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Interview: Phil Howard
July 1, 2015
Phil Howard has been a fixture of the London fine dining scene since he opened Mayfair’s The Square in 1991, and the double Michelin starred restaurant has stayed strong ever since, throughout the ups and downs of London’s culinary culture. Ahead of his appearance curating a pop-up Italian restaurant on the bank of the Thames for S. Pellegrino, we spoke to the chef about staying at The Square, why he’ll never make a cookbook again and why fine dining isn’t going anywhere.
You discovered a passion for cooking while studying microbiology at university. How did you manage to move from the lab to a restaurant kitchen?
I discovered my true passion and persevered until someone gave me a job!
When you opened The Square in 1992, did you have any idea that it might still be going, and very successfully, more than 20 years later?
Absolutely not! It is amazing what can happen a day, or a service, at a time!
You’re involved in a number of different projects, but still seem to be closely involved with The Square. How often are you working in the kitchen there, and why is it important for you to keep that hands-on position?
The Square has been my professional home for 24 years and I have no intention of changing that. I enjoy my other interests but the fulfilment I have derived from my time at The Square has been purely because I have kept involved in its day to day operation throughout this time.
You released your first cookbook across two volumes a couple of years ago – are there any plans for another book?
Absolutely not! Never again – I don’t think!
You’re working with Theo Randall on S. Pellegrino’s pop-up restaurant this summer. What’s the appeal of a popup compared to your work at The Square?
Variety is the spice of life – and I am always up for a challenge!
Are the two of you working together on the menus for the event, or are your two nights being run entirely separately?
Entirely independent nights.
What’s your view on London’s current restaurant scene? Are there any new openings from the last few years that you’ve particularly enjoyed?
It is progressing at full sprint and perhaps the most exciting city in the world in which to eat. New restaurants such as The Clove Club are setting new standards that are relevant to the modern urban diner.
How can fine dining restaurants ensure that they still have a place in the modern restaurant world, and do they even need to?
Indeed it is a shrinking market but nothing will ever compare to the potential pleasure of a truly great fine dining experience. It is certainly not what we want day in day out but it is one of life’s greatest pleasure once in a while.
What’s coming up in the future for The Square, and for you?
We will continue to work hard to ensure that The Square stays relevant in the fast changing restaurant world and I will continue to play my part in all that this challenge encompasses.