Jeff Galvin in the hot seat

We cornered the celebrity chef about plans to open in Dubai

Interview

You’re here without Chris, do your cooking styles differ?
Our characters are very similar, and our cooking style is one, really. We always say, if there was a Mr and Mrs cooking show, we’d win it hands down.

Your style is dubbed ‘comfort food for grown ups’. Is it?
Yeah, I think that’s a compliment. We cook the food we love to eat ourselves. We’re madly passionate about finding the best ingredients. If you’ve got a great piece of fish, I don’t want to change what it is. It’s accessible, not challenging food. It sounds odd as a chef, but I don’t think dining out should be all about the food. Don’t get me wrong, we try as hard as anyone on the food, but it is not going to make up for a poor welcome or bad service.

Your first bistro succeeded on a site that had been a bit of a disaster for others. Why?
A complete disaster, yes. I always think it is down to concept. [The previous restaurant] just wasn’t the right concept for the place. We’d worked a stone’s throw away in Marylebone, so we knew the area. We didn’t have any money, which is a problem if you want to open a restaurant in London! But it was extremely cheap, they just wanted someone to take the rent on. And it had an amazing £300,000 kitchen. The only thing we had to do was change the decor, which you would want to do anyhow. Chris and I both held a Michelin star separately, and I think everyone was shocked when we opened a bistro. But I really think it was what London was crying out for at that time.

Time for a simpler style?
Definitely! We thought about what we did and didn’t like in restaurants. If you wanted great food you had to sit through this charade. You daren’t move or put a thing out of place. Once you dumb down though, other things suffer, so we keep that discipline from Michelin in the service, etc.

Is it time for this in Dubai?
Yes, I think so, but then if Michelin were here, La Petite Maison would stand a good chance of being awarded. However, the waiters haven’t necessarily got a tie on, there’s quite funky music playing, the food comes when it’s ready...

Do you plan to open in Dubai?
We were speaking to someone running standalone restaurants, but there’s the issue that in a few years, it would suddenly be in the wrong part of Dubai. A hotel has its own stability, you’ve got 1,000 people sleeping above you. For now, there’s no set plan. If you’re heading on an aeroplane, leaving your family, it has to be somewhere you really want to go. Scotland is exactly that for me. It is lovely not being financially driven, because you don’t get tempted to say, that’s not great, but let’s do it. Our little bistro would have been enough for Chris and I. We would have been happy there, ’til the end of our days, just cooking.

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