Ag­narSver­ris­son

The Ice­landic chef, head of the Miche­lin-starred mod­ern Euro­pean restau­rant Tex­ture in May­fair, talks to Imo­gen Lepere about his in­spi­ra­tion, culi­nary hang­outs and his grand­mother’s cook­ing

Food and Travel (UK) - - After Hours - To try Ag­nar’s food, book a ta­ble at Tex­ture. tex­ture-restau­rant.co.uk

Where did you last go on hol­i­day? I went to Varna in Bul­garia for the amaz­ing beaches. There still isn’t much of a lux­ury food scene there be­cause of its Com­mu­nist past, but there was an ex­cel­lent Turk­ish place called Restau­rant Klas Bar­beque which did great houmus, tab­bouleh and cloud bread. They have lovely fresh fruit be­cause of the cli­mate and some de­cent white wines. The tur­bot is par­tic­u­larly good and is of­ten served deep fried, which I’d not tried.

What sort of food did you eat as a child? Grow­ing up in Reyk­javic meant my diet was mainly seafood based. We’d have boiled fish like cod with new pota­toes and burnt but­ter in­fused with lemon five days a week. My grand­mother made the best.

What makes Ice­land’s nat­u­ral larder so spe­cial? We’re sur­rounded by un­pol­luted wa­ter and our fish is amaz­ing. The lan­goustines are sweet and the sal­mon is so good I eat it sliced like sashimi or poached in lemon wa­ter. The real draw card is the lamb. In sum­mer they roam the moun­tains graz­ing on berries and herbs, and in win­ter we bring them down so they can feed on seaweed.

From where do you get your in­spi­ra­tion? Ray­mond Blanc is my great­est in­spi­ra­tion. I was head chef at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons for three years and he taught me to fo­cus on flavour be­fore pre­sen­ta­tion, which is some­thing some Scan­di­na­vian chefs have taken too far in my opin­ion. In terms of cook­ery books, I still turn to my old favourites: White Heat, The French Laun­dry

Cook­book and El Celler de Can Roca: The Book.

Where is the best restau­rant you’ve eaten at re­cently? Hákon Már Ör­vars­son is one of the best chefs in Scan­di­navia, and his re­cently opened restau­rant, Essen­sia, in Reyk­javic serves Ital­ian food made with Ice­landic in­gre­di­ents. He’s in­stalled an au­then­tic Ital­ian oven that cooks piz­zas in just 90 sec­onds.

Where in Lon­don do you go to eat and drink? I fin­ish work late and of­ten have din­ner at Hakkasan in May­fair be­cause the kitchen stays open. I nor­mally or­der crispy duck salad with pomelo, pine nuts and shallots. I like ca­sual Viet­namese con­cepts too, like Viet Food in Soho, and Pho, which has branches across the UK. I drink a lit­tle too much I sup­pose. Lit­tle House in May­fair does a mean Grey Goose mar­tini and I love my lo­cal, The Punch­bowl.

We want to eat at Tex­ture – what should we or­der? I don’t use but­ter or cream in any savoury dishes be­cause you get a much cleaner, fresher feel to the food. I want peo­ple to be able to eat my en­tire tast­ing menu and feel great. At the mo­ment I’d go for the tomato gaz­pa­cho with bur­rata. We don’t heat it and al­low it cool; it is lit­er­ally just mar­i­nated toma­toes. The Ice­landic cod with av­o­cado and herbs is very fresh, and I would def­i­nitely fin­ish with the Skyr. This Ice­landic del­i­cacy is some­where be­tween a yo­ghurt and a cheese, and it’s very flex­i­ble. I use it in every­thing from desserts to salad dress­ings.

Clock­wise from top: sal­mon gravlax at Tex­ture; chef An­gar Sver­ris­son; the cham­pagne bar; boats on an Ice­landic har­bour

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