The Quo Vadis chef stocks up at the Secret Smokehouse, splashes out at Margaret Howell and wants a distinctly unceremonious burial
I live in Hackney, home
alone with an awful lot of pots and plates.
Which shops do you rely on?
Labour and Wait for everything, Leila’s Shop for groceries, of course, and E5 Bakehouse for the best pastries in town. Maison Bertaux in Soho, too, because it’s so brilliant and it has an extraordinary bunch of pastries. And I would also say delicatessen I Camisa & Son on Old Compton Street, it’s just brilliant.
What’s your London secret?
I’m blessed to have the Secret Smokehouse just two doors down from where I live in Hackney.
Best meal you’ve had?
Oh golly, gee, I think the best meal I’ve ever had was a dinner Simon Hopkinson cooked at Bibendum after it had just opened. It was a long time ago but it is what got me back into restaurants with a vengeance. We had Piedmontese peppers and poulet de Bresse.
Where would you most like to be buried?
I’m not going to be buried,
I want to be binned in a biodegradable bag.
Where do you go to let your hair down?
Home is pretty good because you can smoke there; you
can’t smoke anywhere else.
Who is your hero?
Deceased Terence Conran and alive-and-kicking Fergus Henderson because we’re almost twins, we’re almost the same age and I think what he did and does for British cooking is exceptional.
Best thing a cabbie has ever said to you?
Get out. I’d had far too jolly a dinner and he just would not stop talking about things that I just really didn’t want to hear. I made a rude comment and so he slammed on the brakes and
told me to get out. It made me laugh so much.
Who is the most iconic Londoner in history?
I suspect Doctor Samuel Johnson. He wrote a two-volume dictionary and was an astonishing character of the 18th century, a man of great many letters and a phenomenal mind.
Last thing you googled?
Oh, Elisabeth Luard’s European Peasant Cookery, how can I get a first edition?
There are quite a few of them. I would say Margaret Howell is a bit of a shocker, I always think I’m just going to go in for a T-shirt and come out with a bursting bag.
If you could buy any building in London and live there, which would it be?
Oh, the Michelin building because it’s so beautiful and it has such a great address, right on the Fulham Road at Brompton Cross. There is something about a bustling urban crossroads having such a beautiful sight in the middle of it. To me it’s one of Terence Conran’s greatest achievements. It has eternal brilliance.
One thing you picked up during the lockdowns?
My sister brilliantly found some drawings I had done as a kid. She said to me, ‘You know you did these,’ so I started drawing again. I was quite pleased to reignite that old flame, it has been very rewarding.
QuoVadis At Home is available via bignight.app