Paul Tamburrini, The Honours Brasserie, Edinburgh

The  Staff Canteen
Paul Tamburrini is head chef at The Honours Brasserie, one of the top restaurants in Edinburgh. Paul’s first catering job was as an apprentice commis chef at Rogano in Glasgow. He has worked in some of the UK's most renowned Michelin star restaurants such as Marco Pierre White's L'Escargot Restaurant in London, Airds Hotel in Argyll as well as Martin Wishart's fine dining restaurant in Leith, Edinburgh. He was head chef at the relaunch of the restaurant at One Devonshire Garden in Glasgow where he started in 2006. In November 2010, Martin Wishart contacted Paul with a business idea and in January he bought the restaurant which used to be Tony’s Table. In February 2011 Martin and Paul announced that they would work together and by June that year Paul had left One Devonshire Gardens. Opened in 2011, The Honours Brasserie is known for its dishes where traditional French cuisine meets the flavours of the Scottish market.

Paul can give us an outline of name, concept, food style, operation; bit of an over view please Paul.

I'm working in partnership with Martin Wishart to open a new brasserie, an up market brasserie which is going to be called, "˜The Honours Brasserie' based in Edinburgh. It's going to be doing roughly about, 80 covers; it will have a bar area and we've pinched some of Martin's waiting staff to take over front of house and I'm taking some guys from One Devonshire Gardens; Martin's sous going to be part of the team, and that's great news.  We want to strip away the kind of fine dining aspect of the service and food and we believe that there's a market in Edinburgh that's going to be looking for this style of dining. Are you going to be lunch and dinner? Lunch and dinner, yes. Seven days a week? Initially, yes. Seven days a week to get us through the Festival and then after that we'll review it and then possibly look at opening, closing possibly on Sunday night and Monday, but depending on the business levels. And in terms of number of chefs in your team, how many are you going to have? Including myself there'll be 8 chefs. I think in the business there are going to be around 22 to 25 8 chefs is just initially. Martin is going to help support it and then we're possibly going to be taking up to ten chefs. Once we've got a good overview of the revenue and business levels that is. You use the phrase "˜up market brasserie', give us a kind of over view of what you would describe as an up market brasserie. Give us the type of food that you are going to be doing there, Paul. A lot of Scottish produce and we've got some wonderful artisan suppliers up here, from my side of the city, Glasgow and from Martin's side, Edinburgh. We're bringing that all together we're going to support Scottish suppliers as much as possible, British suppliers also, however, that isn't always possible, so we have to go maybe further afield to Italy and France. We're not going to shoot ourself in the foot and say we're going to have nothing out a 30 mile radius, will get the best we possibly can. Paul give us an example of a dish that might be on the menu? Martin's just back, from New York full of ideas  a chicken base dish with crispy cornflakes a lime soy beurre blanc. So there are not any boundaries. I'm not going to say we're not going to do daub of beef. However, we might do a slow braised rib of beef with pommes purées. Martin's got a cracker of a dish, it's a coq au vin, a slice of coq au vin we are using a St Brides chickens, which we poach it at 63c for four hours; presses it, slices it, trim it up, sous vides and then serve it with a typical coq au vin garnish. So there will be some twists on classic garnishes and I think the desserts will be, on along the same line It seems quite common at the moment that everyone's into sharing plates, tapas, are you going to have elements of that or is it still going to be a sort of formal starter, main, dessert? No. We are just putting the finishing touches on small bites,... It's very en vogue at the moment isn't it? Yes, small bites and aruccini, bowls, crispy baby squid with aioli and lime and Which is great to eat? Yes, it is,. ...because it creates debate and topic and interaction... Sharing is going to feature quite heavily, people can eat at their leisure. And, then we have olives, then we have crispy squid which we've touched on, pigs on toast which would be the pig's trotters en croute... There's so much scope it's incredible. People can have a few dishes, you can have it for the starter; there's oysters and lobsters, and we think it will take off in the city. What is your motivation to leave Glasgow then? You were at Hotel du Vin, you'd built up a good name there, you've worked in the Georgian Room and again, great reputation there. You've got quite a, quite a fine dining background, what's your motivation to leave that and come into Edinburgh; not your home city, and do maybe a food style that is not necessarily associated with you? Hotel du Vin, One Devonshire Gardens, absolutely fabulous and I had 12 wonderful guys who I kind of looked up to and admired. A gentleman called Robert Cook, who was the Chief Executive of the company and my direct boss was a chap called Keith Shearer, brilliant guys, who just let me do my job, in terms of, the rest of the Hotel du Vin group, they were given their menus to adhere to but I had freedom. You were pretty well left alone there weren't you? Yes, and, I admired them for that... But then equally you'd built a good reputation. Very much so, Not just me but my guys, one of the things I learnt quite well at One Devonshire was staff retention. And most of the guys I'm taking with me have been with me for four or five years; one or two that I can't take purely because of financial side, but you never know what is going to happen further down the line. In terms of going from Glasgow to Edinburgh; I did it for about four years initially; I stayed in Glasgow and I travelled to with Martin in Leith and also at the Balmoral prior to that. I'm a little bit older, I'm now going to be a partner in the business, I'm evolving I