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The Chef's Table
3:07pm Thursday 5th April 2012 in Eating Out Reviews
This week, it’s the turn of Lloyd Nicholls, 52, head chef for the past 37 years at Blunsdon House Hotel.
Tel: 01793 721701
1. When did you first take an interest in cooking, and when did you decide you wanted to become a chef?
I started at Blunsdon House Hotel in 1975, with the essential job of vegetable preparation. In 1976 I took a classic catering apprenticeship and have never looked back.
2. Where did you do your training?
At Swindon’s North Star College, for four years, studying one day a week. The bulk of my training was completed in the real world, serving hungry customers in a busy restaurant – out of the fire into the frying pan, literally!
3. How would you describe the style of food served in your restaurant?
We have two restaurants, both quite different. Christopher’s Carvary serves everything you would expect – top quality roasted British meats, a diverse selection of fish and as well as a mix of vegetable dishes, all polished off with an all you can eat buffet dessert station. Nichols restaurant is totally different – we cook to order and serve a fantastic range of grilled steaks, fine fish, game and seasonal produce. Between the two we are lucky to be able to cater for just about any occasion, from family birthday to high class corporate dinner.
4. Do you have a signature dish? If so, what?
I wouldn’t want to narrow things down too much. But I’d struggle to beat a perfectly grilled, 21-day matured well marbled sirloin steak, served with creamy horseradish mash, spring veg and red wine jus. Vegetarians can always opt for a classic roasted red pepper, tomato and goat’s cheese tartlet, on a bed of fresh green leaves. As I say we do something for just about everyone.
5. What would you order from your own menu?
I take a lot of pride in the food at Blunsdon and because of it I have been lucky enough to order just about everything on the menu at some point or another. But I try not to think of myself when writing a menu – it’s all too easy to cater to yourself and not the customer. If I had to pick? For starters, the chicken liver parfait with onion confit, truffle oil and green pistachio, and to follow some roast pork tenderloin, on stilton mash and shitake mushrooms.
6. Your favourite vegetable, and why?
Leeks and spinach are incredibly versatile and underused.
7. And favourite dessert?
Classic Bramley apple pie and crushed vanilla pod cream. Crumbles are also fantastic!
8. Do you cook a lot at home? What sort of food?
Not all that often, my working life is spent in the kitchen so my leisure time often isn’t. My wife cooks extremely well and at home I am spoiled for choice – Sunday dinner is particularly good (with a nice bottle of red!)
9. Where else locally do you like to eat?
I am open minded and will try just about any cuisine that takes my fancy, so nowhere specific.
10. Why should people come to Christopher’s and Nichols?
We offer great value and a menu choice that will appeal to just about everyone, from grandma to the grandkids. We are not just for special occasions either; we have a hardcore of regulars that visit two or three times a week. With the choice and value in the market at the moment its often cheaper to eat out!