Here are a few things you need to know about chef Shaun Rankin: He’s a stickler for fine ingredients, he doesn’t want to eat any asparagus gel, and he’s not going to attempt to pronounce chorizo. Ahead of our Harden’s invites dinner at Rankin’s latest restaurant Ormer Mayfair on Saturday 25 November (tickets on sale 17 October), we sat down for a chat with the Michelin-starred chef behind Ormer in St Helier, who also ran the town’s now-famous dining room, Bohemia, for almost a decade.
Ormer Mayfair launched in summer 2016, part of the beautifully refurbished Flemings Mayfair Hotel, which underwent a £16million transformation last year. Central to the refurbishment was an overhaul of the food offering at the hotel, which saw Rankin bring his Jersey restaurant, Ormer, to the Smoke. And although the London version has a few ‘bells and whistles’, it still retains the original’s food philosophy and impeccable sourcing.
How did your partnership with Flemings come about?
“Flemings were looking for someone who was the right fit. I was invited to meet with the owner of the hotel and the General Manager, Henrik Muehle, and share my ideas. My entire food philosophy at Ormer in Jersey is based on the honest relationships I have built up over the years with suppliers. I know where my ingredients are coming from and that they are the very best – I think that’s what appealed to Flemings.”
Jersey to London – that’s quite a commute!
“Yes, it can be tiring, and of course I miss my family [Rankin has two sons] while I’m away, but I have two great teams at both restaurants that I can rely on. At the moment I’m splitting my week between London and Jersey, doing three days in London and four in Jersey, or vice versa. It depends very much on what we have going on at each restaurant. I have great faith in my staff and I don’t like to micro-manage, I’d rather let them do their jobs.”
“I have changed the offering for Ormer Mayfair slightly – it has a few more bells and whistles if you like, because in London you have to stand out from a very big crowd. The scene here is constantly changing and diners are very knowledgeable, so you have to move with the times. Of course signature dishes like the lobster ravioli are on the menu and the sourcing of ingredients remains unchanged.
“It’s a unique selling point for us that our produce, particularly our seafood, comes from Jersey, because most London restaurants source theirs from Devon or Cornwall. And it’s not just seafood, we bring cream from Jersey over to make butter on-site, I forage herbs from the seashore for seasoning in Ormer Mayfair, and Jersey Royals and other vegetables are used in season.”
Do you think there is still demand for fine dining?
“Whether you’re sitting on a park bench or in The Ritz you can have fine dining as long as you have fine ingredients,” he laughs. “There is a lot of talk about the death of fine dining but there’s definitely still a market for perfectly executed food, great service and pampering. Yes, eating out is becoming more casual and most diners don’t want a lot of fuss – but I think there’s room for both.
“Personally I would much rather have a perfectly cooked spear of asparagus that’s fresh and in season than an asparagus gel or foam. Who wants to eat that? I try to keep things simple and when you have great produce there’s no need to complicate things.”
[Shaun’s pronunciation of chorizo divided MasterChef’s legion of fans when he hosted the contestants at Ormer Mayfair in April, and they took to Twitter to vent their opinions. For those of you who missed this no doubt Pulitzer Prize winning story, have a read: http://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/masterchef-viewers-left-fuming-over-10306264]
“Hey, nobody’s perfect, right?! Honestly I’d rather not even attempt to pronounce chorizo. I’m from the North East of England, I have a regional accent and I just think I sound really awkward trying for a Spanish pronunciation.
“The thing about social media is that it allows people to air their views to the world, whereas before I suppose they just chucked something at the TV. Whether or not that’s a good thing I couldn’t say. I do enjoy working with MasterChef though and will be working with the programme again very soon. It’s great exposure for the restaurant and that’s what it’s all about – showing people our food and our philosophy. It’s not about self-glorification.”
So what does the future hold for Shaun? Other than an intimate evening of food and wine with Harden’s readers at Ormer Mayfair on Saturday 25 November, of course. For the moment he says he’s content with splitting his time between Jersey and Mayfair, although he does have several TV appearances in the pipeline including MasterChef. Longer-term Shaun says he may look to expand his offering, taking the Ormer brand to America or possibly Australia, and an Ormer cookbook could be in the offing too – watch this space!
Harden’s dinner with Shaun Rankin at Ormer Mayfair takes place on Saturday 25 November. Tickets are £180pp. To book your place please call 020 7839 4763 or contact Tracy Hall on firstname.lastname@example.org. Booking lines open Mon-Fri, 9.30 am-5.30 pm. Payment will be taken in full upon booking. Please provide any dietary requirements. Tickets are non-refundable but are transferable.