Wednesday 2 December 2015

Aulis at Fera, London.

Here's an interview with Dan Cox, executive chef at Fera on the opening of the new development kitchen Aulis, we visited last weekend along with some photos.

BACON: We had an absolutely magical evening at Aulis last weekend. What strikes me now, looking at the photos is how much more than a fantastic meal it is, (and the food is up there with the best we've ever eaten anywhere) but it's even more than that. It's the interactive nature of it, with you and Alex explaining all of the complex cutting edge techniques involved. It's completely mind blowing especially to a none chef. Is this one of the ideas of Aulis?
DAN: Absolutely, that’s the main idea, for it to be a completely interactive and and informative experience. Rather than a few short words from the waiter or chef we want to hold conversation from start finish, explaining not just the techniques and what has been done, but also where it has come from and why it has come to be. Giving the wider picture of our farming and foraging operations and how we want to move forwards.
BACON: As you've pointed out these dishes aren't work in progress but are newly developed dishes. Might some of them make it on the Fera menu or even in another form at L’Enclume?
DAN: Definitely, any dishes that we want to put on at Fera will pass through the Aulis kitchen first. We will be establishing a strong connection between Aulis at Fera and the original at L’Enlume to share techniques, recipes and dishes.
BACON: We love all of Simon Rogan restaurants and food, for us they represent the best in the UK. I've always wondered why don't share dishes between The French, L'Enclume & Fera more. The ox in coal oil is both at The French and L'Enclume for instance (although a slightly different version). DAN: Simon’s always wanted each restaurant to have it’s own identity but with the addition of Aulis at Fera we will all naturally be closer, so expect to see more dishes and ideas being shared.
BACON: You're very much involved with the  growing of the produce both there at Fera and the farm at L'Enclume aren't you?
DAN: Yes very much so. I built our farm up in Cartmel and ran it for a few years whilst still cooking. We are constantly expanding and refining the farm and our methods. Everything we do there is natural, bio diverse and we are working to make it as sustainable and productive as we can. I visit Cartmel once a month, as I do at our other growing project with Pershore horticultural college. For the last two years I’ve been working with them to create a productive growing operation that will help us train growers of the future with the same growing methods, standards and varieties that we work with in Cartmel. We also work with Sean O’Neil who runs Good Earth Growers and The Modern Salad Grower in Cornwall, he shares the same passion and ideas that I do and produces amazing vegetables. I try and visit at least every six months.
BACON: That lamb is utterly stunning. You have a collaborative approach with your suppliers...
DAN: We do, everyone we work with is chosen for their extreme focus on quality and their passion for producing the very best. Once we start working with someone I constantly meet and work with them until we have something special that we believe is as good as it can be. Some people we meet just have something incredible and we learn something from them.
The lamb is from Phillip Warren Butchers in Cornwall and they select the top 5%, we look for good fat cover through the loin of the saddle and a good level on between the skin and meat, it’s then aged for a minimum of 28 days there and the  we take it even further here at Fera. Roasting it on the bone too for maximum flavour and a natural shape.
BACON: Your enthusiasm is infectious, you make your own beer (bloody tasty it is too) and you make pottery too. This is on top of working all the hours at Fera! What do you do to relax?
DAN: They’re both thing’s that I can relax with especially the pottery, it has a strong calming influence. My garden at home is my other way relax, I’ve created a green concrete oasis that takes a lot of looking after but helps me think.
BACON: Where else do you rate in London? We spoke about Sushi Tetsu where the reservation still eludes me.
DAN: Other restaurants that I’ve experienced since being back in London and were truly exceptional were; The Ledbury, Clove Club, Dinner, Kitchen Table, Barrafina and Umu. I’ve got quite a few on the list of places I really want to go to and Hedone has been at the top since we got here, I’ll make it happen in the New Year.
BACON: Do you have a favourite restaurant here in the UK and abroad?
DAN: L’Enclume has to be my favourite in the UK it is such a magical place and has so many special memories. Abroad it has to be El Celler de Can Roca, I first went there with the head chef of Can Fabes just after they moved into the new restaurant  in 2008 and I had a meal that blew my mind and has not been surpassed since. I’ve been back a few times seeing them constantly evolve.
BACON: What was it like working at Can Fabes in Catalunya?
DAN: Amazing, it really was the best experience of my life, it was tough learning two languages but it was a truly inspirational place, Santi Santa Maria used incredible produce from the the region to produce natural but innovative food with pure taste and flavour, I learnt a lot there, especially when it came to kitchen mentality and how to look after the team. Being half way between Barcelona and Girona meant any time off was spent exploring and going out with friends and having an amazing time!
BACON: Do you have a current favourite ingredient?
DAN: It has to be kombucha at the moment. We’ve been working with kombuca scobys for a few years now and we’ve been using them to produce the most amazing kombuchas and kombucha vinegars with so many different juices and alcohol based liquids. They become incredible when they’re reduced in the rotary evaporator until syrupy. They’re like an intense umami rich verjus,with a really interesting flavour and life giving qualities.
In one of the most memorable and inspirational nights of food I can remember, we had as follows. Already huge fans of Simon Rogan's restaurants, naturally all four of us loved it all but personal highlights were the lamb and the truffle custard.
Parsnip bark, honey, perry and parsley.
Puffed corn with chicken skin and yeast flakes.
Lettuce, raw Mylar prawn and fennel.
Smoked eel eggs with lovage.
Truffle custard, cabbage, onions and kale.

Portland crab leg, pickled red dulse, grilled fennel juice and oyster.
Kombucha cured mackerel, pork fat, pumpkin and marigold.
Jerusalem artichoke, scallop, autumn herbs and flowers.
Roasted black salsify, trumpet mushroom, elderflower.
Red mullet, turnip, oxalis and blackcurrant leaf.
Halibut roasted in bread with heritage carrot and whey.
Cornish lamb, cabbage heart, radish, chestnut and rosehip.
Above, Alex Beard is the new head chef of Aulis and comes from The Waterside Inn.
Fermented buckwheat, verjus and chervil root.
Pear with frozen sheep's yoghurt, green mandarin and anise.

Birch sap mousse, Cox's apple, dried sweet cheese.....and coffee.
And finally..
BACON: What would you eat for your last meal?
DAN: An incredible feast with everything grown, reared and produced ourselves with open fire and all of my family and friends from around the world.

The taster menu costs £150 per person. 
* In a party of four, two of us were invited to try Aulis + alcohol extra, two of us paid full price. We split the remaining bill.

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