Martin Lange, the owner of Salut restaurant in Islington, on why he’s pioneering the German way of dining this Christmas

Words: Rachel Mantock

Located on the corner of Essex Road, Salut Restaurant was set up by brothers Christoph and Martin Lange, after the latter’s lengthy career in the culinary industry. Raised in Germany, Lange has tried to bring our European neighbour’s more relaxed approach to high-end dining to Islington. This Christmas, he’s mixing things up with a traditionally British and classically festive German offering, with quite a few game birds on the cards.

They approach food in a contemporary way at Salut, taking classic ingredients such as duck and bringing them into the 21st century. Speaking of Christmas traditions back in his home village in rural Germany, Lange explains: ‘Typically, a whole roast duck is served at Christmas, it’s carved at the table and served with red cabbage and potatoes. It’s also common to substitute the duck with a goose. Where my family are based in the German countryside, we have easy access to game such as red deer, so these animals also come into play during the festive season.’

From a long line of restaurateurs, hosting and creating spectacular dishes runs in his blood. He grew up with food values surrounding sustainability and seasonality, which are very much at the core of how things work at Salut today.

His inspiration comes from all over Europe, but he admits he has a soft spot for French cuisine: ‘When it comes to festive desserts, crème brûlée is always my go to because it’s actually great all year round,’ he adds. ‘In Germany, we also have a dessert that’s like a spongy, foamy lemon dish, called a funkuchen – my mother has been making those since I was little and I never get bored of them. To make them the traditional way, you fry them in oil until they float to the top and then dip them in sugar.’

He describes it as ‘a casual fine dining restaurant with great wine and none of the “sirs” and “madams”’

Christmas traditions vary from region to region, and from the cities to the more rural areas in Germany. ‘In some areas, calf is served as the classic main meat dish during the festive season,’ Lange explains. ‘We tried that once, but it really wasn’t our cup of tea! In other places a simple potato salad with weiners is served as the main entrée – you’d call them sausages.’

When it comes to dining the German way, the emphasis is on repeat customers, knowing what the guest wants before they do, and a high quality food offering. Lange wanted to create a space in Islington that was laid-back, without the stiffness that has come to be associated with sophisticated dining, but that still boasted a superlative quality when it came to the food. He describes it as ‘a casual fine dining restaurant with great wine and none of the “sirs” and “madams”’.

Enjoy German-style fine dining at Salut in Islington

Enjoy German-style fine dining at Salut in Islington

‘We didn’t want that at all. We wanted Salut to be a neighbourhood restaurant where the guests have a relationship with the waiter,’ he explains. ‘Often in fine dining establishments there is an almost awkward barrier between the waiting staff and the guests. We want to offer hospitality, not a service. When you build a relationship between the staff and the guests, the waiters will begin to know what you want before you even ask.’

In small towns in Germany, the best restaurants all have long term regular customers. It’s the custom there to top your guest’s glass up with some of their favourite wine just before they leave as a small thank you. Of this, Lange says: ‘In the UK, once diners have finished a bottle of wine, many hesitate to order a second one, even though they would like a little bit more. We always just go and top them up anyway as a gesture. I want to bring this type of hospitality to London.’

No true Londoner would object to being thanked for their company with complimentary alcohol, especially during the Christmas period. With that said, onwards to Salut…

412 Essex Road N1 3PJ; 020 3441 8808;