New Year’s Eve at Colette’s is set to be a showstopper. We catch up with the restaurant’s head chef Russell Bateman to find out more about his menus and inspiration.
If there’s one thing Colette’s head chef Russell Bateman prides himself on, it’s seasonal, high quality ingredients. With every single one of the restaurant’s suppliers carefully vetted, he ensures that only the very best, ethically sourced produce makes its way into his kitchen.
“I’ve built up relationships with my suppliers over many years,” he explains. “I trust their judgement and they’re able to tell me what’s good at every time of year. There’s no point in trying to get ingredients that are out of season, because they’ll be more expensive and won’t taste as good.”
Perfection is particularly important for the restaurant’s New Year’s Eve menu, when people come to indulge and celebrate. “I think simple, great quality food is what people love the most. My goal on New Year’s Eve isn’t to serve the most extravagant or exotic menu, but to give people a meal they will really enjoy. The ultimate luxury experience for people in the UK is to enjoy great food and wine in a great atmosphere without having to worry about anything- and that’s what we want to provide.”
Though the New Year’s menu will be seasonal, Russell is keen to steer clear of traditional Christmas flavours, after guests have enjoyed a week of turkey sandwiches. Putting the sage and stuffing to one side, he’ll be serving a range of dishes including scallops and bass, as well as a creative celeriac risotto for vegetarians, a heart cheese course and a bread and butter pudding. With his commitment to ethically sourced food, the hand-dived scallops will be coming from Orkney, while stone bass will be used as an alternative to the endangered sea bass. “I would never use dredged scallops, for example, as it’s hugely damaging to the environment. The process of dredging ruins the seabed and it can take 80 years to recover- causing lasting damage to our oceans,” he explains. For Russell, ethical food shopping is all about knowing your suppliers and keeping up to date on the latest news and updates. “The Marine Stewardship Council offers advice about sustainability in the fishing industry, and how fish should be sourced,” he explains. Part of sustainability comes back to using seasonal products, as well as finding creative ways to manage waste. “I look for innovative suppliers to work with, who find ways to make the most of their produce. For example, luxury caviar producers massage their sturgeons, which can cause the eggs to break. The company we use won’t waste these broken eggs- instead they’re dried to produce caviar bars, which make fantastic seasoning for fish dishes like our scallops.”
This commitment to sustainability and quality isn’t just for the Christmas season- it’s part of Colette’s culture all year round. “All our lamb and beef comes from farmers in the Lake District. They’re so meticulous in their high standards that restaurants have to be vetted and supported before they’ll consider supplying to you.” Describing the organic, grass-fed lamb as the ‘best he’s ever tasted’, Russell says it’s this quality that keeps people coming back. “It’s not just about meat and fish either- we take as much care in selecting our vegetables and I work closely with suppliers to ensure we’re getting the very best.”
With 22 years ‘experience as a chef and eight years working as The Grove, Russell says his aspirations to cook came from his childhood. “My nan inspired me to start cooking, because I would see her baking fresh bread every day. I still like to make bread every day for the restaurant as it was something I saw her doing at such a young age. She always served it with soft, room temperature butter and it’s a rule I’ve stuck to throughout my career.”
After working in many high-end restaurants, including Harrods in London, Russell has developed a flair for the traditional and wants to share this with his diners. “I am not a big fan of concept cooking- I don’t think you need it when you have the right experience and the right ingredients. Traditional dishes with a twist are the ones people enjoy the most and that’s what our guests can expect on New Year’s Eve.”