Notting Hill Kitchen will be opening mid-June on Kensington Park Road, bringing with it a new and exciting take on modern Portuguese and Spanish cuisine, from award-wining Chef Luís Baena. We have had the opportunity to interview the man himself.
The Notting Hill Kitchen is said to bring Portuguese and Spanish cuisine to the table. Why did you want to bring these two cuisines together?
I should probably begin by saying that my style of cuisine is actually not the traditional cuisine of either country. My work has a personal stamp that reinterprets many traditional recipes but also distinguishes itself with the creation of new dishes.
Being from Portugal, it goes without saying that Portuguese cuisine forms an intrinsic part of my culinary makeup. My grandmother was the daughter of the Spanish ambassador so the food I grew up eating was always something of a hybrid.
In the case of Notting Hill Kitchen, we will be focusing on the Atlantic facing regions of these two countries, and from the Spanish side, in particular the Basque Country & Galicia.
Having worked for many years all over the world, you are clearly a highly experienced chef. How do you think food tastes have changed since you started? What got you so interested in food?
Up until the late 1970s, world cuisine was hugely influenced by the rules and flavours of French cuisine. At the start of the new decade, world cuisine began to liberate itself. Asia, and in particular Japan, influenced professional cuisine enormously (and has continued to do so).
In 1987/88, I was working with Paul Bocuse in his restaurant, St Honoré in Rio de Janeiro. We managed to combine French culinary technique, unrivaled at this time, with amazing local ingredients, to create dishes both unique & spectacular.
As to what got me so interested in food; I grew up in a large family, so mealtimes were the daily focal point. The dishes I was lucky enough to eat on a daily basis were as varied as they were delicious. Once you get a taste for it, it is hard to look back.
What do you feel is the most exciting thing about Notting Hill Kitchen?
The team & I have a whole range of things that we will be introducing that we hope the London public will find exciting. The Notting Hill Kitchen focuses on three core principles: dozens of varieties of seasonal Atlantic fish; black pig from Alentejo; and finally some amazing regional wines and drinks we feel are under-represented in the UK. We hope to bring that & much more into a relaxed & informal environment in which customers can have a great time.
What was it like working with top French chef Paul Bocuse?
The period I worked with Paul was a time where everything was done ‘in a great and French way’. The finest products had to be used, and it was inconceivable to compromise on anything. The experience was like a trigger being pulled that allowed me to reach professionalism that I never thought possible in my early days behind the stove.
The rigour & technique that were a prerequisite for any chef in those days, is something that we should all persevere and pass down to the next generation of chefs. Paul was a great master and teacher for me and for many others.
The décor is to be designed by Sandra Tarruella. Can you tell us more?
Sandra Tarruella is an award-winning designer based in Barcelona. We chose to work with her as she focuses on creating spaces that encourage emotion. In a career spanning more than 27 years with over 100 works, we believe Sandra will bring interesting ideas to the table that will compliment the concept at Notting Hill Kitchen, combining comfort with style.
Address: Notting Hill Kitchen, 92 Kensington Park Road, London, W11 2PN