Nick Grieves, Chef Owner, The Patricia

The  Staff Canteen

Nick Grieves is the chef-owner of The Patricia in Jesmond, Newcastle.

Nick didn’t intend to be a chef, he bought a pub in Durham called The Garden House as a business opportunity after graduating with a business degree and due to shortages in the kitchen, he found himself in there cooking. He has stayed in the kitchen ever since he is self-taught but worked at Fera and River Café before opening The Patricia six months ago.

The Staff Canteen spoke to Nick about his ingredient led dishes, making sure the restaurant is successful as a business rather before chasing accolades and how he felt when food critic Marina O'Loughlin reviewed The Patricia the second Friday it was open.

The Patricia, Nick Grieves

You never intended to be a chef, did you?

No, I bought The Garden House pub in Durham with my dad, a friend and his dad – I fell into the kitchen by accident when we didn’t have enough staff. I was always keen to cook at home but actually being in a working kitchen was a bit of reality check. I really enjoyed it though and never left!

What style of food were you cooking at the time?

It was pub food but we did a bar menu and an a la carte. It was a big pub so it was difficult to do the food I really wanted to do. You have to do the standard pub meals to please the masses but my heart was into more refined cooking.

Where did your love of more refined food come from then as you were self-taught in the pub for the first five years of your career?

It’s great being self-taught if you don’t have to worry about the business and you can do what you want but I wanted to learn more formally. I moved to London and worked at Fera for a while and then River Café. It was great but getting into it that late was hard for me, I was 29 and I’d always worked for myself.nick quote

Why did you think London was the right place to go?

I really loved Simon Rogan’s restaurants; I’d been to L’Enclume loads of times and Rogan and Co. but all my friends were like ‘you don’t want to work in a big kitchen, you won’t like it’ and I was adamant I would. Turned out I didn’t really like it! But it was good to see and I found a real appreciation for how a restaurant should run and how a kitchen should be run. The main thing I learnt though was buying the best products and it really changed my outlook on food – so it was definitely a positive experience.

I went to River Café next which I really enjoyed, it was more my style of food – simple with not too many techniques and following the seasons.

You’ve clearly taken two very different things from each experience?

Yeah, especially the way things are organised at Fera and the way everyone is trying to push to be the best that they can, and there were some really interesting techniques and ingredients you would never see anywhere else.

Info bar

Rising stars

Tom Anglesea at The Laughing Heart & Shaun Hurrell at Barrio Comida my good friends and two of the best cooks in the country.

Chris Eagle at Saltwater

Gary Dall at The Roxburgh

Josh and Vicky at Le Cochon Aveugle

Guilty pleasures

Really cheesy nachos with shit loads of jalapeños or supermarket breaded mushrooms with garlic mayo…

Top 5 restaurants

Noble Rot
Any St John’s (i know thats 6 buts its too hard!)

Favourite cookbook

Fergus Henderson - Complete Nose to Tail
Magnus Nilsson - Faviken
All River Cafe Books
Christian Puglisi - Relae
Sat Bains - Too Many Chiefs (I have a signed copy, beautiful looking book)

You spent a year and a half in London before heading back to the North East, why did you want to open your own restaurant and why Newcastle?

The restaurant is named after my gran because she helped me financially to get my own place because she knew I really wanted to do something on my own. Newcastle now, to five years ago, is completely different culinary-wise. There are a lot of good independent restaurants and I think people up here appreciate food more than like I said, five years ago. I wanted to do my own thing and cook my food. When this place came up I knew getting a restaurant in this location was perfect. We wanted to be a neighbourhood restaurant and we are right in a neighbourhood I know. Opening The Patricia in Jesmond was a bit of a risk but people seem to have taken it on board.

What is your style here at The Patricia?

It’s not typical of Newcastle food, they like potatoes on everything (laughing)! I think the restaurant, you either get it or you don’t and if you don’t then you really won’t like it. We focus on the substance rather than the style, we source the best ingredients we can and don’t worry too much about cost we just want the best.

