Your new restaurant has a wellness element - how do you square that with cakes and biscuits?
There’s no getting away from the fact that pastry is usually big on carbs, sugar and butter. The wellness side of things at Lilly’s is more evident on the savoury menu. It’s quite light and we use very little animal protein with the exception of eggs, because brunch is a big thing for us. Alongside this, the cookies (from Lin’s Floozie brand) are vegan.
How did you become involved with Lilly’s?
To be completely honest I wasn’t planning to open a restaurant. I was approached by Simon Wright of Game Changer Investments who I’d worked with at Dominique Ansel Treehouse. He’d just signed up for 3 Henrietta Street and was looking for someone to run one of the spaces. And here I am.
Tell us about the sweet options at Lilly‘s
We employ three pastry chefs but we don’t have much space so we don’t really do plated desserts. Customers pick from a range of sweets dotted around the space, including my Floozie cookies and three-tier mini celebration cakes for two, which have been very popular. All the sweets are made in a production kitchen on the other side of Covent Garden.
How is Floozie going?
Very well. We recently launched at Dubai Expo and we’ve just moved our London operation from a pop-up on James Street to a site in Covent Garden Market itself. We have seats this time and are doing drinks, including vegan hot chocolate and a selection of plant-based milks. I work with Simon on that too. I was just mucking around with vegan cookies one day and he happened to taste them.
How difficult is vegan pastry work?
The cookies aren’t difficult at all. We use a vegetable-based shortening and substitute the egg white we need to bind the mixture together with flax seed powder. Some things are far more tricky, not least choux pastry. There’s are a lot of stabilisers and other products on the market to help but I like to keep my food natural where possible.
What was being a development chef for Dominique Ansel like?
It was intense. I’d come from overseeing pastry in top-end hotels (Lin was head pastry chef at both Claridge’s and Corinthia London) so it was a very different environment. Hotel work is challenging but it’s very organised, you tend to know exactly what’s coming, especially when you’re dealing with big functions. And you have huge teams - the pastry team at Claridge’s is 25-strong. Standards at Treehouse were very high - I still dream about Cronuts, they have a lot of different stages to making them and there’s a lot of opportunities for things to go wrong.