MasterChef: The Professionals finalist Matthew Ryle named head chef of impending London restaurant, Maison François

Matthew Ryle

Matthew Ryle

Head Chef 4th February 2020

MasterChef: The Professionals finalist Matthew Ryle named head chef of impending London restaurant, Maison François

This spring Maison François, a brasserie and wine bar in the heart of St James’s, will open its doors for the very first time. Founded by François O’Neill with head chef Matthew Ryle helming the kitchen and Ed Wyand heading up the front of house team, Maison François will pay homage to the grand brasseries of Paris, Lyon and Alsace, whilst incorporating wider influences across the menu.

A deep love of traditional hospitality runs in François’ family. His father Hugh O’Neill co-founded Brasserie St. Quentin in 1980 with his cousin Quentin Crewe, who was the restaurant critic at the Evening Standard for almost twenty years. François took the reins at the Knightsbridge restaurant in 2008, transforming it into the much-loved Brompton Bar & Grill. He then went on to work with Juan Santa Cruz where he first met Ed, who had risen through the ranks to become head maître d’ at Scott’s before opening his own wine bar, Verden, in 2014. Maison François’ head chef Matthew honed his classical cooking skills at The Dorchester before becoming head chef at Isabel, and he reached the final of Masterchef: The Professionals in 2018.

Open from early morning to midnight, Maison François will focus on simplicity and seasonality, beginning first thing with breads and patisserie fresh from the in-house bakery. Throughout the day, guests can watch the chefs at work around the floating pass in the open kitchen. Service at Maison François dissolves the traditional distinction between front and back of house: drinks are mixed at a dispensary bar, giving the restaurant an open feel, while both chefs and waiters bring plates to tables. As thoughts turn to lunch, the team will shuck Loch Ryan oysters, and slice into rustic house terrines and homemade charcuterie such as Sabodet saucisson. The menu sees brasserie classics such as Reblochon gougères and oeufs mimosa with fresh herbs sit alongside handmade pasta dishes like ravioli dauphine, Comté and black pepper. Whole fish and cuts of meat will be cooked simply over the wood-fired grill, with dishes including John Dory and Amalfi lemon, and boudin noir, wood roasted peppers with Pedro Ximenez. Elsewhere on the menu, there are vegetable dishes made with seasonal produce sourced directly from the farm: Grelot onions, wild garlic and brown butter hollandaise; and pea fricassee, broad beans, gem lettuce, Riesling and tarragon. When it’s time for pudding, Maison François’s bespoke pudding trolley will wind its way through the tables, laden with classics such as layered Gateau Marjolaine, praline Paris-Brests and a daily selection of seasonal fruit tarts.

Maison François will keep brasserie DNA at its core, with a focus on impeccably-sourced ingredients, simply prepared. François and his team have scoured the country for farmers and producers to work with, using everything from line-caught eels from the cold waters of Lough Neagh to pork from Mangalitza pigs raised in the Welsh countryside.

Downstairs, wine-lovers will be drawn to the laid-back cool of Frank’s, Maison François’ rebellious sibling wine bar. There, the bar’s dedicated chef will serve slices of terrines and pâté en croûte, plates of charcuterie from a vintage slicer, glasses of wine from magnums and sherry poured directly from the cask. At Frank’s, guests can pair wines with bar snacks from the same region: vin jaune with Comté, for example. The wine list runs to over two hundred and fifty bottles - small production natural wines from off the beaten track will be listed alongside bottles and magnums from legendary French producers and powerhouse domaines. While most of these will be available upstairs, some bottles will be exclusive to Frank’s, and groups of up to sixteen can book the private glass-fronted wine room.

Interiors take their cues from Ricardo Bofill’s postmodern cement factory, with soaring 20ft-high ceilings hung with Art Deco chandeliers. The walls are softened by mirror-filled arches and sheer, off-white drapery, while the focal point of the dining room is a 1970s-inspired clock in patinated bronze, which sits above the open kitchen. Tables are separated by latticed glass and warm wood panels, and surrounded by curved banquettes upholstered in oatmeal linen. As visitors descend the intertwined staircase, the interiors at Frank’s bar become more industrial: the oak-panelled central bar is surrounded by whitewashed brick, with a polished concrete floor.

François says, “Maison François will be everything a brasserie should be – welcoming, fun and hospitable, with classic dishes made with the best seasonal produce we can get our hands on – whilst also ripping up the rulebook when it comes to service. We’ll show great respect for the legendary restaurants we admire, whilst marrying this heritage with our love for the dining culture of cities across France. Brasserie St. Quentin is a hard act to follow, but I’m looking forward to putting my own stamp on the brasserie tradition.”

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