Prior to his appointment, the chef had promised to modernise the riverside restaurant's French menu. Imbert spoke to BigHospitality about his career trajectory, French cuisine- and how he thinks the public will react to the removal of the restaurant’s crepe suzette trolley.
You started out as a butcher. How did you get to where you are now?
I learnt my trade from the ground up, training in butchery and charcuterie before setting my sights on the kitchen. I started at Sketch London in 2006, where I worked my way up to senior sous chef. I spent some time cooking in Beirut, then returned to Europe joining the kitchen at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and Berners Tavern and, since 2015, I was head chef at Jason Atherton’s City Social. I have had an amazing experience, but with D&D I am now able to challenge myself. I have the freedom to lead my own kitchen and create my own menus.
Is it going to be a challenge to overhaul the restaurant after taking over from the previous chef?
It will certainly be a big a challenge as there are a lot of details to take into consideration but I am very much looking forward to it. I changed the menu direction simply because this is the food that I love to cook and eat, so I am excited for the challenge.
What will be removed from the menu?
We have removed some clichés from the restaurant such as the crepes suzette trolley and I think that this will certainly help to take the restaurant in a more modern direction with a fresher outlook. The new approach will see dishes such as; Gigha halibut with curry velouté, mussels, and gruyere crust; and Salt marsh lamb, braised shoulder, black garlic emulsion and lemon yoghurt and taking centre stage will be a whole duck, to be shared between two.
How do you think people will react to you removing the crepe suzette trolley?
I’m sure it may ruffle a few feathers, but it was a decision that I needed to make when I first took over the kitchen to take the restaurant in the direction I wanted. We hope that anyone sceptical about the removal will be won over by some of our fantastic new desserts, however.
Will the menu still be French?
French cooking is defined by high quality produce, technique and execution, which will all be present in the Le Pont de la Tour kitchen. Since first arriving in England, I have been impressed with the increase in quality of the produce available and whilst products such as the cheese and butter will always be sourced from France, we will absolutely be using local produce and supporting small suppliers as much as possible. For example, we have a very close relationship with Turnips in Borough Market and Flying Fish in Cornwall.
Are you aiming for a Michelin star?
It is a dream, of course. Having worked in Michelin starred restaurants in the past, I would be lying if I said I didn't have that ambition. But that said, I know that we have a lot of work to do at Le Pont de la Tour- at this point I am just concentrating on getting that right.