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Flavour Profile Q&A: Stuart Smith, chef patron of Fin & Grape

The chef at this Bruntsfield bistro shares his food likes and dislikes

Published: October 14, 2021
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What’s your favourite ingredient?

There are loads of fantastic ingredients out there to choose from but I cant see past salt as my favourite. The reality is that without salt all those ingredients can’t reach their full potential. Its uses are vast too. In addition to seasoning, its potential when used for curing, preservation and fermentation mean it is hugely versatile and important in so many food production processes. The correct use of salt is often all it takes to make a really good ingredient become something really special.

Do you have a guilty food pleasure?

Depends what time of day it is but prawn mayo sandwiches or a creme caramel. I might also be addicted to hummus.

Tell us about your first food memory?

My family lived in Brazil for a short time when I was growing up and a traditional churrascaria was somewhere we would go regularly at the weekend. People walking around with big skewers of different meats pulled off the coal grills, then carved for you at the table. That’s pretty difficult to forget, even for a six or seven year old.

What’s your favourite Scottish restaurant, deli or cafe?

Gulp Ramen on Leith Walk. It’s owned by really close friends of mine who I've known for almost 20 years and worked with in the past. I know I'm probably a bit biased but I also know it's not misplaced. They serve the best bowl of ramen you'll get in Edinburgh (if not Scotland) by a mile and they always have a great selection of snacks available each day too. It's a regular Sunday night spot for me when I finish up for the week and it never disappoints. I'm always excited to go there.

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What would be your last supper?

A lot of very high-end sushi and sake.

Starter or pudding?

In a good restaurant, always pudding. Otherwise I'm generally not going near it, as pudding is so often just such a let down. When it's really good, you know the restaurant knows what they're doing.

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Do you have any food hates?

Not really. I just really don’t like eating things when I can tell nobody cared about it when they prepared it.

What starters, main and dessert would be served at your dream dinner party and who would you invite?

I'd just want a selection of really delicious things for everyone to enjoy. Maybe some really nice cured meats, fish and oysters to start, then a large whole fish cooked on the BBQ - a big turbot or John Dory with a lot of butter sauce and all the trimmings (fries, salad, tartare sauce, aioli, some nicely cooked vegetables, salsa verde). Cheese after that, then maybe a peach and almond tart with some Chantilly cream or a good crumble and custard.

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I’d invite close friends and family, though I think I’d also have a great time with anyone who loves to eat or is just really funny. Fergus Henderson, David Chang, Bill Bailey and Steven Fry are all people I'd like to speak to.

What's your favourite geographical foodie destination?

San Sebastian. It's amazing. Beyond that though, Japan. I've never been but I absolutely have to go at some stage.

www.finandgrape.com

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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