Adam Simmonds may have some pretty big boots to fill, but he's relishing the challenge. Janet Harmer reports
In the six months since being appointed executive chef at the Capital hotel in London's Knightsbridge, Adam Simmonds has been building up a brigade of like-minded chefs who are keen to be challenged in the kitchen.
Many of the dishes he has introduced to the five-red-AA-star, 49-bedroom hotel have undergone considerable trial and error before being added to the menus and Simmonds likes to work with chefs who are keen to be fully involved in the process.
"It can be challenging at times, but they are good challenges and it is exciting for the team to be involved in creating something new," says Simmonds, who was executive chef at Danesfield House in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, until 2013. For instance, he and his nine-strong brigade are looking to create a tasting menu to be paired with single-batch teas from artisan growers supplied by Lalani & Co.
While the tea-matched menu will be something for diners in the New Year, the focus now is on ensuring consistency across all the menus Simmonds has recently introduced, from breakfast through to lunch and dinner, with afternoon tea and private dining menus in between.
Alongside a set lunch menu, offering two courses for £33 and three for £39, an à la carte and tasting menus (six courses for £95 with a wine flight at £80) are available at both lunch and dinner. The à la carte offers a choice of five dishes at each course.
Simmonds says that many diners describe his food as "feminine", highlighting a complexity and lightness of touch that extends across his repertoire. A starter dish on the à la carte menu of scallop ceviche, kohlrabi, caviar and fermented tomato (£21) is a case in point.
The scallops are cut in half before being lightly seasoned and immersed in an 8% salt solution for six minutes. Green tomatoes, which are blitzed and fermented after being marinaded for 12 hours with shallots, celery and tarragon, add acidity, while caviar provides a salty hit. Kohlrabi in two forms – baked in rock salt and raw – and leaves of pennywort complete the dish. The result is a light, refreshing dish, full of flavour.
Moving onto main courses, Simmonds has replaced the lamb dish from the spring and summer with a more season-appropriate mutton one (£30), which partners the full-flavoured meat with a number of varieties from the allium family. The selection of accompaniments include two purées (leek and white onion with miso), onion ash, pickled shallots, deep-fried shallot rings, capers and foraged three-cornered garlic.
The mutton itself comprises a loin, cooked to a core temperature of 55°C in a water bath and then sealed in butter, and a shoulder, which is coated in a rub of rosemary, thyme, sugar, pine salt and pepper before being braised, wrapped into a cylinder shape and chilled until service, when it is lightly coloured.
For the cheese choice – a selection of three British cheeses at any one time for £16 – Simmonds encourages his chefs to suggest the ideal accompaniments. "We go through a tasting process and as a result have come up with some interesting garnishes as well as the homemade biscuits – curry digestives, water crackers and oat cakes," he says.
The current selection includes Lincolnshire Poacher served with barbecued pineapple and fresh walnut; May Hill Green semi-soft from Charles Martell & Son in Gloucestershire with baby onions, pine oil, chervil and fennel pollen; and Oxford Blue with Charentais melon, dill and cob nuts.
Among the desserts, poached pear, tarragon, crumble and pear sorbet (£9) is a standout option. The poached fruit is partnered with a spiced pear purée, pear sorbet, tarragon cream, tarragon granita and a garnish of Nashi pear.
Over the years, the 32-seat Restaurant at the Capital has been home to a rota of legendary head chefs including Éric Chavot, Philip Britten, Brian Turner and Richard Shepherd, while Nathan Outlaw oversaw the restaurant at the hotel for six years until early March this year.
Simmonds now intends to continue the food legacy of the hotel, supported by new owner Warwick Hotels & Resorts, which bought the Capital from the Levin family in 2017, by putting his own individual stamp on the restaurant.
From the menu
- Oysters, cucumber, English wasabi, lardo £18
- Foie gras, sour cherry, camomile, pistachio £19
- White asparagus, fresh curd, gooseberries, lovage, truffle £15
- John Dory, curd, cuttlefish, kohlrabi, caviar £34
- Salt-aged duck, grapefruit, turnip, fennel £25
- Salt-baked celeriac, ceps, wet walnuts, brown butter, truffle £20
Desserts and cheese
- English blackberry, Pink Lady apple, herb sorbet £10
- Elderflower ice-cream, blossom honey, oats, yogurt £10
- Dark chocolate, miso, IPA ice-cream, verjus £13
22-24 Basil Street, London SW3 1AT www.therestaurantatthecapitallondon.com
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