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In conversation with Theo Randall
May 22, 2015
Theo Randall, famed for his saluted contributions at River Café has been the nations favourite for some time. The patron Chef of Italian cooking in Britain and across the globe it is no surprise then that he continues to receive great reviews. His first solo restaurant opened at the InterContinental hotel on Park Lane in 2006 and it appears that his level of expertise has not wavered. On our last visit to Theo Randall, the restaurant, we were expecting great but humble things. Flavour and simplicity prevailing with every bite, from the wonderfully spongy home baked Focaccia to the selection of primi pasta dishes, there is just something so delightfully unpretentious about Italian food. Even in a five star setting, a simple broad bean, Pecorino, rocket and dandelion salad is worth getting excited about. The subtleties of flavour matching the peppery greens in warm olive oil dressing just tastes so genuine. We couldn’t quite get enough of the buttery Ravioli di erbette, packed full of spring greens such as swiss chard and cime di rapa or as the Pugliese call them ‘turnip tops’ with ricotta. Refined Italian cuisine is what to expect but a taste experience it is also. Team that with excellent service in a subdued setting and you have yourself one of London’s greatest Italian restaurants.
We were lucky enough to grab a few minutes with Theo in between his busy schedule opening a new restaurant in Bangkok and his involvement in London Wine Week to find out a bit more about what makes his restaurants such an acclaimed one.
Alicja McCarthy: You opened Theo Randall at InterContinental in 2006 and haven’t looked back since. Were your achievements at the River Café hard to live up to?
Theo Randall: Yes of course but what was a huge driving factor was that this was my restaurant and I had to prove myself.
AM: Can you tell us a bit more about your involvement in London Wine Week? Would you say you were an advocate of Mediterranean wine?
TR: London Wine week has been a really great opportunity to get involved with young talented wine makers that want to show off their product to the discerning London market. As a Chef I have enjoyed working with my Sommelier Vittorio Gentile to produce interesting compatible menus that compliment the wines.
AM: And could you tell us of your top three current producers?
TR: It very difficult to choose just three but if I had to I would say Giovanni Manetti from Fontodi, Nino Pieropan from Pieropan and Giacomo Conterno who runs his brilliant late fathers estate Aldo Conterno in Barolo.
AM: We love how your kitchen can turn such simple ingredients into dimensional and flavorsome dishes. What one dish would you say defines the restaurant?
TR: It has to be our Cappaletti di Vitello which is a pasta dish that has been on the restaurant menu from day one.
AM: Our love for pasta has no bounds. How much pasta does the kitchen produce a day?
TR: We spend a lot of time making Pasta on a daily basis and we will have at least 7 different fresh pasta dishes on the menu.
AM: We are hearing great things about olive oils from Puglia. With many groves going organic and with more and more producers being awarded DOP certificates for their products, are we seeing quality prevailing over quantity?
TR: 2014 was a very difficult year for Olive oil production in Italy so quantity and quality have not been great but we have searched and found a few with quality but little quantity. I hope 2015 will be a better year.
AM: Could you tell us about some of your favourite suppliers? On our last visit we spotted the biggest Sicilian peppers we have ever seen. Where does some of the produce you use come from?
TR: We have many producers but one of our favourites for vegetables has to be Natoora who supplied the red peppers.
AM: After the success of your book Pasta, what can we expect to find in My Simple Italian?
TR: Lots of simple recipes that any one can cook.
AM: We’re excited to learn that Theo Mio will open this year in Bangkok. Congratulations! What classic Italian dishes are diners to expect and how different with the restaurant be to the one at InterContinental?
TR: The restaurant will be similar in the sense that the food will be based around quality ingredient but more of an emphasis on sharing. The fish in Thailand is amazing so there will be plenty on the menu.
AM: Lastly, outside of the kitchen, what do you like to do?
TR: Well I am never out of a kitchen so I do love to cook at home. I have two Labradors that love a good walk and I like to play tennis so Sunday’s usually involve all three.
Words by Alicja McCarthy