Hackney Wick is rather different to Knightsbridge…
I'm not a Knightsbridge guy. I’ve loved my time heading up Outlaw’s at The Capital but I now want to do my own thing and cook food for my peers. There’s a great vibe in Hackney Wick. I’ve hung out there a lot since coming to London. There is a real sense of community.
Tell us about Cornerstone…
It’s going to have 45-covers and an open kitchen. The look is simple and stripped back. We’ve been inspired by minimal places like Lyle’s and St John. It will be a bit like Nathan Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen in Port Isaac or The Coach in Marlow in that it will serve small sharing dishes rather than a tasting menu. But we'll also offer a set menu with a selection of dishes that we think would work well together so people don't get overwhelmed.
How do you feel about the small plates tag?
I’m not a big fan. The way I would describe it - and I'll admit this does not roll off the tongue - is an unstructured tasting menu that you share. I want people to share the dishes because it makes people talk and creates a more informal atmosphere. Eating out should be about enjoying yourself. All the dishes will be designed with sharing in mind, they won't be fussy. There's nothing more irritating than a sharing plate that's hard to share. Spend per head on food will be between £35 and £40.
Describe your cooking style..
I guess it’s comparable to Nathan's. I love the cleanness of his cooking. I will continue in his produce-drive style. I’m not into trends, I won’t be fermenting everything in sight and I certainly won’t be foraging in Hackney Marshes.
Is it going to be a fish restaurant?
Sort of. I'm reluctant to call it a fish restaurant because people will expect a menu with lots of fish at all times. Fish is seasonal and weather dependant. We won’t always be able to find enough species to create a wide-ranging menu. It needs to flexible. I want to be able to buy the best produce available. In the summer we will serve a lot of fresh vegetables, for example. That said, fish will be a focus as that's my background and it's something that I love to cook.
Where will you get your fish from?
We will be sourcing mainly from suppliers I know in the West Country. They know how I work and how fresh I need the fish. I like to use companies that buy direct from boats rather than going through the markets, which gives the fishermen a fairer price.
What’s behind the name?
It's the name of my favourite Arctic Monkeys track. The song is about about a guy looking for someone at various pubs and bars and he eventually find them at The Cornerstone. Of course, it also means the first thing, so it has a double meaning as it’s obviously my first place. Hopefully Alex Turner will drop by one day.
Who are your backers?
The whole project has been financed by myself and my extended family. They've all clubbed in a bit of their savings. So no pressure there then… I'm lucky because there are probably better chefs than me out there who will never own their own restaurant because they don't have the support network.
Tell us about your background...
I grew up in Cornwall and worked for Paul Ripley and Rick Stein before spending nearly six years with Nathan Outlaw. I started as a chef de partie at his brasserie back when it was at the St Enodoc Hotel. He asked me to head up his kitchen at The Capital a couple of years ago. Nathan is one of my favourite human beings in the world. He's incredibly generous. I love his philosophy and his energy. He genuinely wants everyone that works for him to do well. He's not one of those chefs that falls out with you if you leave. He’s already given me a lot of help and advice for Cornerstone.