If anyone knows fabulous French fare, it’s Joël Antunes. Having return to London after more than ten years of globetrotting, the highly acclaimed chef is now heading up Brasserie Joel at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London hotel; it is here that he dazzles with a mouthwatering menu of bistro favourites, with dishes such as steak tartare, pork terrine and hand-dived scallops all making an appearance on the small but perfectly formed menu. It was his founding of Michelin-starred Les Saveurs back in the 1990s that really made Joel’s name, and it’s good to see that he hasn’t lost his Midas touch when it comes to cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Hg2 managed to steal Joel away long enough to answer some suitably hedonistic questions.
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Are you a hedonist? Yes, when I was younger I partied all the time… you have to be wild when you’re young or you miss out. When I worked in Bangkok I spent my entire first salary on partying in one night!
There are plenty of chefs out there; what marks you out from the culinary crowd? I’ve worked in Asia, Africa, the US, Europe… most of the continents. I bring all those influences to my food.
How would you describe your signature style, and indeed your restaurant? My food consists of good ingredients done simply. I always remember the food from my grandparents, which was very traditional Spanish and French.
What makes London a good fit for you, your cooking and your restaurant? London is where I made my name in the 90s. Londoners, in particular, appreciate good food – they put me where I am, and now I have something to give back.
How would you describe London’s currently culinary scene, and has it shifted in recent years? London used to be mostly French. Now there are so many great English chefs who have found their own style. I love what Dimitri is doing at Les Deux Salons, and also the Galvins.
Where do you see it going in the next couple of years? More and more young Brits and Europeans are coming to the fore. Most Europeans speak English, so London is a natural place for them to gravitate towards. I think we’ll also see more of a homier style, and even more of a focus on local produce.
In London, what’s your favourite…
Hotel? The Halkin; it’s small and boutique, which is the style I prefer.
Restaurant (aside from your own)? Arbutus or Les Deux Salons.
Bar? The Connaught.
Club? I don’t go to clubs any more.
Spa? I never go to spas!
Cultural must-see? Just walking in London‘s parks, they’re so beautiful.
If you weren’t in London and weren’t a chef, where you be and what would you be doing? I’d be living in Madagascar growing vanilla pods… I’ve been to 106 places in the world, and Madagascar is my favourite.
What’s next for you? I’m planning a trip for the summer with some chef friends from Singapore… we’ll be touring Tibet on motorbikes for a month. I can’t wait!