Ben Orpwood on 20 Berkeley
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Ben Orpwood on 20 Berkeley

We meet the chef behind London's buzziest new restaurant

A restaurant that pays homage to seasonality, the best of British produce, farmers, and suppliers: meet 20 Berkeley, the latest culinary concept to hit Mayfair. You’ve guessed it, located at 20 Berkeley Street in Mayfair, it’s not only home to the 120-seat eatery, but also The Nipperkin bar, which is dedicated to cocktails, complete with its in-house distilled spirits.

At the very heart of the restaurant isn’t just any produce, it’s produce that has been meticulously sourced from in and around the British Isles, and there’s a respect for the ingredients that have been grown, reared, nurtured, and caught. Executive chef Ben Orpwood (Maison Estelle, Gordon Ramsay Group) heads up the kitchen, drawing on his 20 years of experience, and his relationships with some of the most progressive suppliers in the country, to offer dishes that represent artisanal craft.

‘When we had the opportunity to take on this particular site, we were so excited as no hospitality venture has ever sat on 20 Berkeley Street previously. The space has the feeling of walking into a manor house and it felt fitting that, given this restaurant will be a celebration of British produce that the atmosphere would capture the feeling of being in a home, and that the British Isles would serve as our back garden,’ says Alex D’Aguiar, Managing Director of Creative Restaurant Group.

Q&A with 20 Berkeley’s Ben Orpwood

Ben Orpwood

Which milestones brought you to 20 Berkeley?

Significant milestones would be my initial training under Hans (Schweitzer) at Queen’s College. I can’t think of a better mentor to begin my career under and a better environment than at Queen’s College. Hans showed me so much one-to-one time and that was so generous of him. There is a grouse dish we did together for a fellow’s dinner with truffle honey, and we will recreate it 20 years on at 20 Berkeley in the autumn.  

Then I would say meeting Colin Clague and traveling the ZUMA universe with him. That gave me a real understanding of what a brand is and the importance of brand identity. Sydney taught me how to manage. You have small teams so need to run the show top to bottom, people, finance and a business.

What is the concept behind 20 Berkeley?

We are a British produce-led restaurant. I have heard this description is a bit cliché, but I don’t think it is, as it’s what a restaurant like this should be. The hard part is sticking to that and delivering on it. We use and celebrate British artisans, farmers, and fishermen and that’s it. We love nothing more than to cook a dish and leave the guest disbelieving that the aubergines and tomatoes came from Sussex, or the burrata from Ealing.

Tell us about the produce…

We have just started development on a new duck dish for autumn. The ducks are originally from Sladesdown farm in Devon, however the duck industry has been decimated by bird flu, so the guys from Sladesdown are working with one of our beef farmers – Jim – up in Cumbria, to convert an old barn into an area to raise these beautiful birds. Jim is trying to create a 100 percent biodiverse regenerative farm with his space. So, to connect two of our top farmers and have a collaboration like this is exactly what we stand for at 20 Berkeley.

How do you incorporate sustainability into your menu?

We work seasonally to start with, that keeps you in check from the get-go. We work with only accredited and certified suppliers and as many organic suppliers as possible – from flour from Dorset to strawberries from Cambridge. 

Our fish is wild and as day boat heavy as possible, and any farmed product like our chalk stream trout is from an extremely high-quality farm. It’s a very labour-intensive way of running a restaurant, we have about 12 WhatsApp groups and we are wheeling and dealing from 6am-11pm to ensure we get what we need as direct to farm as possible. The big boys now all have a ‘procurement director’, treating animals and produce like a pair of socks, that’s one of the reasons for stepping out of the big-name limelight and focusing on produce. We’re not interested in buying in sliced tomatoes for burgers or premade bao buns. We make everything in house.

Smoked chalk stream trout

What’s on the menu?

Tomatoes from Nutbourne Sussex. Strawberries from Flourish in Cambridge. Beef & Lamb from the Lakes. Brett Graham’s stunning Iberico pork. Line-caught squid. Elderflower and courgette flowers from my allotment and many more.  

What’s the feel of the restaurant?

The feel I would say is relaxed, laid back and not stuffy or pretentious. We do not have disc jockeys or dancers, it’s a restaurant and that’s what we want people to enjoy.

Ben Orpwood

If someone is visiting for the first time, what would you recommend?

100 percent the Iberico pork. Probably one of the specials such as the lobster and tomato salad, and everyone tries the Apple Tartin.

Tell us about the wine list…

I will soon be introducing a sparkling sake, made in Cambridge, to pair with the elderflower sorbet. I’m also trying to organise our first wine dinner with the team at ARK wines in Suffolk, the Bacchus and pinot noir is incredible.

BOOK IT:

20berkeley.com

Images courtesy of 20 Berkeley / Polly Tootal