Jahdre Hayward and his wife Amanda aim to bring a fabled Michelin star to deepest Essex using only British ingredients, most from their back garden. Katie Pathiaki pays a visit
Conversations about Essex typically go little further than what happened in the latest episode of that famous TV show fronted by a collection of preening, permatanned natives that probably don't do wonders for its image. Sure, many people also venture to the bottom of East Anglia's bulge for a trip to Lakeside shopping centre or Hylands Park's V Festival but, in all honesty, the county is more famous for The Only Way Is Essex than its food. Jahdre and Amanda Hayward aim to change that with their restaurant Haywards.
tled in a quiet part of Epping Forest, it's quite the find. It's a beautiful listed building in a conservation area, next to a family-run pub.
It seems that being different has turned out well for the couple, who are still going strong four years after Haywards opened in May 2013. They see a weekly turnover of about 120 covers despite being open only five days a week.
Everything on the menu is British, some of it as locally sourced as the back garden of the restaurant where Jahdre and Amanda grow vegetables and harvest honey from bees.
One of Jahdre's favourite dishes includes salad from the garden - the pan-roasted scallops, braised leek and mussel cream with rye bread. To make the dish, Jahdre steams mussels before blitzing them up with garlic, shallot and thyme to make a soup. Mussel tartare is made the traditional way, minus the egg yolk, with capers, shallots, parsley and lemon. He gets rye croÁ»tons from a local baker. "We do make our own bread, apart from the rye and sourdough," he says. The scallops are hand-dived from Scotland, and fried to order, and served with a salad from Haywards' own garden.
es on the menu are also sourced in the UK, with one from a vineyard in Epping itself.
"We won't pour Prosecco by the glass but we have two sparkling English wines on offer from Hattingley Valley that customers can have instead. We have five whites by the glass but we don't have a Sauvignon Blanc on there, for example, as we like to push people to try new things," Amanda explains.
The duo, both chefs by trade, met in the kitchen 14 years ago. Bermudan-born Jahdre has experience in top restaurants such as the Savoy under Anton Edelmann, Hanbury Manor in the Hertfordshire town of Ware, London's Oxo Tower, the now-closed Novelli in the City and the Ritz.
ever, his most valuable experiences came working in Australia at the National Gallery in Canberra, the Melbourne Wine Room (where he took on his first head chef role), and the Millswyn restaurant, also in Melbourne.
"I would describe my style as modern European rather than Australian," Jahdre says. "However, my food is a lot lighter than what I was doing before I went to Australia. I don't use as much butter and cream and I have started to do a lot of pickling."
Amanda says that over the years, Jahdre has become more of a perfectionist. Many of the dishes are complex, and take days of preparation such as the braised short rib and roasted sirloin of beef with onion purée.
A Jacob's Ladder short rib is rubbed in table salt, garlic and thyme and left for four hours before being steamed overnight. The following day, the bone is removed and it is pressed for a second night. It's served with a medium rare sirloin steak and a sourdough crumb made by blitzing sourdough with butter, garlic, thyme and rosemary, putting it in the dehydrator and then mixing it the next day with shallots, adding cold oil and frying it until brown.
Some dishes come to Jahdre easily; inspiration even arises in the form of a favourite chocolate bar. "I love Snickers and really wanted to make a dessert that resembled it," he says.
"It took a few tries. It starts with a chocolate mousse. Then a peanut mousse made with peanut butter, whipped cream, milk and praline. Then another chocolate mousse layer is put on top. It's then left in the freezer overnight and we spray it. It's served with malt ice-cream and crystallised peanuts."
With a mention in this year's Good Food Guide and Michelin in their sights, the Haywards are giving the locals a standard of food that makes it worth skipping a night out in the Sugar Hut for.
From the menu
Two courses £34; three courses £44.50
•Pork, radish, consommé
•Mackerel, dill, oyster, kohl rabi
•Duck breast and leg, cannelloni, celeriac
•Stone bass, squid ink, red pepper
•Beef, onion, kohl rabi
•Honey, dill, almond
•Pear, pistachio, bay leaf, Pedro Ximénez
111 Bell Common, Epping, Essex CM16 4DZ