Meet East Anglia’s newest Michelin starred chef who says cooking’s what ‘turns him on’
PUBLISHED: 11:17 10 October 2018 | UPDATED: 15:14 10 October 2018
The Flitch of Bacon in north Essex has joined the starry heights of cooking with Morston Hall, The Neptune Inn and Midsummer House.
East Anglia has a brand new bright shiny Michelin star!
Just eight months since walking in the door at The Flitch of Bacon in Little Dunmow, north Essex (of which chef Daniel Clifford is a silent partner), experienced chef and owner Tim Allen has been given the seal of approval in the ‘big red book’. It’s the only starred establishment in Essex, and one of just four in East Anglia – the others being The Neptune Inn and Morston Hall in Norfolk, and Midsummer House, Cambridge.
There is no magic formula to conjure, or any boxes to tick in the rise to stardom. If you could come up with an algorithm showing what tickles the fancy of the Michelin judges, you’d be a very rich person indeed.
Tim says what it really boils down to is cooking the food you love, for the real customers who walk in your doors every day.
“It’s not about being fancy,” the chef admits. “We’ve got a proper bar menu as well as a la carte. We cater for £10, up to £50 – however people want to spend. I’d much rather people come in from the village and eat the bar once or twice a week – then they will come into the restaurant when they feel like it. We’re becoming a big part of the community and we offer a product for where we are.
“I don’t cook for the Michelin guide. As they tell you – nobody should be cooking for us, you’re cooking for your guests. But winning a star’s an amazing thing!”
Modesty becomes Tim, whose food is paradoxically simple and complex.
Take his signature dish of ham, egg and chips as an example. There are two outings at The Flitch for this classic. At the bar you’re looking at triple cooked chips, smoked duck egg, and the most outrageously decadent bacon ever. “We take the whole side of bacon, cook it for 62 hours in a maple reduction, and it’s pressed. When an order’s placed we trim the skin off and roast it to order with a mustard sauce.”
For £12, that’s a lot of mmm for your buck. “Yes,” laughs Tim, “it’s a proper plate of food and we’re trying to get that across. Just because we have a Michelin star doesn’t mean we won’t be good value!”
In the restaurant, the Flitch of Bacon dish gets the ‘cheffy’ treatment, pairing the porcine centrepiece with hand dived scallops from Scotland, maple vinegar across the bacon, an English rose gooseberry puree, compressed apple, puffed pork and wood sorrel to finish.
Everything has to be “delicious” the chef says, talking about some of his favourite dishes of the moment. They include a monkfish dish with coco de paimpol beans, gentleman’s relish and chicken wing roasted to order, served with a beurre noisette sauce, chicken juices and onion leaves braised overnight, separated into ‘petals’ and finished in their own sticky glaze, and halibut with brown shrimp, burnt leek and seaweed dashi broth, caviar and yuzu.
Puddings are a speciality (Tim spent years in the pastry sections of two-star restaurants). Think Pink Lady apple with caramelised sourdough ice cream, crispy puff pastry and maple reduction, or raspberry mousse with raspberry jelly, English raspberries and caramelised white chocolate sorbet.
You’ll be glad to hear that whether you order at the bar and sidle up to your food with a pint, or choose to luxuriate in the beautiful restaurant, it’s very likely the dish before you has been cooked by the man himself. Tim says he really cares about being in the kitchen, leading his small brigade, and getting every plate right.
“It’s a very personal restaurant for me. We’ve got our names above the door. People need to see you there cooking every day and like to know they’re coming in and getting food cooked by the person who owns the place! I’m 43 and I’ll take a step back at some point but I’m not ready for that yet. This is just the beginning. I want us to get it really established as the place to go. Now’s not the time to come out of the kitchen. Cooking’s what I get out of bed for. It’s what I like doing. It’s what turns me on. And people really appreciate it.”