Andrea Michelon, head chef
What was the initial idea behind the menu at Ombra?
We started with the idea of being a traditional Venetian restaurant, but we had some problems as, well, we weren't next to the Adriatic sea.
Yeah, that would thwart things a bit.
Now we focus on fresh, traditional Italian food, with an eye on Venetian tradition.
But you still manage occasionally to hook up with Venice, when you have the “flying fish days”, right?
We've done that a couple of times and we are going to repeat it again. Normally we do it in the winter time as the baby fish are good and we get them fresh – you can only find them in the north of Venice - in the morning, fly it over to London and we fry it up in the evening.
You've got the famous chalkboard where your menu changes from day to day. How do you decide what you're going to cook up each day?
It all depends on what our suppliers suggest to us, what's fresh and in season. At the start of the day we make our fresh pasta, it's homemade and we make it every day. Then we think about what might go with it that day – it might be asparagus or artichoke. And then we think about the fish.
What's the one dish that sells out constantly on the menu?
Pasta's always our solid dish that sells really well, simple and we serve it with parmesan. Other than that, our fried fish and tagliata always does well. And for dessert, it's the tiramisu.
Did you grow up in Venice? Is that where you inspiration comes from for food?
I grew up in Padua, actually and I learned to cook from my grandma. Now when I go back to visit, we still cook together, but I'll say “it's better like this!” and cook it my way. She's better at cooking meat as she grew up in a butchers, while I'm better at the fish. She's 94, but she still loves to cook – and watch Formula One racing. She loves staying up to watch it, even if it's at 3am and happening on the other side of the world.
She sounds great. And how did you end up in Venice?
When I was very young I moved from my parents' to Venice to work and study, so really, I ended up growing up in Venice. I started to get involved in getting food and bar experience in Venice too.
What's your favourite dish on the menu?
The thing that I always love is the fried fish, of course! It's good on a Friday – we have a fish delivery on then, so the fish is always really fresh.
And how do you cook it? What makes it special?
It's fried in the Venetian style, which is just flour and water. It's all about the relationship it has with the oil, it gives it flavour and is very light.
What's the one ingredient you couldn't live without?
It would have to be Italian olive oil. It's the basis for so many things, that extra virgin olive oil. Tomatoes that are canned in Italy. And flour, too.
So they're like the holy trinity of your cooking?
Yes – they're at the heart of it.
When you're not at Ombra, where's your favourite place to eat?
I like Brawn on Columbia Road, The Empress in Victoria Park and Buen Ayre on Broadway Market. Hill and Szrok on Broadway Market is good too – I like how they're a butchers by day, restaurant by night. I had a wonderful rib-eye steak there.