believe, my career's evolving. At the Hotel du Vin you are working very hard for someone else. This is different you have vested interest In the nicest possible way, yes. But what you have here is you have the opportunity to share in the success... It's not about money; but taking my career to the next level. When I worked for Martin in Leith all those years ago and I travelled every day from Glasgow, it was about three or four hours a day pinned in the traffic. It was in my opinion the best in Scotland at the time, so I did it. I left moved to Cameron House, which was pretty tired, it had lost its star in the January and I went in the September. One of the jobs I'd alawys wanted was One Devonshire and I've achieved that. One Devonshire has had a rough ride as well hasn't it? Andrew(Fairlie) was very successful , Gordon wasn't, and it went through a bit of a wilderness period didn't it? Yes, Hotel du Vin very much put it back on the map; they've put it back to being One Devonshire Gardens again. But Edinburgh just felt the right move, you know, me and Martin have talked it over for long enough and... Is this a concept that you could roll out? Yes ,it's could been branded, we don't want to run before we can walk though... Sure, of course. However the business concept is that we're going to, if it's successful a) take it to Glasgow because, as you know, I'm very passionate about Glasgow and I'd like to try and open a restaurant in my home city, potentially Newcastle, Aberdeen, places like that. So hopefully there is scope to develop the business and we've got some wonderful guys in the business who can help us achieve that. I guess it's quite good as well isn't it like you say for the team, for example, if you've got a really, really good number two and you know that you are going to open in Glasgow, either you say, "I'm going to go and run Glasgow because that's my neck of the woods and I leave you here as the head chef," or vice versa but it gives a breeding ground of opportunity to your team. Yes, you're right. Which is what Gordon Ramsey did wasn't it? He took on Angela, Mark and all those lieutenants  and placed them in key positions... I think it was always going to be my goal; I'm touching 40 next year, to achieve my dream which was either own or be part of my own restaurant. And I wouldn't just open a restaurant just for the sake of it, there's been a lot of research into this. Martin and I went to Danielle's in Singapore, which was just incredible and it let me see that you don't just have to be a fine dining chef; we had this foie gras burger which if you'd said to me four years ago, "What do you think about putting  a foie gras burger on the menu?" I'd have said, I'd have chosen my words very carefully, I'd have said, "Beat it!" Now there's a misperception in my mind that to get a star it has to be fine dining, but it doesn't at all. No, I was under that illusion... It's about good food isn't it? When I opened at Devonshire, everything was very extravagant, it was the good times, but over the last two or three years, you know, chefs' egos have had to be put to one side, we've had to be far more flexible offering more for less. A grill menu; then you would have your taster menus; so you had to be everything to everyone. And I think now in the current climate, chefs have had to lose that kind stubbornness. I've matured through it over the last couple of years and I think that will benefit the business. We've seen unfortunately Michael(Caines) close in Glasgow; we've talked to you about One Devonshire, Andrew Fairlie was successful there; Gordon wasn't, no disrespect to Gordon; Hotel du Vin went through a bit of a wilderness period; there are some good places to eat in Glasgow, the Sisters, is one that comes to mind. But Glasgow is really, really struggling in many, many people's opinion for fine dining, Why is that? I know there's not just one simple answer for that but you're a proud Glaswegian, you know, 45 minutes away you've got five Michelin star restaurants, Edinburgh is buzzing. I'm not saying Glasgow isn't buzzing but Edinburgh seems to be the food destination, why isn't Glasgow? Why is it not working there? I think a lot of it's to do with, not many chefs, independent chefs, possibly guys like myself or Martin, or whoever... So do you think if Martin picked up Leith and moved it to the West End of Glasgow it would work? No doubt about it. No doubt about it. No doubt about it. Okay. So why don't you then? I think a lot of the attraction for Edinburgh is the tourism. You've got the tourism, you've got the Festival. That can really help carry the business through,I'm not suggesting that Glasgow can maintain what Edinburgh has in terms of four or five Michelin star restaurants, but I do certainly think there is scope for two or three. If you were to take Martin's top kitchens or 21212, then I think we could be just as successful in Glasgow as we are in Edinburgh. No doubt about that. But you think they choose Edinburgh because there's a bigger audience there? Like you say, the Festival, the Fringe, you've got all of that tourist things... In my opinion. Of course, of course... And, you know, Martin's from Edinburgh. No, no, as I said, there's no simple answer to it, is there? No, no, I mean I heard a journalist saying that; Glasgow has to do more in terms of rates offerings to promote chefs to maybe open their own restaurant. I'm not sure what it's like compared to Edinburgh but that was one thing that was brought up last week actually by a journalist; but maybe there should be more done to encourage chefs to open up in Glasgow. Well listen, Paul, thank you very much for coming to see me. You're very welcome. I wish you every success for the new opening. Thank you. I can't wait to come and eat there when it's open, the next time I'm back in Scotland and thank you very, very much indeed. You're very welcome. If like Paul you want to be a head chef, have a look at our jobs board. 
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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 16th August 2011

Paul Tamburrini, The Honours Brasserie, Edinburgh