefore it attracts people looking for something interesting, not too formal and offering fantastic food, drinks and hospitality.

What’s special about the bar?

CN: As chefs, it was important to both of us that the cocktail list in the bar was an inherent reflection of the restaurant, focused on ingredients and flavour, just as the food coming out of the kitchens is. Our Rhubarb & Ginger Margarita is a great example of this, and our best-seller: Ocho tequila, rhubarb, ginger, lime, pink grapefruit

What are the real Tredwells signature dishes?

CN: What I’m most proud of at Tredwells is the breadth of choice we offer; fish, meat and plant-based dishes are given equal attention on the menu, and I think this is key in the world we live in today. I am a huge advocate of plant-based cooking, and have my first solo cookbook out in April, ‘Planted’, dedicated to this style of cookery. I am fascinated by the opportunities it presents and also the depth of flavours available. Consequently, you will see some key plant-based dishes at Tredwells such as roasted Jerusalem artichoke soup with pickled walnut and a walnut crumb and Kabocha squash with pumpkin seed & pumpernickel, roast garlic aioli and minestra nera; however, I recognise that not everyone around the table will be up for this so my confit duck raviolo with sesame, peanuts, green chilli & pickled cucumber or roasted halibut with purple kale, bouillabaisse & baked lemon rouille are also firm favourites, as are the Sunday roasts.

How do you always make your restaurants places people simply have to come back to again and again?

MW: I’m lucky… I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve been doing this for quite a while now, or because of MasterChef, but I’ve got some amazing advocates out there, and they will loyally move between my restaurants depending on the occasion. For example, I’ve got a couple that always visit Marcus on the wife’s birthday, because they met at a dinner in the private dining room there. When they’re in town watching a show in the West End, they’ll then always pop by Tredwells, and they now live up in King’s Cross so are regulars to the restaurant and bar at The Gilbert Scott. For me that’s amazing, and I’m happy to say doesn’t go unrecognised!

What are your favourite places to eat in the Seven Dials area and why?

CN: Chick ‘n’ Sours does exactly what it says on the tin and serves up some super tasty treats. I am also a big fan of Native, and also admire what Zoë and Layo Paskin have done with The Barbary and Jacob The Angel. All have their own personalities with great offerings.

Where and when did you meet you each other and how has your working relationship developed?

CN: Back home in New Zealand in 2004, I entered the Gordon Ramsay Scholarship competition, earning a place in the final. There I met Josh Emett, judge and then Head Chef of The Savoy Grill by Marcus Wareing. Josh offered me a job, off the back of my success in the competition, which I took up without hesitation, moving from Wellington to London then and there.
MW: At The Savoy Grill Chantelle worked her way up through the kitchen, and I quickly
recognised her abilities and took her under my wing at my then restaurant, Pétrus. From Commis Chef to Senior Sous Chef in a matter of years, Chantelle was also instrumental in the operational shift towards the creation of Marcus Wareing Restaurants in 2008. Over the years, not only has Chantelle become my business partner but she’s a 2nd me. She knows every intricate detail about how to run both a kitchen and this company and I know that if I’m away or filming, etc. this company will be run as well, with or without me.

Do you bounce ideas and concepts off each other freely?

MW: Very much so. With menus and dishes we tend to do our own thing at Marcus (with my Chef Patrons there, Mark & Shauna Froydenlund) and Tredwells respectively, but whenever I’m over at Tredwells I’m always keen to try out whatever new dishes have come onto the menus there. What Chantelle is doing with plant-based cooking is really quite extraordinary. Then at The Gilbert Scott we’ll come together more, as our Head Chef there only recently joined from Marcus, and so we’re still working with him to develop new menus. However, with the day-to-day running of the business, I 100% turn to Chantelle to discuss ideas and concepts.

CN: Marcus has always been, and continues to be, my greatest supporter and biggest influence, so we are constantly throwing ideas back and forward, constantly striving to see how we can improve our restaurants for our teams and our guests.

What is your favourite dish to cook and why?

MW: Sunday roast at home, with my wife and kids around the table.
CN: Hmm, not sure I could name just one… At the moment probably experimenting with different plant-based desserts, with a peanut butter pudding & dark chocolate sorbet being the current favourite!

How would you best describe the Tredwells ambience?

MW: I love it! It is buzzy, has great music and is such a relaxed place to be, whether it’s a top-notch dinner or just a glass of champagne at the bar.
CN: It’s a warm, welcoming and buzzy place.

What makes Central London such an interesting hub of great places to eat, and how do you make your restaurant stand out?

MW: The choice is just incredible. The quality of food at more accessible price-points, across all cuisines, has skyrocketed. Eating out isn’t just about fine dining anymore, and I think this is a fantastic development. Re standing out, it’s very simple really. You just stick to what you’re good at, and if you become known for that, people will keep coming back.

Who is your chef hero and why?

MW: My Dad is my food hero. He taught me so much in terms of food & business.
CN: There are too many to name, however, Dan Barber is a great hero of mine. What’s he’s doing at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Upstate New York is just fantastic and for the waste food movement in general. I was so delighted to be a part of wastED when he brought it to London earlier in the year, on the roof of Selfridge’s, and it spearheaded the start of a journey for me, which now impacts and drives many of the culinary decisions I make each day.

What does it really take to become a Michelin-starred chef?

MW: 1. Be patient 2. Do your ground work 3. Be prepared to work hard 4. Stand out.

What new and exciting additions to the menu can we expect for spring?

CN: I am always experimenting and developing dishes; flavours, ingredients, suppliers. My chefs are also a constant inspiration to me and I’m always interested to try and encourage my teams to think creatively too. One of my focuses for 2018 is more local food, trying to work closer with our suppliers to also enhance the Chef’s Manifesto - something I am involved in which is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030. We all need to be more conscious of what we are eating, and our environment.

What five ingredients can you not do without and why?

MW: Maldon salt - it has a lovely crunch and wonderful subtle saltiness. Butter - it makes everything taste better. Black pepper - it can add so much to any dish or ingredient. Fresh almonds - I always look forward to these in spring, they have a superb flavour and texture, like nothing else. Chocolate, purely because I love it.
CN: Maldon Salt. Aquafaba - chickpea water - it has opened up so many possibilities in plant-based cooking for me. Nuts - they add so much flavour and texture. Thyme - a great flavour enhancer for savoury and sweet dishes. Bananas - sweet, a great texture and awesome flavour.

Chantelle, how did it feel to put your chef’s whites back on and get back in the kitchen after a more managerial role in the business?

CN: I was a little apprehensive about it at first, I wondered if I could still do it! But as soon as I put that white jacket on it was the right fit. I realised I could cook, create, develop and manage all from the engine room. There’s nothing quite like it. There aren’t many jobs where you get to see the results of your work so immediately and on a daily basis.

What have you learnt most from Marcus and why has he been such a driving force for you?

CN: How long have you got? If I had to sum it up I would say attention to detail can never be overlooked, and that is every detail, from the cleanliness of the cutlery to a door not closing properly. Also, to work hard to maximise flavour from any ingredient - be it a leek or a lobster. His work ethic and drive are beyond admirable, and inspirational. He also knows how to have a good laugh, which is key.

For more information about Tredwells, Marcus Wareing and Chantelle Nicholson, visit their website here. 

Portrait photography by Toby Coulson.
Interior and food photography by Tredwells. 

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