Henley Life - November 2018 - page 11

cleaning the toilets. It sounds like he was at
make or break point when Dean came to help
“For the first year I stood here on my own,
without any family, wishing it busy,” said
Simon. “It was destiny to come here, though
really tough for the first year.”
Dean had worked for Tom Kerridge at the
Hand and Flowers, and then spent six years at
the Waterside with the Roux brothers, who
invested in him and grew his love and
expertise in wine.
“The first thing he said was make it smaller,
make the menu smaller,” said Simon, “I haven’t
changed my cooking so it must be Dean, we
had a Bib Gourmand and suddenly we were a
Michelin restaurant.”
It is a wonderful thing to behold a family
pulling together, to make 20 people every day
happy with the exquisite, but relatable, food
served with such quiet pride. They deliver such
a warm experience.
Charlie is doing so well as his father’s only
help in the miniscule kitchen (two single hobs,
one oven) that he may take the opportunity to
train in France on the Michelin route, like his
“Probably you try harder for your family, but it
does come easy to them,” said Simon. “On
Sunday lunch we have some wine, we argue
and we laugh all together. They have always
loved the joie de vivre of the French table.’
Clients walking from the car park to the front
of the restaurant will often see Simon, in the
kitchen, hair on end, waving at them cheerily
through the window. That is about the extent
of his customer contact. Dean and his siblings
are in firm control outside the kitchen.
“I would upset too many people anyway, I
don’t know how to do front of house. I am
volatile with my work – it’s got to be right, I
try to put my mistakes in the bin. If I get
frustrated I do lose the plot, but the kids take
the mickey now, ‘Dad’s on one’.”
And the frustration is because each plate
that Simon produces must be the best
reflection of himself. “I really
feel when I cook it, I definitely
leave me in it – its my
mediation, my kundalini, you
go into a zone and I really love
the intensity of that place. It’s
like lucid dreaming – cooking
for 20 people all at once.”
The Crown’s small, seasonal
menu has ‘a nod to the
countryside’ and a smattering
of Middle Eastern flavours.
Simon makes everything
himself so Mondays and
Tuesdays are spent preparing
and meeting his suppliers,
many of whom he has worked
with for 30 years.
An engaging and modest man, Simon gives
me probably the most honest answer I have
ever had to the question, what is the criteria
for Michelin to award a star?
“I don’t think the guides really know what
they are looking for. Maybe when Dean came
here I started another level, I don’t know.”
To end in true Bonwick style, his response,
when asked what is currently his favourite
ingredient, is: “If I had a favourite I would be
betraying everything else – peeling carrots is
as interesting as the frame of mind you are
in, it is the way you approach it. They can all
hear me.”
1...,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,...32
Powered by FlippingBook