Anna Haugh on what to expect from her flagship restaurant, Myrtle

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Having watched as she trained in Gualtiero Marchesi, Shane Osborn, Phil Howard and Gordon Ramsay's kitchens, the world has long awaited Anna Haugh's first solo venture. 

As humble as she is brimming with enthusiasm, Anna described the feeling before launching as something out of Jekyll and Hyde. “I’m like busy, busy, busy, stressed, stressed, stressed, in denial it’s about to open, and then I’m zen, so chill.”

anna haugh   myrtleThere’s been some buzz about why she decided to call her restaurant Myrtle, so we asked her to explain.

“You can really overthink [names of restaurants] and they can be really personal and have all these levels. But the truth is that if people don't remember the name of your business, it's a shit name," she said.

Since she lived in Paris, where she used to ride her moped past a restaurant called ‘La Bonne Table,’ Anna wanted to call hers The Good Table. She thought it was an amazing name until she realised that nobody else did.

“Nobody could ever remember the goddamn name. And I was like, 'this is a brilliant name, retards, work harder. Let's do this.' And then it was especially with friends or family like people who really did care. So then I was like, gotta scratch that name.”

Then came the idea for Myrtle. “I liked restaurants like Meddler, or you know like they have a name that's kind of associated with food but not called runner bean, you know what I mean?”

She liked the simplicity of it, and the fact that when you say it, you don’t think of a pizza chain or a burger joint. “You kind of imagine it’s going to be nice,” she said.

It was – as guessed by Hot Dinners - also inspired by chef Myrtle Allen, the first Irish woman to receive a Michelin star. Anna says she didn’t expect people in Britain to pick up on it, but it was a great thing in homage to her.

“She’s such a legend, such an incredible woman who just created all of her own greatness. She might have come from a couple of quid but she worked really hard to break stereotypes.”

Not Modern Irish

While the aim is to honour Irish produce, Anna said she refuses to call it a modern Irish restaurant.

Instead she’ll draw from her European – mostly French – training, cooking recipes she enjoys and building on her repertoire to create something very personal.

Her signature dish will be a braised beef boxty dumpling – an Irish staple of which there are many variants – made with eggs, milk, mashed potato, raw potato and flour.

“ I don't want people to be disappointed that I don't have bikes hanging from the ceiling and pictures of old Guinness signs. It's definitely going to be a bit more subtle in its Irishness.”

She plans on buying the whole cow for this from a farmer in the Burren, in the southwest of Ireland, where they practice an ancient farming technique which allows them to keep the herd outside year-round.

Most of her produce will be bought from small traders and cooperatives, though she isn’t excluding buying from outside of Ireland also. As it happens a lot of the artisan initiatives are led by women, typically farmers’ wives who’ve set out to supplement their income.

I don't want people to be disappointed that I don't have bikes hanging from the ceiling and pictures of old Guinness signs. It's definitely going to be a bit more subtle in its Irishness.”

Anna isn’t just using Irish produce because she’s homesick, she explained. Most people aren’t aware, but Ireland is abundant in high quality meat, cheese and vegetables.

“It’s not like people have tried this produce and gone ‘oh, that’s not good enough,’ It's that they haven't had a chance to get their hands on it,” she said.

She expects this to change within the next decade - perhaps the current political climate will improve England’s produce relationship with Ireland, she said.

crispy black pudding%2C apple and rosemary purée   myrtle
crispy black pudding, apple and
rosemary purée
from the menu at Myrtle

Why London, not Paris or Dublin?

Anna's passion for Ireland is rivalled only her love for London. And Paris. And basically everything.

She said:“It's very hard for me not to like something. I ever if I ever say I don't like a person or say someone's an asshole, that person is probably the worst person in the universe. It takes a lot for me not to like a person.”

Truth be told, she explained, she chose to stay in London because she fell in love with an Englishman.

“He trapped me here, I’m like Rapunzel with short hair and I’m not trapped in a tower I’m trapped in a restaurant.”

Though she is hoping to open on the second week of April, she doesn’t know when she’ll be launching, nor does she have a whole team lined up – because the realities of opening a restaurant mean that she couldn’t provide applicants with any certainty, and being a chef is whimsical enough as it is, she said.

Anna wants Myrtle to be the first of many restaurants, but everything will rest on its inaugural success.

“If you’ve got your maths wrong, you’ll be closed within the year,” she said.

“I have no intention of being closed within a year. In fact, I want to be one of those restaurants that when I've got my empire sparkling all over the place, I want it to still be open and to be the original. I want to still have this.”

Written by Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 4th March 2019

Anna Haugh on what to expect from her flagship restaurant, Myrtle