British celebrity chef Theo Randall has recently opened Theo Mistral in the space formerly occupied by Mistral Italian Restaurant at Intercontinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong. Best known for his time at The River Café in London and for his passion for simple Italian fare, chef Randall has appeared on multiple TV shows, including The Chef’s Protégé and Saturday Kitchen, and is the author of three cookbooks. We caught him for a chat at his Hong Kong restaurant opening.
Words Vivian Li and Iris Wong
1. Are there any local ingredients that you’re really keen to use in your dishes at Theo Mistral?
When I come to Hong Kong I love visiting the wet markets and seeing all the fish jumping about. You just don’t see that in London. There are lots of farms growing vegetables outside Hong Kong so it will be great to explore what is growing especially as we are coming into spring and I love all the greens that you get this time of year. I saw some lovely Swiss chard, beetroots, artichokes and spinach. I hope we can find some little sweet peas in the pod so we can make pasta and risotto dishes with them.
2. If you are to do a pop-up collaboration with another chef, who would it be?
Agustin Balbi – I love the food he cooks at his restaurant Haku.
3. What do you think of the Hong Kong dining scene?
I love the Hong Kong dining scene. It has so much choice and the standard is exceptional. With chefs from all over the world setting up establishments, Hong Kong has to be one of the top restaurant destinations in the world.
4. Any restaurants/bars you’d like to try while you’re in town?
Forbidden Duck by Alvin Leung.
5. What do you love most about Italian cuisine? Any preference for dishes from a particular region?
I love food from southern Italy as it tends to be more vegetable-driven, especially in Puglia. I love the fact that the food is simple but has so much flavour. It’s all about the seasons here and using what grows in Puglia – very inspirational.
6. Throughout your travels in Italy, what was the most memorable experience/dish?
I remember many years ago having dinner in a beautiful courtyard in Ostuni, and we ordered these bright red prawns from Gallipoli. They threw them into boiling water for a second and then served them on ice so they wouldn’t over cook. We ate them so quickly we had to order more. I have to say they were the most delicious prawns I have ever eaten, very simple but very memorable.
7. Who inspired you the most in the kitchen?
My mother. She had let me help her from a very young age to make bread and help cook dinner. My parents were very supportive when I told them I wanted to be a chef and took me to many great restaurants throughout my childhood.
8. If you could cook for anyone, who would it be?
It would be MFK Fisher and Andrea Camilleri (author of Inspector Montalbano). They are both brilliant writers in their own rights and when they write about food it is totally inspiring and makes me very hungry.
9. When you’re not cooking, what are you doing?
Walking my two labradors on Primrose Hill, food shopping or reading.
10. What would be your last supper?
Poached Scottish langoustines with Cappezzana olive oil; tagliarini with white truffles, roasted Scottish grouse with fresh porcini mushrooms; gorgonzola with my mum’s bread toasted; a Cox’s Orange Pippin apple and finally a bowl of ice-cold cherries.
11. Any guilty pleasures?