Simon Whiteside is co-owner and head chef of new-school fish and chip restaurant Hook with branches in Camden and Brixton. Sustainability is key and Hook only use what the small boats in Cornwall bring in – anything from red gurnard to megrim sole and everything in between. He shares the secret to the light-as-air tempura they use in place of traditional batter.
*At Hook we’re making fish and chips lighter and more exciting by taking inspiration and techniques from around the world. After a lot of research and trial and error with different batters we found tempura the best. It’s light and it takes on flavours really well without holding onto the oil as much so you get a far less greasy product.
*It’s easy to make. For a basic tempura all you need is tempura flour, sparkling water and salt – around 100g tempura flour to 100ml sparkling water and a pinch of salt. Whisk together, don’t worry about a few small lumps, they won’t hurt. Different brands vary slightly so if it’s too watery add more flour and too thick add more water. Aim for the consistency of double cream.
*One of the most important things is to use it fresh as it doesn’t keep for very long. We make fresh batches 2-3 times a day.
*Once you’ve made a basic tempura the fun can begin! Add anything you want to the mix: chopped herbs, spices and some citrus fruit works really well. Or swap the sparkling water for beer or other carbonated drinks. Our lemon and basil tempura is on the menu permanently but we have also tried Guinness and squid ink, lime mint and wasabi and even a champagne tempura. http://www.hookrestaurants.com/
Meet the chef: Simon Whiteside
Simon Whiteside spent 10 years in fine dining kitchens all over Europe, working alongside top chefs such as Raymond Blanc, Robin Gill and Fernando Stovell. He then decided to take the influence and technique he gained from these experiences and apply them to one humble dish: fish and chips, setting up Hook, which has grown from a market stall in Dublin to two successful London restaurants.
The best thing on my menu in Brixton is the jerk panko hake with our house chipotle sauce. People are going crazy for it! We had one local guy come in four days in a row for it!
In my fridge there’s always chorizo, cheese, Guinness and Ballymaloe relish imported from back home in Dublin.
My favorite 15-minute supper to make at home is squid and chorizo linguine. Its so quick and easy! For 2 (hungry) people: Slice 1/3 of a chorizo into a pan with olive oil, add garlic, chill flakes and 3 thinly sliced small squid and cook for 3 minutes. Add enough good quality passata to cover the bottom of the pan and bring to the heat. Season and stir through cooked linguine (roughly 250g) and finish with some chopped basil and pecorino.
A food/restaurant trend I see sticking around or being the next big thing is small plates.I recently ate in Kricket which is an Indian small plates pop-up in Brixton and ended up ordering the whole menu!
My guilty pleasure is potato waffles and fried eggs with ketchup, it’s an old favourite from my childhood that I just can’t shake.
A fellow chef I admire is Robin Gill, whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with on and off throughout my career. He has definitely had a big influence on the way I look at flavours and textures. You only need to eat in one of his Clapham restaurants The Dairy or The Manor or his new place Paradise Garage in Bethnal Green to know what I’m talking about.
I love eating out at Brickwood in Balham. I eat there a lot, I love the walnut and banana bread with espresso butter.
A place I love that not many people know about is…The Deli in Clapham, (newly opened by the people behind The Dairy). It’s my favourite place for lunch, the sourdough is made out the back and is the best there is. They also smoke, cure and pickle everything on site, oh and they make their own bone marrow butter. What more do you want!
If you gave me a tenner I‘d spend it on ‘The Convict’ in M1lk Balham. It’s only £9 and it’s the best breakfast you will ever eat.