Foodie Features

Sat Bains – The Face Of Progress

By Rosie Birkett

Two-Michelin-starred chef, Sat Bains, is a leading proponent of modern British gastronomy. Here he tells us why he’s glad to be in Nottingham – and how microbes are his new best friends.

“There’s a great feeling in the industry that British cuisine is some of the best at the moment and there are chefs out there doing fantastic things. I’m excited about being a part of it all right now,” says Sat Bains.

Ebullient as ever, the larger than life Midlander has every reason to be excited, given the success he’s enjoyed over the past couple of years – achieving a second Michelin star (which he retained in last year’s guide) and releasing his behemoth debut cookbook ‘Too Many Chiefs Only One Indian’.

His eponymous restaurant is set in an incongruously industrial location, next to a motorway flyover in Nottingham – something Bains sees as another incentive for creating highly personal and memorable food. “It’s a modern chef’s interpretation of British food. It’s very identifiable to our style now and diners have unique dishes they can’t eat anywhere else – that’s the whole point.

“I like it here and I’ve always liked the idea that we can be very original because of where we are. We’re out in the middle of nowhere, so that has to be the case. That’s why I believe we should put so much effort into our research and development. Diners need to come and have an incredible experience and taste unique flavours they can only get here.”

As such, Bains and his team work in conjunction with their development kitchen, where ideas for dishes are evolved, experimented with and perfected by the development chef Dan Crossin. “He’s quite academic,” says Bains. “It works well because I, John [Freeman, head chef] and Reuben [Davis, sous chef] all have access to it, but Dan goes away and works on the physical dish – even if it’s a raw copy. We might not even be looking at a finished dish, but at an element or a different processes that can help us give flavours more depth.”

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In his constant quest for flavour and a self-confessed obsession with achieving ‘balance’ in his tasting menus, Bains has recently turned his attentions to harnessing the taste and health-giving benefits of lacto-fermentation. “We’re working on loads of things that are going to add flavour. We’ve used a fantastic local mill in Nottingham that’s given us some organic, locally-grown spelt that we’re using for making our own kombucha – a fermented tea to finish the meal off. It’s really good for you, it’s full of good bacteria and it has an effervescence and a sourness to it. It also aids digestion.”

The kombucha is being used in a granite – in a rhubarb dessert – and Bains is working on a form of parsnip sauerkraut to accompany a slow cooked ox cheek. “It’s still an unctuous piece of meat – like you’d find in the classic French dish of oxtail with Madeira sauce and pommes puree – but it doesn’t leave that starchy, stickiness in your mouth because you’ve got this lovely acidity from the parsnip. So it keeps that level of acidity and balance throughout the whole dish. I want people to walk away from here feeling invigorated and actually better for having eaten the ten courses, not stuffed from over-indulgence.”

Plans for the future include working with the council’s allotment scheme to provide compost (made from the restaurant’s food waste) in which to grow vegetables the restaurant will then buy back. “We’re trying to be more green – it’s a no-brainer. I think it’s our responsibility to be a little more clued-up. We’re not sitting on our laurels – it’s great selling the book and having two stars and all the rest of it, but that shouldn’t define us – we should be able to redefine ourselves on a regular basis, striving constantly and really trying to make a mark in the British scene.”

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