Skye Gyngell is one of London’s most respected chefs. Having trained in Sydney and Paris, she moved to London to work at The French House before earning a Michelin star at Petersham Nurseries. Skye has written four cook books and opened her first solo restaurant, Spring, last year. She lives in Shepherd’s Bush
Can you describe your style of cooking?
My style of cooking is simple and ingredient led. I believe that flavour should be the driving force and this stems from obtaining the very best produce.
You met with huge acclaim while at Petersham Nurseries. Were you nervous when you opened Spring?
Of course, setting up Spring has been one of the scariest things I’ve done. The restaurant took 18 months of hard work to come together and over that period of time I agonised over every single detail that went into it. You find yourself constantly thinking about how people are going to receive something that you’ve spent so long on and is so close to your heart.
Can you describe the décor at Spring?
The décor and atmosphere was always very important to me, I wanted Spring to be a place where people go to create memories — not just because of the food they eat but also because they are sitting in a room that exudes warmth. My sister Briony led on the interiors. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have a team of fantastic professionals working with me: Stuart Forbes Architecture, the incredibly talented Jinny Blom who designed our atrium garden, and artists such as Emma Peascod and Valeria Nascimento.
Tell us about Salon at Spring…
The Salon is a trio of spaces within Spring: tree-lined tables at the front of the restaurant, a dining bar and an atrium garden. It’s a no reservations space serving small plates, cocktails and wines by the glass. It gives people the opportunity to pop in for a quick bite to eat at lunch, after work or pre or post theatre.
What did you want to achieve with Spring: The Cookbook?
Opening my own restaurant has been one of the proudest moments of my career. After a search for the perfect location and collaborating with a number of wonderful artists, designers and architects, it was a fantastic feeling when we opened our doors in October last year. It was long process but I’ve enjoyed it every step of the way and I suppose I just wanted to put that journey down into words.
How long have you lived in Shepherd’s Bush and what keeps you there?
I have lived in the area for over 20 years. At first, it was somewhere quite central that I could afford, but now it feels very much like home to me where I have bought up my two daughters.
How would you describe the food scene in Shepherd’s Bush?
The food scene in Shepherd’s Bush isn’t huge but it is noticeably growing, and there are some delicious places within walking distance that I love visiting.
What do you like to do in your free time?
It’s hard to find free time these days, but when I have the odd day off, I love spending time at home, either burying myself in a book, gardening or spending time with my daughters, Holly and Evie.
What restaurants do you recommend?
The Brakenbury on Brakenbury Road, it’s exactly what the area needed. My favourite, that I return to time and time again, is the River Café.
How does the London food scene compare to your native Sydney?
Australians remain very food savvy and the food there exudes confidence — the confidence to have several cuisines on the same menu, be it Asian, Middle Eastern or European, it is this melting pot of flavours that makes the food scene there so unique. London is different but at the same time so exciting, every day I hear of a new opening, a new trend.
Do you have a favourite recipe from the book, and if so, what is it?
I don’t think I can narrow it down to one recipe, but I love the pappardelle with oxtail ragu, as pasta is the ultimate comfort food. The roasted strawberry and balsamic ice cream is an interesting twist on a classic dessert, and is a favourite of mine during the summer months.
Which chefs have influenced you most?
When I started out, Ruth (Rogers) and Alice (Waters) were my inspiration, both are extremely talented in their own right and share my passion for produce-led food.
Have your ambitions changed since you started your career at all?
At the start of my career, I fell in love with the atmosphere in the kitchen and the rush of service and all I wanted was to work in a kitchen. This desire still remains, but I think my ambitions are a bit bigger now — I never imagined I would run my very own restaurant.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully still living happily in London and running my own restaurant. Who knows what will happen in the future!
Spring by Skye Gyngell (published by Quadrille, £25), photography by Andy Sewell; See springrestaurant.co.uk