|As Sam's Brasserie Celebrates Its Fifth Anniversary
We speak to Sam Harrison about community spirit, food heroes and how he likes to spend his free time
Four years ago we spoke to Sam Harrison about community spirit, food heroes and how he likes to spend his scarce off duty moments to mark the first anniversary of Sam's Brasserie & Bar.
Fast forward to August 2010 and we find Sam celebrating five years of feeding discerning diners. We decided to see how much has changed since he opened his doors onto Barley Mow Passage by asking him the same set of questions we did back in August 2006.
Was your idea of owning a restaurant in Chiswick anything like the reality?
2010: I think it has beaten all my expectations. In fact I fell so in love with Chiswick that just over a year after opening I bought a small place just off Chiswick Lane and now I cant imagine living anywhere else. From a local restaurateur’s point of view Chiswick offers the perfect mix of local resident and also a local business community. Most residential restaurants struggle at lunch time, but here in Chiswick there is a healthy amount of corporate business which keeps us ticking over. It has just been an amazing 5 years
Has Rick Stein had much input throughout the year?
2010: It has been great having Rick involved over the last 5 years and I am very grateful for all his input, enthusiasm and encouragement. Much of my work ethic and what I believe about restaurants comes from the 4 years that I spent down in Cornwall with Rick and his ex wife Jill. Every time Rick visits Sam’s he always has great ideas and helpful suggestions for us to continue to improve. I must also mention my other fellow owners, Rebecca who owns Sonny’s in Barnes and Luke who lives in Shepherds Bush- both are local and a huge support to the business
How is your Head Chef Rufus Wickham?
2010: Ian Leckie took over as Head Chef from Rufus in September 2007. Ian had been Rufus’ Sous Chef and so it was a very natural transition. Ian has really grown in to the role and it has been a pleasure to work with him and see his development. I must also mention our Restaurant Manager Shelley- Shelley was part of the opening team as a waitress and now runs the show and me! In our office Fiona has also been with us over 4 years. I am very proud that my 3 key members of staff, have been with me so long and continue to make Sam’s great every day- they are the heart and soul of the business.
The restaurant scene in Chiswick has flourished at an amazing rate over the past year. How do you feel about the new competition?
2010: Its amazing isn’t it? The whole scene has gone crazy. We have seen so many openings over the last 5 years- some have lasted the distance and some have come and gone just as quickly. Competition is always a good thing and keeps us all on our toes! I have always believed that we have to work hard every day to make something at Sam’s better- that’s the challenge and something we still strive to do.
Nick Jones (High Road House) is said to have used Sam’s as his benchmark for the standards of food and service expected in Chiswick, how do you feel about this?
2010: I have always been very flattered by what Nick said about Sam’s and especially considering how successful all his businesses are. I so admire the Soho House business and I am a huge fan of what they do across London and now the world! I especially like Shoreditch House and sometimes such wish it was a little closer to West London
So apart from Sam’s, where do you most like to eat locally?
2010: I like to do breakfast at High Road House as I can collapse on one of the sofas with the papers- always good after a late night at work. I am big fan of the pizzas at Franco Manca and also Santa Maria in Ealing. Love the chilled atmosphere and great wines at Lola & Simon in Hammersmith
How do you think the smoking ban will affect the restaurant / bar scene?
2010: I think the smoking ban had the most impact on the pubs, rather than restaurants. I think this is also down to how cheap it has become to buy beer from supermarkets. I don’t think it has that much of an impact on us at Sam’s, although I would love to get outside seating…..but as you know that is a whole other story and my ongoing battle regarding Barley Mow Passage
A number of Chiswick’s independent food retailers have been nominated as Food Heroes, who are yours?
2010: We are so lucky in Chiswick and things seem to get better and better. I am still a big fan of Mortimer & Bennett, Macken Brothers and Alfie who took over the fruit and veg stall from Phil Collins. A new favourite would have to be Outsider Tart very close to where I live and very dangerous for my waistline!
That brings me nicely to community spirit which you evidently have in abundance…
2010: To me Chiswick is all about community and one of the reasons I am so happy to have a business here and to live here. I am a firm believer that a local business can have a very special relationship with the local community and hopefully that becomes a strong two way relationship- it grows and develops and you end up looking after each other- which really is very special. We have tried to be involved in as much local stuff as possible and have had some great fun. I must mention a talk I did last week at Chiswick Community School on careers in restaurant to 15/ 16 year olds- I was so impressed by the questions they asked the detail on business they wanted to know!
Talking abundance…just must mention Abundance and their amazing fruit picking- local cherries and mulberries - how great is that?
All of us at Sam’s have so enjoyed getting to know so many Chiswick locals over the years and making so many great friends- your support over the 5 years has been amazing and means so much to us. I really hope you will come and say during August- we would love to see you and to offer you a Birthday Bellini on us.
August 3, 2010