'I wanted a space where we could be creative without being pigeon-holed'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 10th February 2020

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Edoardo Pellicano is the executive head chef of Mãos at the Blue Mountain School in Shoreditch, London.

 

The chef's career, albeit short, has nonetheless been brilliant.

The son of Southern Italian chef and a Singaporean food-lover, he has worked at renowned restaurants like Locanda Locatelli, trained with the likes of Leandro Carreira, spent time in the research and development team at Noma, and was part of the founding team at Portland alongside Merlin Labron-Johnson. 

 

Fast forward to 2018, the chef helped launch Mãos, a fine-dining, 16 seat, 16-course menu dining experience  set in a nineteenth century building on the cobbled streets of Shoreditch.

Owned by fashion retailer Hostem's James Brown, Mãos is located in The Blue Mountain School, a unique setting where artistic flair meets Michelin star food.

The dining area at Mãos

What are the advantages of having a single, 16- guest sitting a night?

Mãos has many particularities - not least that the experience is very much a hushed affair.

"There are so many restaurants that you go to now that - even before you book, you know the experience. You go on Instagram, you know every single dish that you're going to eat." 

"You have a perception of what the experience is going to be, and I think perceptions can be quite dangerous." 

Here, he said: "you have no idea what you're going to walk into."

"I kind of love that feeling. It's quite weird, I like looking at the guests' face when they come in and they walk into the kitchen and they're just like - what the hell is going on."

 

Homely hospitality 

Why Edoardo chose to go down this unconventional route - creating an experience instead of a restaurant in the typical sense of the word -  is, first and foremost, for level of interactivity it affords him with the guests. 

"I think there is that feeling that you're walking into our home." 

"Giving the guests the freedom to move around the space - having chats in the kitchen with the chefs - but also not forced." 

Relinquishing boundaries can lead to slip-ups - the chef recounts a night when an oven-full of lobster tails were burnt to a crisp after a guest leaned on the knob - but it goes with the format.

Recently, he said, "there was the one guest that had a few too many glasses of wine and wanted to help me blowtorch some bone marrow - I thought that probably wasn't a good idea." 

Thankfully, he said, "guests are generally quite respectful of what we do."

Where Edoardo likes to eat out

Redefining the status quo

Most of all, however, Edoardo relishes the freedom to experiment and push boundaries with the food at Mãos.

"To cook creatively with no limits, no bounds and just do whatever you want - it's hard to find a space where you can actually do that." 

Not one to let his style be pigeon-holed, Edoardo is glad that freedom is reflected in the food at Mãos. 

He admits to deriving pleasure from delivering a startling, novel experience to his guests - but, and this is crucial - without compromising on flavour.

"What excites me is also trying to find unusual combinations but making them tasty," he said. 

"Five years ago, the way I used to think about food is that it had to be super weird. Everything had to be weird, crazy in order for it to sell." 

"As interesting as that might be to a chef, when I was tasting this food, I was actually thinking: 'This isn't actually tasty. This is just weird." 

"I think that if you have that balance in your tasting menu, where you can have some creativity - a little bit of weirdness, little bit of a challenge, but having a balance is important." 

Guests, it would seem, are in tow. 

"It's so nice when people get it. When they say: 'it was challenging but then everything was just really tasty.' That is exactly what we're trying to do, so at least that's coming across correctly." 

Having earned a Michelin star in the 2020 guide, Edoardo has no plans to curtail his team's ambitions. With Mãos, he wants to push boundaries and redefine the restaurant dining experience with food (and wine) that is both innovative and delicious. 

"We're going to be aggressive about it. We want to get better, we want our service to be tighter, we want our cooking to be more precise." 

"I see so much potential in the space - I see this as just the beginning."

Blue Mountain School, Shoreditch

 

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 10th February 2020

'I wanted a space where we could be creative without being pigeon-holed'

IN ASSOCIATION WITH