My Life In Food: Nuno Mendes

 

Nuno Mendes is the chef/patron of the Michelin-starred Viajante in London and the man behind the acclaimed supper club, The Loft.

What are your most and least used pieces of kitchen kit?

I'm hardly ever without tweezers in the kitchen, believe it or not. I started using them a decade ago when I was working in Spain, to plate up. My dishes tend to be quite intricate, so I use them for handling delicate things like mini flowers or tiny sprigs of herbs. What we never use, despite it costing a fortune, is our rotary evaporator, which allows you to create distillates of certain flavours. You usually find them in science labs. It's not that I don't want to use it, it's just that it broke down almost immediately after we bought it.

If you had only £10 to spend on food, where would you spend it and on what?

If I could go anywhere in the world, I'd choose a ramen joint in Tokyo and have a big steaming bowl of noodles. Failing that, I'd go to east London's Broadway Market on a Saturday morning. It's really close to my house and they have some fantastic stalls. I can't go there and not have a Yum Bun, which is a massive soft bun packed with spiced meats.

What do you eat for comfort?

Oh, there are so many things. I love eating Iberico ham and good quality bread, probably a little too much, actually. But I also love sweet things. Lindt sea salt chocolate is a real pleasure. And I love Baileys ice cream, I can't get enough of it – it's a pleasure I'm suitably guilty about.

If you could only eat bread or potatoes for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Bread, probably. We make our own crispy flutes at Viajante, I love them smeared with loads of butter. Bacon and walnut bread is a bit of a love, too. I would, though, miss potatoes a fair bit. They are so versatile. And it would be a shame to never eat French fries.

What's your desert island recipe?

I think I'd take my scrambled egg recipe with me to my desert island. You gently mix four eggs with some salt, black pepper and a little milk in a mixing bowl. Now heat a saucepan with plenty of butter. Turn down the heat and add the eggs, swirling them around the pan with a wooden spoon. When it gets a little custardy, add grated 24-month-old parmesan, chives and tarragon and some pea greens. Then spoon it onto some olive-oil-toasted sourdough bread.

What's your favourite restaurant?

At the moment it is the Young Turks pop-up at the Ten Bells in London's Spitalfields. It's so fun and fresh. The communal tables are particularly great as you end up speaking to all sorts of people. And I've always liked James (Lowe, one of the Turks) and his cooking, right back from his time making Stinking Bishop and potatoes at St John Bread and Wine.

What's your favourite cookbook?

The books from Maugaritz in Spain (one of the best restaurants in the world). They are written so well, you feel you are experiencing the food as you read them. And the pictures are so wonderful.

Who taught you to cook?

My father taught me so much about food and cooking. He loved the food of Portugal, where I was born and brought up. He also had that rare ability to fully appreciate flavours and instinctively know how to pair them with each other.

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