|As Fish Hook prepares to celebrate its first anniversary|
Emma Brophy catches up with Michael Nadra to find out how the past year has gone
“A fish restaurant that really is a fish restaurant is a rare bird indeed” believes The Independent’s food critic.
It takes a certain tenacity to set ones stall out as a specialist, particularly in a highly competitive arena such as Chiswick, therefore one cannot help but admire the courage and commitment of Michael Nadra, chef and proprietor of Fish Hook.
A mere twelve months ago, Nadra altered the South African spelling, gave the restaurant a new coat of paint, hung a series of smart monochrome prints to complete the seaside look and opened for business.
Remaining true to his vision, Nadra has succeeded in charming the critics (making it into Fay Maschler’s Top 20 Openings of 2006) and building an enviable following of loyal locals.
I caught up with him as he prepares to celebrate his anniversary to find out how his first year at the helm has gone.
“Congratulations on completing your first year how have you found it?”
“There are times when it feels as if I have been here for ages and others when I can’t believe how fast it’s gone. It was quite a scary thing to take on. This is my first solo venture, the first time being not just head chef but sole owner too. Considering that 90% of restaurants fail in their first year giving me a 10% chance of success, I am really proud to still be here!”
“What have been the highs / lows?”
“The high points have been the good reviews; receiving praise from highly respected critics has been fantastic plus the fact that they have all been unsolicited. I don’t have a pr company inviting people in so to be recognized by such influential people in the industry is a big achievement. Earning the loyalty of local customers too has also been great. The low point was definitely the World Cup but I think everyone was really quiet then.”
“Did or does the competition in Chiswick worry you?”
“No it doesn’t scare me. You have to believe in yourself and what you’re doing and be aware of your own strengths. I wanted to create a friendly and informal local restaurant that serves good food at a good price and I believe that is what I’ve done.”
“Us Chiswick folk are acquiring increasingly educated palates – what is your secret to keeping your regulars coming back?”
“I believe it’s the freshness and quality of the fish and other produce that I use. It's also the way that people can come here and experiment by ordering a few different dishes [most items on the menu can be ordered as a starter or a main course]. We’re also an informal restaurant and as I’m always here customers get to know me. This is not a job for me, this is my life and I hope that passion comes through in my cooking”
“Let’s go back to the beginning and talk about how a degree in Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering led you to become a chef.”
“Food has always been in my blood. My mother is Polish and my father Syrian so from the very beginning food played a large part in my life. When I was in my third year at university I got a summer holiday job working at The Canteen in Chelsea Harbour. Within two weeks I was doing the job of a trained chef and never looked back. After I graduated I went to work for Nick Nairn.”
“You’ve worked in a number of Michelin restaurants and with some of the biggest names in the industry. What do you believe the main thing you have learnt from these experiences?”
November 16, 2006