Pearls of Wisdom: David Eyre

By Emma Eversham, 18-Nov-2011

Related topics: Business, Venues, People, Restaurants, Pubs & Bars, Pearls of Wisdom

David Eyre grew up in the Portuguese colony of Mozambique before coming to the UK to study in his teens and where he has remained ever since. He opened the Eagle in Clerkenwell in 1991 before going on to launch Eyre Brothers, a sandwich bar in east London, which he later sold. His Shoreditch restaurant Eyre Brothers, of which he is head chef, has just celebrated its 10th birthday.

I have always opened places that I wanted to go to myself. It’s the simplest and fairly obvious rationale.

When I opened the Eagle it was because pubs weren’t providing anything for me. I wasn’t trying to change the world, I just wasn’t a great pub-goer at the time and I wanted somewhere I could go with my friends and get some good food.

The press could never work out what my pub was, it wasn’t until Charles Campion came up with the revolting term ‘gastropub’ that people started branding it something. Everything has to have a name these days.

When chains start describing themselves as a gastropub I think at best it’s uncomfortable. If you have to make a reservation then it’s not a pub.

I still think that the quality of sandwiches offered in London is poor. Vile. I can’t stand refrigerated bread and with takeaways too – the majority are Indian or Chinese – why can’t they reflect the expertise of good cooking in this country?

Most people think Portuguese food is what you get when you go on holiday to the Algarve – some grilled sardines and Piri Piri chicken, but there are some wonderful regional dishes that we know nothing about.

Brindisa was the first to bring good quality Spanish produce to the English consumer, then we got Foods from Spain, but there's no equivalent for Portuguese produce. Half of my menu is Portuguese and I try to keep it authentic, but if you go to other Portuguese restaurants in London, the few that are of course, I don't find them very authentic.

I detest modernist cuisine. I’ve never been to Ferran Adria’s place and I wouldn’t want to. Why mess around so much with food? The wheel is already round, you don’t have to make it another shape.

I wish Alistair Little still cooked. His little restaurant in Soho was inspirational.

Wine is a never ending subject. Like cooking you’re never going to learn it all.

It’s important for chefs to connect with farmers. I’m a self-taught cook. I grew up in a remote part of Mozambique – you couldn’t just pop to the shop for supplies, so if you wanted something you’d need to rear it or grow it and that gave me a respect for ingredients.

As long as my customers love my restaurant that’s all that matters. Whether or not the media love it is a different story.

To work in hospitality you have to have a good dollop of generous spirit. I get a lot of pleasure from seeing a room full of people eating my dinners, just as I love cooking at home for friends.