10 minutes with: Freddy Bird, executive chef, Lido Bristol and The Thames Lido

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th October 2017

Freddy Bird is the mastermind behind the Lido Bristol, which has won the chef acclaim for his unique cooking style, and the soon to open The Thames Lido in Reading. Both focus heavily on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine with a relaxed, laid back vibe.

The Staff Canteen caught up with Freddy to chat about the launch of The Thames Lido, how the chef shortage is affecting his business empire and what advice he would give to those looking to open more than one restaurant.

The Thames Lido
The Thames Lido

The Thames Lido project has been in the works for more than three and half years but with a little over a week to go before the grand unveiling all hands are on deck to everything set up in time and to add those all-important finishing touches.
“It’s all coming together, I’ve literally just been putting out all of our crockery," Freddy reassures us when we caught up with him.

Set on the site of the historical Kings Meadow baths in Reading, the 120 cover restaurant will be nestled in between the pool and The river Thames when the spa come restaurant opens on October 23, 2017. Following in the same suit as sister restaurant, Lido Bristol, the new restaurant will reflect Freddy’s distinct style of cooking over fire to create unpretentious plates of food full of flavour and uniqueness.

“It’s simplicity of cooking and it feels like a more laid back, natural approach to food which ties in very well with the whole Lido thing here which is very much about the elements, the water and the outdoors. I think when we’re cooking over fire and serving food, that lends itself very well to sharing and that’s very much what we’re all about here.”

Highlights from the menu will include grilled figs with date molasses and burrata flatbread; ox cheek; charcoal grilled chicken to share with sourdough raisin and pine nut salad and wood fire scallops.

Freddy Bird’s Hops ‘n’ Honey barbequed beef ribs
Hops ‘n’ Honey barbequed beef ribs

Famed for his love of foraging, the Bristolian chef can no longer put in as much time as he used to but reassures us that picking his own ingredients is still of the utmost importance for him and his restaurants.

“I’m very lucky that we have a forager who does it all for us now.”

He continued: “I think when you forage you recognise the importance of making sure you continue to take foraged stuff because nothing tastes as good as a mushroom that you have picked yourself.”

Dividing his time between Lido Bristol and The Thames Lido, Freddy has spent the last two years training his head chef to take the reins of the new kitchen in Reading when he’s not around.

“Hopefully he’s a carbon copy of me, whether that’s a good thing or not I don’t know but at least that’s what I’m after!”

However, having a head chef in place is the least of his worries as Freddy tells us he’s still looking for more chefs to come on board citing the chef shortage as one of the main reasons behind the lack thereof.

“You can feel the chef shortage here more than most places, we very rarely had a problem in Bristol until recently but at Reading it seems to be a massive issue," Freddy explains.

Freddy Bird
Freddy Bird

Freddy’s career began working for one of the industry’s most recognised chefs of his time, the Michelin-starred Phil Howard at his former two Michelin starred restaurant, The Square. This was followed by a stint at Moro under Sam and Sam Clark. It was here that Freddy’s true passion for Moorish food and cooking over fire began to develop.

After returning to Bristol he met Arne Ringer who gave him the opportunity to establish a bespoke restaurant in the rejuvenated Clifton Victorian baths which includes an outdoors swimming pool, spa, restaurant, bar and café.
With the launch of the Lido Bristol in 2008, Freddy now has a further two establishments to his name; The floating restaurant,

The Glass Boat, which serves European cuisine and Three Brothers Burgers, a burger and hot dog joint that also serves craft beers and ciders, both situated in Bristol. With the opening of his forth establishment next week Freddy has become somewhat of an entrepreneur over the past few years. So, what advice would the award winning chef give to those looking to follow in his steps?

“Don’t plan on having a life!” He joked.

But in all seriousness, Freddy says putting your staff first is the most important aspect, at least for him.

“I keep chefs for about 7-8 years and that makes your life a lot easier.”

He continued: “I think if you pay people well and look after them well they stick around and if you want to be able to run multiple sites and do it well it’s all about looking after your crew and then you don’t have so many inconsistencies because they stay with you and don’t need to be trained.”

Freddy Bird
Freddy Bird

Having been acknowledged within the industry for his passion for ingredients and attention to detail, Freddy and his restaurant empire have been awarded multiple accolades including a listing in The Observer Food Monthly for the last five years and the Sunday Times Best 100 restaurants. So, with a new restaurant on the horizon it’s hard not to think about acknowledgements but Freddy insists the main reason he cooks is to make people happy.

“It’s nice to get accolades, of course it is but we only ever cook for our customers and our own pleasure and to have fun.”

Before we say our goodbyes we ask Freddy about future plans to which he leaves us with: “To keep doing what we’re doing and continue to have fun doing it, I spend 70 hours a week here and all I care about is making sure I’m having a good time.”

The Thames Lido Restaurant & Spa is due to open on Monday, October 23, 2017.

By Michael Parker

@canteenparker

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th October 2017

10 minutes with: Freddy Bird, executive chef, Lido Bristol and The Thames Lido