Your menu is changed every eight weeks to reflect the seasonality of vegetables from organic British producers. Why did you introduce this?
Most Indian households eat seasonally, and almost everyone buys from the local fruit and vegetable market. I wanted to maintain that traditional ethos of shopping from the Sabzi Mandi (vegetable bazaar) at Darjeeling Express. Seasonal and local produce tastes so much better!
Very exciting that you were the first British chef to be featured on Netflix's 'Chef's Table'. How did you use your voice to promote sustainability?
In the film we go to my family's mango orchard, and my father talks about the value of the soil and its importance to my family. I talked about the damage being done to the lives of farmers in developing countries who are being encouraged to grow specifically sized produce for British supermarkets. The farmer gets hardly any money and the middlemen make all the profit. The family of the farmer, who would previously be fed by produce grown in the land, struggle to make ends meet with the cash they get for their produce. All restaurants should buy locally and reduce the carbon footprint on their menu by reducing the number of items they fly down from distant countries.
If you could choose a dish from your menu to best describe you, what would it be?
At the moment the chicken chaap onnour from our special menu. It's a subtle, korma-like dish made with chicken cooked on the bone. It's only made in Bengal and Bangladesh, where my maternal family comes from. It's a fragrant, gently spiced heritage dish with royal roots.
What do you love the most about Carnaby, and why is it the perfect home for Darjeeling Express?
I love the buzz of Kingly Court. You immediately feel transformed to another world. For me, the courtyard reminds me of my home in India in the summer, on the second floor with all the windows opened. In winter, the roof and beautiful lights remind me of the winter marquees of my family weddings. It fits so well with the food we serve!
Dehesa, William Breese, Head Chef
Dehesa is a member of the SRA (Sustainable Restaurant Association) with two stars. Tell us what makes you a sustainable restaurant.
We are proud to be a sustainable restaurant and really believe in trying to better ourselves and help the environment as much as we can. We train our staff on our policies, which include using seasonal produce, recycling, separating food waste and watching our energy usage. We are always looking for new ways to be more sustainable.
Your menu changes seasonally; what sort of changes can we expect to see this year?
Seasonality is very important to us. This year we will be working closely with our suppliers to offer our customers a regularly changing menu that really brings the best of what’s in season to the plate. The concept is to create a menu that ranges from the Spanish classics to more contemporary, experimental dishes. Our team of chefs are a massive inspiration for me, so we will all be working together to bring new, exciting ideas to the menu. Of course, the classics such as our courgette flowers, jamon ibérico and classic tortilla will be staying put!
Why should everyone try your jamon ibérico?
If you aren’t familiar with jamon ibérico, it's definitely something you need to try. It’s one of the best products you can get and is very special to us. Our jamons start the same way as all others, with black Iberian pigs feeding on acorns and being cured for around three years. However, ours is cured for five years. The flavour is incredible, sweet and nutty, and really unlike any other jamon or charcuterie you can buy.
Often, there are so many options with tapas that people struggle to know what to order. What dishes would you recommend to a first-time tapas diner?
Our menu is designed not to overwhelm our customers with a large choice, we find it becomes confusing and stops guests from really enjoying the experience. For first-timers I always recommend starting with Padron peppers, croquetas and a charcuterie selection. From there, choose some classics, something you have never tried before, and never forget the patatas bravas.
Where do you recommend in Carnaby for the ultimate dining experience?
My top three places to eat out in Carnaby are Shoryu Ramen and Dirty Bones in Kingly Court and our neighbours Jinjuu. There are plenty of amazing places in Carnaby where you can find great dining experiences.
What makes British oysters so remarkable?
We live on an island, so are lucky enough to be surrounded by seas and waterways. The cold waters slow down the oyster’s metabolism, producing crisp, meaty and sweet oysters. The flavour profile of an oyster is also influenced by the waters in which they’re grown, so British oysters develop different flavours as you move around the British Isles. For example, Lindisfarne oysters are creamy and plump, Jersey oysters are lean and briny, while Morecambe Bay oysters are grown in a salt marsh near land and therefore develop lots of minerality.
How do you incorporate sustainability into your menu and why is this so important for you?
Sustainability is incredibly important to us, both in our restaurants and our wholesale businesses in Billingsgate and Brixham market. The essence of sustainability is to preserve the fruits of the ocean for future generations, which is why we aim to buy seasonally. Most recently we started working with Mike Berthet, an industry expert from the Global aquaculture alliance and he is reinforcing our commitment to sustainability and provenance.
Oysters are known to be the food of love; which Wright Brothers dish would you recommend for date night?
I would definitely start with a platter of our mixed oysters, followed by a couple of small plates, so as not to distract from the conversation. Finish with a dessert to share and one of our delicious after-dinner cocktails.
Can you share any exciting future plans for Wright Brothers Soho?
We relaunched with a fresh new look at the end of 2018, and this year we are excited to showcase our terrace spaces and oyster-shucking cart.
What’s your favourite Carnaby restaurant – other than Wright Brothers?
I like Señor Ceviche. The head chef is my good friend and Wright Brothers alumni.