INTERVIEW DOUGLAS BLYDE
After success as a food writer and television chef, Silvena Rowe opened her first restaurant, Quince at The May Fair hotel, in June serving Ottoman-inspired dishes with a very modern twist. Here she talks about the restaurant, her cooking and why she loves London…
I was born in Bulgaria and have lived in Antigua and Turkey as well as regularly visiting Syria, where I cook with the Bedouin. But London is my favourite city. It combines the pace, culture and magnetism of New York with Britain’s greater history and quaintness. As well as Mayfair’s buzz and fast cars, I enjoy exploring the city’s little corners that take you back in time. I love Colombia Road, ‘Jack the Ripper’ land and Forest Hill’s Horniman Museum as well as local parks.
Timing’s everything. When my book Purple Citrus & Sweet Perfume came out I was approached by three top restaurateurs but opted for the May Fair hotel because of their determination to avoid installing another worn-out concept in favour of something colourful, sexy and fragrant. Taking the name of the symbol of fertility, love and life, Quince was born…
I’m not one for regrets, but I’d have loved my father, who was half Turkish (my mum’s Bulgarian) to have been alive to see my restaurant. He’s the force who inspired me to do all of this and it’s to him that I devote the menu.
Spanning over six centuries, the Ottoman Empire boasted one of the world’s most opulent cuisines. But although everything at Quince is touched by the thought of the Ottoman, it’s not a Middle Eastern restaurant. George Orwell said: ‘the fussier the food the more fingers have been in it’ and although dishes are often finished with edible flowers, some of my favourites are the most straightforward, such as the whole baby lamb feast for eight, glazed pork belly rubbed with blueberry and coriander molasses, and rosewater baklava.
My ultimate goal‘s to be the ‘Nobu’ of Turkish cuisine. I blend French elegance with alluring spices so I need very little fat to achieve maximum flavours. And with flavours, more is more! I also want people to relax and share dishes, so tables are left bare rather than dressed.
I’ve cooked for musicians, actors, footballers and footballers’ girlfriends. I love footballers in fact, which is why I’ve included items on the menu like our spectacular 45-day aged small farm côte de boeuf with addictively delicious za’atar. It’s delicious man food prepared using a very intricate but secret technique. Côte de boeuf’s normally aged 21-28 days, but at 45 it becomes so soft, seductive and voluptuous! It has the succulence of fillet and the depth of rib-eye.
If I’m honest, I find it very difficult to relax. Last night I woke up 1am and read Bloomburg’s thankfully positive review of Quince. Tomorrow I’ll be filming a new show for ABC. I hope it’ll promote the restaurant no end and help inspire people to come to me for a celebration of all the senses!
Quince at The May Fair hotel, Stratton Street, W1J 8LT, quincelondon.com