Five minutes with Alex Reynolds
Alex Reynolds, who grew up in the south of France, is chef-owner at breezy and relaxed Eline, in London’s Hoxton, with his partner Maria. The restaurant is named after Alex’s French grandmother and the menu is founded in classical French cooking, changing regularly with the seasons. We caught up with Alex to find out more about the menu, his favourite ingredients and how his grandmother influenced his love of cooking.
What’s your very first memory of food?
My father used to make a rather lovely bowl of spaghetti topped with a smiley face drawn in ketchup. Lots of pepper. Lots of cheddar. I still make it about once every three years!
What’s the one dish you couldn’t live without?
I have a soft addiction to fry-ups. When I was a little younger and working very long hours I’d have a fry-up every day when I got into work, and I enjoyed every one of them.
What menu item at Eline are you currently most excited about?
We have a pumpkin and clam dish that I’m pleased with. The pumpkin is totally burnt on the outside, giving a bonfire chestnut flavour. The clams come in a rich white wine chicken sauce that’s finished with all the clam cooking juices too. It’s decadent but the star of the dish is the pumpkin.
What do you do to relax?
Running a restaurant is demanding so I barely find any time to relax. Sundays become special because of this. The restaurant is shut. No emails come. My wife and I go for a roast, then relax at home on the sofa for the rest of the day. Bliss.
Your restaurant is named after your grandma. What influence has she had on your relationship to food?
Whenever I went to visit my grandmother in Paris she would always take me out to eat. We visited all the old French brasseries and I would love ordering everything I could. When I was six years old I loved ordering the seafood platter and by eight I’d get very excited if a menu had snails or brain on it. It used to make the waiters laugh but I’m very grateful my grandmother indulged me like that. It gave me a real foundation for appreciating good food later on in life.
Is there a British dish you think everyone in the world should know about?
The Sunday roast is something of an institution and even the fine dining places like to serve one up for special occasions. If we have friends from other countries come to visit, I always tell them they need to go and have one, to get the full British experience.
What’s been your ingredient highlight from your suppliers at Eline?
The lamb on our menu comes from Sophie Arlott in Lincolnshire, who rears sheep. She’s won awards with her lamb. The sheep are a little smaller than most, but the Lavinton breed she’s ended up with is the most tender and flavourful lamb I’ve ever tried.
What ingredient would you take to a desert island with you?
Butter. I’m not sure what food I would find there but it would probably taste better fried in beurre noisette or drowned in a beurre blanc.
You can have a one-off dinner party on your island… Who would you invite?
It really depends on what equipment I have and what ingredients I can lay my hands on. If there’s somehow a fully equipped kitchen, along with pastures of cattle and fields of vegetables, I’d have all my friends and family. If it was just bugs, unknown leaves and no fire, maybe people who’ve left me unfair reviews?
Is there anything about the food industry that bugs you? We’d like to hear your thoughts…
Laziness. Kitchens are always operating on the smallest amount of staff possible. There’s always a lot of work to do and if everyone’s not pulling their weight, it’s a recipe for disaster.
What are your staff meals like at Eline?
Our staff meals are creative by necessity, as the ingredients come from all the trim and surplus from our regular menu. Sometimes it’s a fried rice with all the vegetables from the week and it’s delicious. But I can also recall a pasta made with a carrot trim purée that didn’t go down so well…
What is the best food experience you’ve had in the UK? Something that you think everyone should try before they die…
Hélène Darroze at the Connaught. My wife took me there for my birthday and it was top notch from start to finish. The service, ambience, decor and most importantly the food was all amazing. Plus the baba à l’armagnac is doused in your chosen vintage of armagnac. Exceptional.
Find out more about Eline.
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