Peter Lloyd, Spice Market, London

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th February 2013
"I want people to sit at the bar and see the things on the wall behind and ask questions. I want them to be intrigued by the vegetables or the herbs or the galangal or the fresh water chestnuts, rock chives, thai basil, the spices. It’s part of the experience at Spice Market." Peter Lloyd, executive chef at the W Hotel and Spice Market, speaks to Louise Thomas about his new raw food bar and making five-star street food Talk us through the menus at Spice Market: how many menus do you have on offer and how regularly do you change the menus? The menu is vast and broken up into the raw bar, starters, salads, soups, noodles and rice dishes, mains, meat, fish – there is quite a lot of variety on there. There are some dishes that have to stay on there as they are timeless and people will come back for them. It’s the same with our cocktail list, like the ginger margarita. Black pepper shrimp, chicken with kumquat; those dishes will stay on the menu. We try to keep in with the seasons: when we get into the summer we will lighten the dishes and in the winter we will have things like crispy pork belly going on. Spice Market is centred on southeast Asian food: how do you go about sourcing produce to bring those flavours to London and still retain the authenticity of the dishes you are serving? The inspiration and creation of Spice Market came from Jean-Georges who worked in southeast Asia for years and I travel a lot to the region. When I am there I look at the street food on offer; I'm curious about it and it's my job to think how I can make it a five-star, restaurant dish. Our food at Spice Market is original but it's not authentic. The black pepper shrimp dish is inspired from the Singapore black pepper crab, but we've used shrimps, given it a twist with sweet, sticky pineapple to balance the black pepper. You eat the shrimp and it has the crunch from the jicama and the pea shoots; once you have the heat coming through from the black pepper, you take this little sun-dried cube of pineapple, which soothes everything. Throughout the whole menu we have a real balance of those flavours: sweet, sour, salt, savoury and umami. That’s what I love about this style of food: you’ve got all these elements to try and balance. It becomes a lot more complex to try and create these dishes. You’re going on study trips to Singapore and Thailand: how do these trips influence dishes and concepts at Spice Market and what elements are you most keen to bring back to London? Being a chef and travelling, I’m always working in my head. I also work closely with Chef Anthony Ricco, the Chef de Cuisine of Spice Market in New York; we just did a twist on a classic Malaysian beef Rang Nam. In Malaysia, they don’t really understand the quality of the cuts they are using, the best way to use the meat to get the most out of it. A beef Rang Nam is like a beef stew curry, but how can I make that work in my restaurant? I love ox cheeks, so we’ll use them; we’ll do the marinade, leave it overnight, then cook the ox cheeks at 80°C for three hours so they’re at their optimum, so they’re so delicate and juicy. Beef Rang Nam works well with apple and hickory, so we have a celeriac purée and it’s garnished with jicama batons, toasted coconut – break it down a bit. I’ve had Malaysian people eat it; it may not be what they’re used to, but it is recognisable as a beef Rang Nam. You have now launched the raw bar: can you tell us more about this concept and how it affects what you do in the kitchen? We first looked at opening a sushi bar, but we didn’t want to stray too near to the Japanese market as there are a lot of places that do that incredibly well already. We wanted to be different and true to the original concept of Spice Market. To be a specific raw bar you end up thinking of Bibendum for their oysters, Sheekeys, who have a more traditional offering. Roka and Zuma have raw food on the menu, but they don't have a feature in their restaurant where you can come to eat specifically raw food. In the raw bar we have meat, fish, vegetable dishes. We’ve gone for the best quality produce: whether it’s the tuna, the hamachi, the salmon, even the steak tartare. Everything has inspiration from different elements of southeast Asia. Do you feel there is longevity in the raw food movement or is this a passing trend? Do you feel customers would chose to come here on a regular basis, as they would a more traditional restaurant? I think by offering south eastern Asian food, you put yourself in a smaller minority than say a steakhouse, but I think everyone’s becoming much more aware of what they’re eating, sustainability and sourceability. The menu has delicacies on it if you want a glamorous evening. I think it will appeal more to the female diners who want to eat something lighter, but something that’s still fresh and tasty. All of those different dressings that bring the dishes together are subtle, but they leave a taste sensation in your mouth – there’s nothing bland going on there. The shaved tuna dish with coconut, lime, lemon grass is refreshing, it almost feels cleansing. I feel healthy after eating our food. I think it does have longevity and I think we’re at the front of leading the raw bar concept. Yes, it’s a health conscious menu, but first and foremost it’s a flavoursome menu, a fresh menu. Jean-Georges Vongerichten developed the concept for Spice Market: what involvement does he have in the kitchen and menus today and who is responsible for developing new dishes and ideas? Jean-Georges is still a part of the enterprise and he’s a consultant for us now. He came over last summer and was part of the expedition to Taste of London. Putting new dishes on the menu is down to the different executive chefs in the Culinary Concept group. A dish will be tasted by the chefs and if it’s right and fits with the concept it goes on the menu. We’re encouraged more and more to develop new dishes and have them on as specials, so when customers come in they know they can have our classic, signature dishes, but also try some of our own creations and inspirations too. Can you tell us more about the process of creating a dish? How long is the process from the concept to putting it in front of the customer? Spice Market has been going for a number of years now and the main core dishes of the menu are now classic dishes. Our customers want to know they can have the same dishes in London, New York, Qatar. We’ve been working recently on a classic Vietnamese Pho, which is a beef noodle soup. We’re still using the same street food concept to make the broth but we’re looking at clarifying the broth, make it like a consommé, so it’s a pure broth and serving it in a teapot. The noodles and garnish, the raw slices of beef will be layered in the bowl. Should we use a Kobe beef? What’s the cost element of that? Is it affordable or will customers think it’s too expensive? Shall we seal the beef first? There’s all these different questions that come into putting that dish together and we’ll try all of them. Once I’m satisfied with where we are with the dish it will go in front of the customer. We’ve taken a classic, street food dish, added a five-star twist to it, we’ve added some theatre and interaction with the waiters and the customers. Overall, it will take a week from the concept of Vietnamese beef Pho to putting it on as a special. What’s your signature dish and what’s your best selling dish. How long have these dishes been on the menu? The black pepper shrimp with sun-dried pineapple, jicama and pea shoots is probably our most recognisable dish now, particularly in London. We won second place for the Best Taste of London for that dish and I’ve cooked that dish on Saturday Kitchen – it’s a phenomenal dish. The best-selling dish is the chicken samosas with coriander yogurt; it’s so simple, but you will remember it as the best samosa you will have ever had. As well as looking after Spice Market, in your role as for the Leicester Square W Hotel you also look after the other food outlets here. As a business how do you go about managing your food costs? How do you cost your menu? It’s a very complex set up here: we’ve got Spice Market and the W operation, which are two separate businesses and I’m in the middle of the two. I’m employed by Culinary Concepts and we manage the food for the W, who have a completely different brief. I’ve been cooking professionally for 21 years; I have the experience of British, French, Italian, Spanish cooking, so I can fit into any concept they want and still be true to what I’m doing at Spice Market. In the W, they want more of a British influence. F&B is comparatively smaller in there, especially when compared to Spice Market. It’s much more British in the W: a twist on British classics like shepherd’s pie and fish and chips. What’s your favourite food season and why? Spring. Spring lamb – it doesn’t get better than that for me.
The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 12th February 2013

Peter Lloyd, Spice Market, London