It’s difficult to stand out from the crowd in the London restaurant scene, but a new restaurant at an iconic Chelsea location is keeping things fresh. Hans’ Bar & Grill, at the newly refurbished boutique hotel 11 Cadogan Gardens, launched this spring in the beautiful leafy neighbourhood around the corner from Sloane Square. This modern British restaurant is named for the English physician Sir Hans Sloane, who founded the Cadogan estate — and is widely credited for introducing cocoa to the United Kingdom.
At Hans’ helm is Adam England, a northern chef who hails from Manchester and aims to put a global twist on classic British dishes. We spoke to Adam about his adventures in cookery, from his start washing pots in Manchester to becoming a head chef at a top fine dining restaurant in London and what he does when he’s not cooking (spoiler: he’s still thinking about food).
On becoming a chef
My interest in cooking goes back 20 years I suppose. I started washing dishes in a restaurant in Manchester and moved onto starters and salads. I quite liked the vibe of the kitchen, to be honest – I didn’t really want to have an office job. I was only 15 and I was still in school, working part-time. I wasn’t very creative, obviously, as a young chef. It was more a case of learning all the time and I’d go home and cook for my mum and dad.
On cooking influences
Most of what you learn of the basics are French techniques. French cooking has always been, and still is, the backbone of British cooking. The first proper French restaurant I worked in was Le Pont de la Tour, just by Tower Bridge, which is quite iconic in London. But to be honest, I enjoy cooking a bit of everything. I quite like the flavours of Asian food and spices. I suppose I go through phases. Hans’ is quite good for that. It’s a blank canvas. It’s British cuisine, I will say, but it’s not exclusively so. We have a tuna tartare and some Asian flavours. We have an Italian dish – a ricotta gnocchi – on the menu. Everything is borrowed from all over the world.
On coming up with new dishes
I tend to check what’s in season, starting with a bit of protein. Then I just start playing around with flavours. We try to keep our descriptions quite vague so it gives us a bit of license to play around with it if we want to change our minds with the way we do it, or the way we present it. On the menu at the moment there’s a dish where we’ve just said: “Quail. Sweet corn. Charred Onion.” As long as those key flavours are there, it could be a sweet corn puree or scorched baby corn. We always try to tweak it. We designate whole days to development. We’ll get a few things in and we’ll have a play with them. But when we get something we’re happy with, we’re not happy with it for long. It tends to evolve!
On his favourite dish on the menu
We have a salmon dish which I did for the cook-off, actually, when I got the job at Hans’. To be honest, I’m not even a big fish eater, but I’m happy with this one. We poach the fish sous vide so it’s exactly the same every time: perfectly cooked, pink in the middle. We blowtorch it to give it a bit of bitterness; a bit of colour. It’s served with goat curd, pressed cucumbers and oyster leaves. The dish is just so light and a bit different as well. Take the oyster leaves: they taste exactly like oysters, but without the texture.
On the legacy of Hans Sloane and the influence of cocoa on the menu
The menu is fairly cocoa-inspired. We have a hot chocolate menu and I’ve got a couple of chocolate desserts on the menu. I’ve got a warm chocolate fondant, which is quite luxurious, melt-in-the-middle gooey chocolate. There’s a salted caramel chocolate pot. We’re also going to re-launch our afternoon tea over the next couple of months. I’ve been in meetings with our tea supplier and they do a chocolate brownie tea that’s quite delicious. They do rhubarb and custard ones, lots of floral blends. I’m a strong-Yorkshire-tea-with-a-splash-of-milk kind of guy, generally, but these were all amazing!
“We’re just trying to offer up a really decent local neighbourhood restaurant that people are happy to travel to as well. The food is still fine dining quality, but in a more relaxed environment.”
On his vision for Hans’
Essentially it’s a neighbourhood restaurant. We want to be smashed breakfast, lunch and dinner every single day, so we don’t want it to be too complicated. We’re just trying to offer up a really decent local neighbourhood restaurant that people are happy to travel to as well. The food is still fine dining quality, but in a more relaxed environment.
On dining out
I don’t get to eat out often anymore, because I’ve got a two-year-old, but generally I just like good simple cooking — places like Holborn Dining Room or Berners Tavern. Often when my girlfriend and I go out to eat, we go to this lovely little Vietnamese place down the road from us. When I’m not in the kitchen, I tend to be jotting down ideas. I carry a little notebook around with me everywhere, because sometimes things just pop into my head and I’m likely to forget them, so I’ll write them down and then I’ll send a message to the chefs’ group chat and say “I’ve got a brainwave. Try this,” or “Order me one of these for Tuesday. I’ve got an idea.”