The Patricia
The Patricia

Not necessarily local either, which some people may think is bad but if the product is made next door and it’s not as good as the same product in say Yorkshire I’m not going to buy it simply because it’s local. If it is the best then yes, of course, I’ll buy it. We get things from the Paris market and Milan but we do try to stay in the UK. All of our fish comes from Cornwall because for us it’s head and shoulders above anything you get from the North Sea.

Can you talk us through a few examples of dishes on the menu?

low res

Brussel sprouts, with onion

jam & Parmigiano Reggiano

We’ve got a great Cornish crab dish which we do with some tomatoes from Italy which are simply dressed with a tomato vinegar and some nasturtiums – it’s super fresh. There’s a dish people have really embraced which is Brussel sprouts, with onion jam at the bottom of the plate. The sprouts are pan roasted from raw and we also add a parmesan sauce. People seem to have got into it because they don’t like sprouts but then they try it and enjoy it.

The menu is as seasonal as possible, the Brussel sprouts are running out but there are some small ones coming in now; we have tried the dish with other seasonal ingredients but they just don’t seem to have the same impact. That’s the only dish which stays on the menu, everything else changes every week.

On a lunchtime, we do all small plates rather than snacks, starters, mains, desserts which is what we do at dinner. It works well and round here, lunch trade, there is no footfall at all. This gives people the option to come and have as much or as little as they want. I focus on the food being as fresh as possible as I hate going to a restaurant and leaving so full I can’t move.

Being self-taught and not being in the trade as many other chefs, where do you get your inspiration from for your dishes?

Simply the ingredients. Every Sunday we sit down and discuss what we will do the following week, what worked and what didn’t. I let the season tell me what goes together.

Do you have a favourite ingredient?

It used to be Jerusalem artichokes but I’ve gone off them. We are using a lot of different types of onions at the minute which I find interesting. We are using a vinegar called Minus 8 which makes everything really bright, in fact, vinegar is probably my favourite ingredient now I think about it.

You opened six months ago, has your food and the restaurant evolved in that time?

I think so. At the start, it was all a bit clunky and we were doing 15 covers for dinner but it was the hardest 15 I’ve ever done, it was horrible! Now we can do 60 on a Saturday and it’s fine. We never expected to be as busy as we have been.

Raw Mackerel low res
raw mackerel 

How did you feel about receiving a review by Marina O'Loughlin in The Guardian the second Friday you were open?

Well, I think she knew I had worked at Fera, and she had been to my pub years ago but it must have been crap as she didn’t review it (laughing)! She put a tweet up about being in Newcastle the week after but we didn’t realise she had already been. Not in a million years did I expect her to come here.

We had three weeks until the review came out after the let us know it was going in, to scrutinise everything we had done, so it was horrendous. But the review was great for us and I think without it we would have been struggling, it really snowballed.

What advice would you give to other chefs looking to open their own restaurant?

I’d definitely say do it but be prepared and try and do it on your own – don’t have too many partners. Make sure you have a clear business plan, know all your numbers and how much everything will actually cost not what you think it will cost. You can easily get blinded by wanting a certain oven or other equipment but you have to make sure everything is locked on for opening a restaurant business, it’s not just about what it looks like.

Make sure you look after your staff properly too, don’t work crazy hours – you want people to want to come to work, you don’t want zombies coming in. This ultimately means your end product is better and then everyone is happy.

What are your plans for The Patricia in the next five years?

Over the next year, we are going to focus on doing some more renovations and build the kitchen team. I’d like to open another place too in the next few years, I still feel there is a real opportunity in Newcastle to broaden the food scene. Business comes first, accolades would be great but if it doesn’t work as a business it’s pointless. It’s nice to be recognised and when people write nice things it makes it all worthwhile. As long as the customers are happy that is the main thing.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 4th May 2017

Nick Grieves, Chef Owner, The Patricia