Robb Report Singapore

New Growth

In London, chef Chantelle Nicholson looks to change the rules of fine dining – starting with how we consider the people who make it.

- Words: Vivian Song

THE WORD ‘APRICITY’, a 17thcentur­y term that once denoted the warmth of the winter sun, is now obsolete, grouped under ‘rare wintry words’ in Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. That means, should you suddenly hear it tossed around in conversati­on, it will most likely be in reference to chef Chantelle Nicholson’s new London restaurant, which she named for that same poetic notion.

For Nicholson, Apricity – both the word and her restaurant in the city’s upscale Mayfair neighbourh­ood – embodies regenerati­on and rejuvenati­on, concepts that apply not just to her low-waste, hyper-seasonal menu but also to the well-being of her staff. The restaurant has a strict 11pm curfew so that workers can safely take public transporta­tion home, is closed two days a week – an anomaly in the high-stakes, low-margin world of profession­al kitchens – and includes a service charge factored into menu prices to help generate a higher living wage for employees.

“When you start from scratch, you can carve out a positive way forward and look at how we can change things,” Nicholson says of her approach.

A “positive way forward” is also an apt descriptio­n of Nicholson’s menu, which is on-brand. After earning a reputation as one of the city’s most influentia­l champions of sustainabl­e dining – as chef at Tredwells, in Covent Garden, she earned the now-shuttered restaurant a Michelin Green Star in 2021 – Nicholson allowed herself to think big for her first solo project, which means that everything at Apricity has a backstory. A simple green salad is the product of a dozen small decisions. The lettuces are harvested one day before from a local vertical farm and delivered via electric vehicle; the wild garlic flowers are foraged; the sweet, tangy dehydrated tomatoes are from the Isle of Wight; and the rapeseed oil in the dressing is also British, as is the miso paste, made by an artisan in London.

“You might think it’s just a salad, but when you eat it all together, with all the textures and flavours, it takes people by surprise,” Nicholson says.

To meet her vision for creating a circular economy, design firm Object Space Place focused on reusing or recycling as much as possible from the former Duke Street shop, bringing in minimal new items and considerin­g the end-of-life cycle in the design elements. To wit: all chairs (made from recycled Coca-Cola bottles) and tables

in the eatery were salvaged from a nearby restaurant after it closed. The original staircase, which had to be torn down, was reused to create a feature wall, while the skirting boards were repurposed as bar fronts. “I wanted to see how far we could push the boat out and get things to be as forwardthi­nking and sustainabl­e as possible,” Nicholson explains.

While the menu is “veg-forward”, as Nicholson puts it, it isn’t meatless, a trend among many haute chefs who have made headlines for pledging to create planet-friendly fine-dining experience­s. (Chef Daniel Humm caused a stir last year when he eliminated meat at his New York restaurant Eleven Madison Park, while Dominique Crenn removed meat from the menus at her San Francisco restaurant­s in 2019.)

While she’s against factory-farmed meat, Nicholson – who grew up in New Zealand, where sheep and beef farming are backbones of the economy – never considered going meat-free. Instead, she believes in the principles of regenerati­ve agricultur­e, which focuses on biodiversi­ty and rehabilita­tion of soil health. Within this model, the manure produced by livestock plays an important role. At Apricity, regenerati­vely farmed, zerowaste meat may show up as Devon pork belly served with kale, mutton lamb and spiced chickpeas, caramelise­d whey and kimchi or braised ox tongue with vegetables.

Meat or no meat, chef Nicholson is here to transform.

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Left: chef Chantelle Nicholson.

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