Foodie Features

Arnaud Stevens – Coming Into His Own

By Rosie Birkett

Rosie Birkett catches up with Arnaud Stevens as he makes his West End debut with Sixtyone Restaurant located in Marble Arch.

You might not have heard of Arnaud Stevens before, but you’d better get used to the name. Stevens‘ biog reads like a Who’s Who of influential London chefs: he’s worked with Pierre Koffmann at La Tante Claire, Gary Rhodes at City Rhodes, Jason Atherton at Maze Grill and Richard Corrigan at St Mary Axe at The Gherkin.

It’s fair to say he’s packed a lot into his thirty-four years – so how come we’re only finding out about him now?

Stevens has spent the past few years working away from the public and critical spotlight, for the high-end contract caterer Searcys; cooking first at the Royal Opera House and then as Executive Chef at the restaurant in the Gherkin. He’s now, in partnership with the company and recently launched his own restaurant, Sixtyone in Marble Arch – it seems becoming a chef patron couldn’t happen soon enough. “It was a bit frustrating that the Gherkin was shut to the public,” he says. “I think it was a bit of a strain for my staff and me, but I used that time to ready for this.”

His excitement to be ‘out there’, cooking for the public again is tangible. “It’s amazing. It’s the best set-up I’ve ever had and the best team, front and back. Almost every chef I’ve had working for me before has followed me – they know me inside out. There’s real consistency, which is what I want.”

Working alongside the chef is his long-time protégé, Killian Lynch, who is considered to be a crucial part of the operation. “Killian holds the fort, he’s absolutely great and I can trust him one hundred per cent.”

“The menus are inspired by the seasons and are very British-driven.” - Arnaud Stevens
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That Stevens should become a chef is unsurprising, given his food-centric childhood. He was ensconced in the world of cuisine from a young age, with a charcuterie-making great uncle and a grandmother who was a private chef at a French château. The half-French, Birmingham born, Devon-raised chef spent his childhood holidays at his family’s second home in the Loire Valley. “In France I was exposed to markets at a young age – and I come from a family that loves to cook” he says. “But cooking at home was a mix of French and English – my mother is French but to cook English food like Lancashire hotpot gives her a bit of a buzz!”

You could make a connection here with Stevens’ own cooking which, whilst rooted in classic French technique, presents itself as thoroughly modern British, centring around pristine British ingredients and flavours. A juicy, tender squab pigeon breast dish comes with a perfectly crispy, yielding miniature confit of the leg, a sweet parsnip purée and earthy, crunchy deep-fried snails. It’s served with smooth, vibrantly green parsley risotto flecked with puffed rice and sourdough croutons.

“The menus are inspired by the seasons and are very British-driven. I’m very proud of the provenance of our ingredients. We use the Lake District for beef, Portland in Dorset for our shellfish – it’s all there. This is honest food on a plate.”

But despite his sincerity, there’s a playfulness to Stevens’ cooking that is already delighting diners in dishes like his mussels with bread soup and crispy pork belly. “It’s a mussel soup with suckling pork belly, but there’s a little quenelle of white chocolate and garlic ganache. There’s no cream, just milk and stock – the white chocolate is acting as the cream – so you have flavours of moules, pork, garlic and chocolate. It all has a reason and it eats very well. People really dig it.”

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