Chef Mark Jarvis may describe his eclectic cuisine as modern British, but there’s definitely a focus on fun, says Lisa Jenkins
Mark Jarvis credits his grandma with fostering his love of cooking. It was her lessons in how to cook traditional dishes, such as roasts, tripe and stew and dumplings, that set him off on his culinary journey.
Having earned his stripes as an apprentice at a conference centre in Chesham with day release at Aylesbury College, Jarvis started working his way around a few restaurants in London as a commis. After spells at Boodles in London and Lords of the Manor in Cheltenham, he spent three years at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire.
The significance of Le Manoir in Jarvis’s career is cemented by the fact that he calls the people he met there his friends and mentors: chefs such as Raymond Blanc and Gary Jones; Aggi Sverrisson, chef-patron of Texture; Danny Gill, who recently bought his family’s pie shop, Browns, in Lincoln; and Alex Harper, with whom Jarvis is about to open Neo Bistro in Mayfair, London.
“Raymond was in the kitchen a lot, but it was Gary who took on the day-to-day training,” he says. “He’s an amazing person to cook under, but he’s also the best at organisation.”
After a stint with Gill, Jarvis was keen to work with Sverrisson again, and so he moved to Texture, where he stayed for three years “You don’t meet a lot of Icelandic chefs and he stood out at Le Manoir, so we’d always stayed in touch,” he says.
After leaving Texture as a sous chef, Jarvis went on to work at the Blueprint Café and the Bingham in Richmond upon Thames before travelling around Asia. He returned to the UK to open Anglo in April 2016.
At Anglo, Jarvis and his head chef Jack Cashmore thrive on the freedom of the kitchen and they want the whole team to have fun.
“There is always a day a week when the team is in the kitchen together,” Jarvis says. “We will take a main ingredient [this week it was plaice] and spend the morning experimenting with different cuts and flavours. I want my team to smile and have a laugh at work.”
But he’s more serious when it comes to the quality of the ingredients. “I’ve been a bit of a nightmare with suppliers,” says Jarvis. “It’s hard to get consistency of ingredients in London, but I think we’ve cracked it. Among others, we use Flying Fish for our seafood, Mash and First Choice for our fruit and vegetables, and Swaledale Foods, the Rare Breed Meat Company and Trenchmore Farm for meat.”
When it comes to the menu, his food is anchored in tradition. “Food has to have a soul,” he says. “We have cheese on toast, but it’s a modern version.” His style has been called modern British, which he agrees with, but only because modern British cuisine is so diverse. His older customers describe his food as ‘cheffy’ and ‘unexpected’ (perhaps more to do with the restaurant’s location, just off Leather Lane) and he likes to surprise diners. Dishes such as braised kombu with monk’s beard and camomile, and Blackwells Farm lamb with violet artichoke and anchovy, are clean and fresh with a main ingredient that sings.
Jarvis is particularly fond of the Isle of Mull scallop with white beetroot and dashi on the lunch tasting menu, and the white asparagus with confit duck egg and dill on the à la carte (£9). The tasting menus sell best at lunch and dinner, although there is also an à la carte menu at lunch. The five-course lunch tasting menu is £39 per person and seven-course tasting menu at dinner is £45.
“We serve a lunch tasting menu for £39 because we can!” Jarvis says emphatically. “We take an ingredient and get the most out of it – it’s cheaper to take everything whole, but you have to get consistent sale and consistent portioning, and then you will get consistent wastage – more people should do it.”
The tasting menus are available with drink and wine pairings. Wines are sourced by restaurant manager Nick Gilkinson, who has selected an unusual list. A sommelier has only recently joined the team, as it took Jarvis a while to find someone who wasn’t too predictable with their choices.
Anglo changes its menu almost weekly, but if a particular dish is selling well, it won’t come off. The burnt-leek tart (made famous by food journalist Grace Dent’s review), for example, has always been there. “
The team is bored to death with making it, but it’s almost become a cult,” says Jarvis. “A lady from Japan asked for it and now all her friends come in for it too.”
Jarvis is clearly a creative chef and he’s obviously got business flair. The restaurant is taking an average of £55 per person with 32 covers at lunch and £80 on 30 covers at dinner. But his ethos is simple: “To give people what they want at a price they want to pay. Everyone says that tasting menus are dying – they’re not, they are just too expensive.”
As for the future, the launch of Neo Bistro will keep him busy, but he insists his focus is on Anglo and, maybe, an Anglo Two. Either way, with his exciting dishes, free spirit and financial backing, this 35-year-old chef is one to watch.
From the menu
• Label Rouge foie gras with rhubarb and chicory £9
• Burnt-leek tartlet (part of the lunch tasting menu)
• Mushroom and cep custard (part of the dinner tasting menu)
• Celeriac with burrata and St George’s mushrooms £18.50
• Cornish cod with lardo and kombu £20
• Wild turbot with smoked onions and dill £20
• Strawberries, lemon verbena and green almond (part of the lunch tasting menu)
• Chocolate with yogurt and basil £8
• Cheese and onion on malt loaf £8.50
• Lunch: drinks pairing £25, premium wine pairing £39; Dinner: drinks pairing £30, premium wine pairing £45
Anglo, 30 St Cross Street, London EC1N 8UH