Eat this: Scully

Former Nopi chef opens his passion project, pushing the boundaries of food with influences from Asia, the Middle East, Venezuela and South Africa.

9 March 2018
fermentedfree-fromplant-basedrestaurant openingrestaurantsseasonal
  • The Gist: Eggplant sambal meets kumquat umeboshi at this tribute to world cuisines
  • The Chef: Ramael Scully
  • Location: 4 St James's Market, London SW1Y 4QU
  • Food in 5 words: Continents collide in stylish experimentation
  • See more:

How did we get here?

The former head chef of Nopi, Ramael Scully has opened his own restaurant with the financial backing of the Ottolenghi family. Influences from his childhood and travels bring a range of eclectic choices to the menu. Scully draws on his Malaysian childhood, the start of his career in Sydney, his travels around Scandinavia and the Middle East, plus two years spent working in Russia.

“I wanted a restaurant I could change the menu regularly, cook the flavours I love and create the ultimate pantry,” Scully tells Food Spark with palpable excitement. “I always think it’s about the pantry that makes the dishes, not the other way around.

“When you come for dinner, I really want to make your taste buds think and try and make you excited about things you never thought you would eat. Like the new dessert, which is pink peppercorn grapefruit sorbet and caramelised chocolate – if you have it all in one it bite it works.

“It’s one of those restaurants that can range from Middle Eastern dishes to Asian culture, to influence from French techniques, to Spanish influence.”

What’s different about it?

Scully’s exploration of unusual ingredients and cooking techniques. He is also a big fan of fermenting and pickling, and when guests enter the restaurant they are greeted with wooden shelves storing an array of brightly coloured jars of pickles, syrups, shrubs, preserves, fermented fruit and vegetables.

But it’s also his focus on what can make a dish pop – and it’s not the protein. He says you know what mackerel, beef or lamb goes with, but for him the creativity comes from focusing on the ingredients behind it to develop a dish.

“With all the chefs I got trained with they would just pick the meat or the piece of fish and then work around the dish,” he says. “I usually pick the little things, so right now I’m pickling kumquats and making umeboshi kumquats. I’m salting the kumquats and it takes about three or six months, but I know when summer comes it’s nice to make a great kumquat salsa with a nice piece of quail.”

This approach is also Scully’s way of keeping seasonality fresh, as well as adding layers of flavours and originality to his dishes.

And while the menu is very on trend, with a lot of it gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan and vegetarian friendly meals, Scully says these things have been on his mind for a long time, ever since he met Ottolenghi 10 years ago.

“He woke me up by saying, ‘To create a great vegetable dish, it’s even harder [than meat] to make it look sexy and taste good,’” he says.

“Any chef can make a good beef and lamb dish and good octopus and mackerel dish, but to do a great tasting vegetable dish is harder.”

You’ve got to try… 

A staple of the menu: puffed beef tendons, Kilpatrick and oyster mayo. Kilpatrick oysters involve using freshly shucked oysters with crispy bacon, Worcestershire sauce and cheese.

“I said it would be nice to have a staple dish that people always remember you when you come back. So when we opened Nopi we had the blue cheesecake, and I remember in the second year we took it off for a few months and I got non-stop hate emails,” he says laughing.

Scully’s dish uses a little-seen cut of meat – the beef tendons are the small calf muscle of a cow and are unusual for Western butchers, but in Malay culture they braise it for hours with ginger, cloves and chicken stock and then fry it up.

His dish is slow-cooked for hours, pureed into the “ultimate baby food,” frozen, thinly sliced and then dehydrated. It takes about five days preparation before it ends up on the menu.

Then there’s his take on the arepa, which is described on the menu as a crispy corn biscuit with eggplant sambal. And right on trend is the sambal – a hot sauce popular in South-East Asia, made with a variety of chilli peppers, shrimp pasta, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, lime juice and vinegar.

“We changed the recipe and use frozen corn, and we have used a bit of koji, which is short-grain rice that has grown spores on it. It’s the stuff that you make miso, saki and soy sauce with; it’s the mother of it – you need that to start the fermentation,” he says.

“I’ve bought a lot of mould and spores and have an incubator downstairs, so we then take spores from koji rice and blitz it in water and salt for 10 days and put it with corn and it gives it a natural umami flavour.”

Sparkie also likes….

For the vegans, the carrot and beetroot jerkies that comes with cashew nut cheese. Inspired by South African biltong and Scandinavian jerkies, it’s a good alternative snack to beef and can be enjoyed with a cocktail.

“We use long carrots and all the offcuts from the carrots make a juice, which cooks the carrots. We then put it in a dehydrator and use sour berries with natural sugar to glaze it. It takes about six hours to dehydrate, and while it’s dehydrating we are twisting the carrot sticks like liquorice,” explains Scully.

“For the beetroot jerky, we use baby beetroots which are cooking in their own juices. We reduce the juice with aniseed, leave it in the dehydrator, and we’re glazing it up and scratching the beetroot so it gets that jerky texture.”

Go if…

You want to see experimentation in its element and to try some exciting foods.

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