Rick Stein said he’d never open a London restaurant, but he didn’t take into account the lure of Barnes… The Resident quizzes the iconic chef-restaurateur about his latest project – taking over the riverside institution that is The Depot in SW14
Words: Emily Manson
It’s fair to say that The Depot in Barnes and Rick Stein could both be described as institutions. And the biggest news in west London’s culinary scene is that these two institutions are joining forces. After 30 years of pretty much defining local brasserie, The Depot’s founding fathers have sold up, and the restaurant is beginning a new era under the reins of the iconic chef-restaurateur.
Having always professed that he would never open a London restaurant, Stein readily admits that what attracted him to the gorgeous riverside site in Barnes is that it’s as London as he can get without feeling like you’re actually in London.
He’s an enthusiastic convert to the Village and his new home across the river in Chiswick, although he cheerily confesses he was initially nervous about the move back to the capital with his second wife Sarah – but now he loves it. ‘It’s a really special part of London,’ he says, enthusing about the interesting food shops, butchers, greengrocers, even Chiswick House and the swimming pool around the corner from his new home, where he takes a daily dip.
Stein loves life by the water – whether it’s in his Cornish HQ of Padstow or now his falling for The Depot, where he explains one of the things he loves most is that ‘the views are almost more important than the food’. So what does he intend to do with this riverside institution? During the last few months of refurbishment, he good-naturedly tells me of being hauled aside at various points by locals warning him not to change ANYTHING.
A couple of regulars gave me a sound ticking off and warned me not to change a thing! We’re keeping true to the heart of The Depot
‘A couple of regulars gave me a sound ticking off and warned me not to change a thing!’ he exclaims, before adding: ‘Although we have made some changes, we’re keeping true to the heart of The Depot – it’s not going to become a fancy restaurant, it’ll stay as a great place for friends to meet.’
Most of the refurbishment money went into the kitchen and the drains anyway, he adds frankly, as after three decades they needed a total overhaul. So apart from making the windows bigger, re-covering banquettes and some other light touches all designed by his ex-wife Jill and children Kate and Edward, the actual restaurant will seem very familiar – even the beloved parquet floor remains intact.
And of the menu, it’s well-known that Stein is the chef who put fish on the map – culinary speaking – allowing it to shine as an equal to main course meats. So it’s no surprise that the new Depot menu will benefit from this passionate expertise and will feature some iconic Seafood Restaurant favourites such as Dover sole a la meunière, and salt and pepper prawns.
Another bonus is that much of the fish and seafood will be sourced direct from Padstow, so for those of us who hanker for our Cornish summer holidays to indulge in great fish n’ chips or fresh crab, we can now indulge all year round.
He’s also added some new deliciously enticing meat dishes. Items such as Bavette steak, rabbit stew and stifado give some carnivorous variety, providing a little something for everyone, as a good local restaurant should.
By this reasoning, he explains that he’s also deliberately kept to the same price point. ‘We’re not trying to win Michelin stars here, it’s still a place for locals to come with family and friends. The idea is to appeal to everyone as a place where they can enjoy delicious food in a convivial atmosphere.’
So can we expect to see him in the kitchen slavishly calling orders at the pass? ‘No not any more,’ he laughs. That honour goes to his son Jack and The Depot’s long-time Head chef Garry Knowles, while the wine-list has been compiled by his other son Charlie. But, he adds, he will definitely be in the restaurant regularly – visibly indulging in his new role as quality control guru and chief taster.
Tideway Yard, 125 Mortlake High Street SW14 8SN; 020 8878 9462; rickstein.com