In London with Hywel Jones - Chef de Cuisine of Lola's Restaurant.
Back in 1989 a young Welsh kid walked into the kitchen of the Royal Garden Hotel. He was a sight for sore eyes - we were as short staffed as ever, an addition to the team was always welcome. We worked side by side for the next year and it soon became apparent that my fellow commis had talent.
Over the years that followed Hywel Jones and I kept track of one another, through friends of friend's we knew where one another were working. Hywel went to work for the big boys, Nico Ladenis then Marco Pierre White the two London chefs that were the proud possessors of three Michelin Stars.
After putting in his time with these culinary icons, Jones took the helm at a new London eatery Coast. But when a phone call came from old boss David Nicholls the opportunity to take the post of chef de cuisine at Foliage was too good to pass up. Foliage aimed to be the jewel in the crown of the newly refurbished Mandarin Oriental Hotel (London). The operation's multi million pound refurbishment had involved the infamous interior designer Adam Tihany, the man who created the look for Le Cirque 2000 in New York. Foliage had its look - now it needed the food.
As the chef of Foliage, Jones defined his culinary style, matured as a leader, received excellent reviews and in January 2002 landed the restaurant its first Michelin Star. Two months later he left…
To many Jones's departure may have seemed contrived - making a move on the crest of a star laced wave, but in reality it was coincidental. Jones had been working on a restaurant deal for several months prior to gaining his star. David Nicholls had been fully aware and supportive of Jones's entrepreneurial desires; his star had come just as he signed on the dotted line - an added but slightly awkward bonus.
Lola's Restaurant - a recycled Victorian tram station has become Jones's new culinary home. Located in Islington, the restaurant has long been considered a neighborhood eatery, but now with Jones presiding behind the stove, owner Morfudd Richards has catapulted her restaurant into the dining super league. Jones has captured himself a directorship with the possibility of becoming a partner in the future.
The real winners in this story are the Londoners who can sample the likes of Rare seared tuna, smoked aubergine, anchovy beignets, ratatouille vinaigrette followed by Roast rump of Welsh lamb, cannelloni of slow cooked shoulder, piquillo pepper, jus gras - all at incredibly reasonable prices. Dinner averages around £32 [$45] and a three-course preset lunch (two choices per course) weighs in at only £18.50 [$27.50]. So far the feedback has been nothing but positive, scoring great reviews from The Independent and Time Out. Within the first few week of starting his own menu The Evening Standard's Fay Maschler reviewed Lola's. Maschler a sometimes venomous food critic who can make or break a chef's reputation, fill or empty a restaurant described his cooking as brilliant, awarding him three stars - its highest accolade.
So will he be the headline-making chef of the future? Absolutely. My feeling is that Hywel Jones is the chef to watch out for - London 's next culinary star. He has the foundations and attitude to go the distance. As he increases his kitchen team, his food will blossom, the focus on quality will also transcend into the dining room. Lola's crockery, glasses, private dining room and furnishings are ear marked for upgrades, providing the "goods" for the guest and maybe Michelin star or two for the chef. I will be the first to say that we used to prep veg together back in the day!