Daniel Gill has been Roussillon's head chef for just six months, following Alexis Gauthier's departure, but already he has applied his own style and ideas to the restaurant. James Stagg reports
Few land their first head chef role at 23. But Daniel Gill has demonstrated the desire and skill for success since taking on his first pot-washing job at the age of 12. Now 24, and six months after being appointed head chef at Roussillon, he is already on his way to emulating his hero, Marco Pierre White.
However, one chef he is keen to show he isn't following is Alexis Gauthier, who moved this year to Gauthier Soho after 12 years at Roussillon. Having been accused by Fay Maschler in the LondonEvening Standard of being willing to "emulate what went before", Gill is keen to emphasise that he's made his mark.
"We've changed everything from the bread to the petits fours," he explains. "It's all our own dishes. It's not like I've come in and cooked in the shadows of anyone."
But being located in Pimlico means the well-heeled locals have come to expect a certain standard and style of food. Where Gauthier had served his celebrated classical French cuisine, Gill now delivers what he describes as "more modern European than French".
Having spent over three years at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons under executive head chef Gary Jones, followed by a year as sous chef at the two-Michelin-starred Midsummer House in Cambridge, Gill has the grounding to deliver. Roussillon is a tightly run restaurant - his brigade numbers just four - and he is complemented by a front-of-house team that includes sommelier David Hajos and restaurant manager Samantha Rieu.
The restaurant retains its colourful French impressionist paintings and a level of service that signals a determination to keep the Michelin star earned by Gauthier.
What has changed is the menu, with a £35 three-course lunch menu (including half a bottle of wine) that changes weekly, plus a three-course evening menu for £60 and a £78 tasting menu that change twice a season.
However, some dishes are too popular to change. "The scallop dish has been on since we've been here and others will as well, as they're winners and don't really have a season," Gill explains.
In this incarnation seared diver scallops are joined by a fresh and crisp combination of apple purée, ginger and matchstick-sized apple slices. It's a delicate dish of pitch perfect balance and uncomplicated flavours.
Other big hits include sweetbreads with butternut squash in cinnamon purée. Here the sweetbreads are caramelised, before a date purée is placed on top with toasted almonds. That's finished under the grill and served with crispy sage leaves and a mulled wine dressing. It's an ideal dish for this time of year, and one that's been well received.
He has also made his mark on the menu geographically, with a dish that has more than a nod to his native Lincoln. A pot-roasted breast of guinea fowl is served with a guinea fowl and leek croquette of confit leg made using Lincolnshire leeks and Lincolnshire Poacher cheese.
IN TOUCH WITH TASTES
While he might have lofty ambitions, it's clear that Gill is mindful of Roussillon's location and is in touch with his customers' tastes.
"I don't want to copy what anyone else has done or is doing as it gets diluted and isn't your own so I try to keep it as original as possible," he says.
"We have to cater for the local taste and not all of our customers want mad flavours, but we think we're striking a good balance."
SAMPLE DISHES FROM THE MENU
â- Sweet and sour carrots, king crab and crème fraÁ®che
â- Crispy salmon and pork popcorn, apple and celeriac
Main courses â- Pan-roasted Scottish cod and mussels, cauliflower couscous
â- Chargrilled rib-eye of grain-fed beef, watercress and smoked eel, red wine jus
â- Roasted highland venison, poached blackberries, celeriac and white chocolate purée, smoked bacon and cabbage, chanterelles, venison and blackberry jus
Desserts â- Pistachio frangipane and sable, kohlrabi sorbet
â- Blackberry, fresh blackberry mousse and jelly, dark chocolate sorbet
Roussillon 16 St Barnabas Street, London, SW1W 8PE
Tel: 020 7730 5550
http://www.roussillon.co.uk" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">www.roussillon.co.uk