Martin Hurrell, head chef
You previously worked the kitchen of The Cow in Westbourne Grove which had a big celeb following back in the day. What was that like?
I was there for 14 years, it opened in 1995 and I started working there in 1997. It was all about the fish there – that was the speciality here.
Who used to eat there? What did they like to eat?
David Beckham, Madonna...they didn't actually eat that much, they just liked to hang around. All I ever saw Madonna eat was a white wine spritzer! Kate Moss – she liked the green salads and the pints of prawns. Pete Doherty the same. Paul McCartney liked to come there for a Guinness too. You must have a hero in your head? Once you've served them, everyone else is second.
Who was the hero you served?
Sean Connery. I worked in Lola's, it was in Upper Street, by the old Fire Station, but it's gone now, they took the whole floor out. Morfudd Richards owned it. Sean had a local dish with lots of roast tomatoes and peppers.
Do you feel more under pressure to cook for someone if you admire them?
No. I'd rather not know actually! That way everyone gets the same standard, and it's simpler.
How did you create the menu in The Cow?
It was only seafood – oysters and Guinness were the favourites. The menu in the bar hasn't changed for 10 years, fish stew, sausage and mash, rib eye steak and a couple of salads. Upstairs was more seasonal, served in the certain style that it was known for.
Did you always cook when you were younger?
No actually – I was unemployed and I went to Walthamstow Town Hall and I did a two-year GNVQ course. I started off at the Tower Thistle hotel, and I haven't looked back. I've had over 25 years experience in a kitchen now.
What have been your main changes to the menu now you're at The Spurstowe Arms?
The burgers. They used to put so much in the mix – they're burgers, you just want to taste the meat. Not fish sauce, not Dijon mustard, not English mustard, Tabasco, cayenne pepper – too spicy – so I've changed it now to just meat, salt and pepper. The meat comes through, like it should.
What would you say the signature dish on the menu is?
Burgers or a Sunday roast.
What's the secret to a good Sunday roast?
It's all about timings, I find.
Well, we cook the beef for 12 hours at 96 degrees.
Sounds like you've got it down to a fine science.
Yes – and we seal it off so it's all rare.
The Spurstowe does a good line in gourmet pub snacks, why do you think there's been a bit of a revival recently?
Everything goes back to it's roots and comes full circle and now it's gone backwards again. In London, you can get anything, anywhere and I think people know that. We make Scotch Eggs on a Thursday and they're all gone by Friday. We tend to just do them for weekends – that's when they're really popular. We make haddock meat ones and serve them with a curried mayonnaise. Sometimes we do venison and whiskey ones.
What's the one ingredient you couldn't live without?
What do you cook for yourself when you're at home?
I open the fridge, slice some cheese up – and that's it!
Where's your favourite place to eat?
My favourite chef is Pierre Koffmann, but my favourite place to eat is St Johns.