The chef Neil Rankin has been called many things in his years in the kitchen, though never an “egg pervert”, until this week. But, as he concedes, it’s a fair cop. Because the physics graduate chef, who made his name at The Smokehouse in Islington, London and The Princess of Shoreditch, in east London, is to open a new restaurant, Bad Egg, at the end of the month, dedicated almost entirely to eggs.
There will be North African baked eggs, there will be eggy recipes from Korea and Malaysia and Mexico. There will be hashes with Kimchi, chilli kievs and eggs baked in samba. It will be an egg-based bacchanal, although, he says, he will also offer other dishes for those not in the mood for the hens’ finest.
To say that this appears to be a volte face is a little bit like saying Mao was a bit naughty. Because when one thinks of Rankin, you think of hot coals and the smell of large slabs of pig and cow sizzling and charring on a grill. After a stint working in fine-dining restaurants, he took himself off to train under Perry Lang, barbecuing’s head honcho, before becoming head chef at Pitt Cue Co., known for its pulled pork. Rankin then opened the near-universally acclaimed Smokehouse, with its charcoal offset smoker and fabulously well-cooked meats. I am not saying he is a one-trick pony, because he isn’t, but when I personally think of him I think of a man with a meat cleaver in his hand.
Why choose eggs, though? Is it not a teensy bit restrictive? “They are not big and fatty and the cholesterol is good,” he says. “We wanted to create a restaurant that you could go to every day and eat in and not have a coronary. I mean, you could order the burger on the menu, if you wanted, but you don’t have to. Plus, they are versatile, easy to cook with and, of course, people everywhere, all over the world, eat them – which is not the case with all meats.”
But what is it that really attracts him, siren-like, to them? What makes him an “egg pervert”, as others have jokingly called him? Are eggs really enough to build most of a menu around? “In some ways, eggs are like butter, they have this texture that sort of claws around your taste buds, so all the rich flavour of them gets picked up – they are like a good-for-you beurre blanc,” he says. “The addition of this one little ingredient lifts a whole dish.”
He is quick to point out that it isn’t just some gimmick either. He won’t be using goose or ostrich eggs or any of that business. Just plain old hens’ eggs, albeit it free-range ones. After speaking to him for 10 minutes, I can feel myself longing for Eggs Benedict – I am drawn in by his eggy hymnal. Will he then, be offering cocktails paired to his egg dishes? “Well, not at the moment – but I suppose you never know.” Watch this egg-shaped space.Reuse content