We recently treated ourselves to a visit to Clerkenwell to meet chef Yuma Hashemi, Chef Patron of The Drunken Butler. Clerkenwell, London EC1 for decades has been home ground to many in media including The Guardian and EMAP, so it was a trip down memory lane to meet chef Yuma Hashemi in Roseberry Avenue.
We sat down with chef and asked a few questions to gain an insight of what is behind The Drunken Butler and what is on offer for diners.
Tell us about your restaurant.
Somebody once said the restaurant was like walking into my living room, I love that description and it works well. I guess it’s a lot like a typical Persian household. Family photos are on the wall and shelves of the restaurant, with pictures of my mother and grandmother smiling down on me and my guests.
Perhaps unusually as a chef, I’m very hands on with the hospitality aspect of the dining experience, rather than chaining myself to the stove and focusing only on the cooking. I love engaging with the guest so I’m hands on throughout, from taking the booking to chatting with customers while serving their drinks.
What inspired the name the Drunken Butler?
It came from story I heard when at Polesden Lacey, a National Trust house in Surrey. It was once a bit of a party house owned by a woman called Mrs Greville, who had a butler called Mr Bacon. She would host many dinner parties and Mr Bacon would polish off the bottles of alcohol and eat the food, getting tipsy as he went along. On one occasion he drank a bit more than usual and Mrs Greville sent him a note that read: ‘you are too drunk, you should leave the room’.
The story goes that Mr Bacon looked at it, folded it back up and handed it to the guest of honour, the statesman Austen Chamberlain, who was very offended. When Mrs Greville explained the situation, Chamberlain said he’d never before been told off by a drunken butler. It’s such a funny story that has always stayed with me and inspired the name of my restaurant!
How would you describe your style of cooking?
It is French cuisine with influences from my Persian heritage and travels. I spent my youth in Germany before working and travelling through Portugal, Sweden and France. All of these experiences have informed the way I work with flavours in dishes that are rooted in classical French techniques.
How has your menu evolved since opening in December 2017?
Being located in Clerkenwell we have a fantastic mix of customers on our doorstep. There’s creative business community alongside an established residential market, so we decided to create a range of menus to suits their specific needs.
We’ve launched a short tasting menu for lunch service on Thursdays and Fridays that enables diners who don’t necessarily have the time for a long meal to still enjoy a variety of dishes in one sitting.
Of course, we’re still serving a full tasting menu for those looking for a more leisurely experience and in creating these two complementary options we are able to best serve our customers’ needs.
A lot of what we do is really about using the best produce at the right time. We trust our suppliers to offer us the best produce daily and we develop our menus based on that.
Tell us about how you run your kitchen.
Managing and motivating people in a professional kitchen is an artform. For me, it’s crucial to get creative input from my team in order to get buy-in to what we want to achieve together as a restaurant. This approach fosters learning and development for everyone, me included.
I’ve learned a tremendous amount from the head chefs I’ve worked with throughout my career and I learn just as much from the stagiers who come to us with experience of other cultures and cooking environments.
What role does wine play in the Drunken Butler experience?
I spent eight years working as a chef in the Bordeaux region of France during which I learned about the culture, the food, the wine, the language and what living and loving really meant in that area of the country. I felt fully embraced by the culture and I was lucky enough to friends and contacts with a lot of chefs, sommeliers and great wine Chateaux, including Chateau d’Yquem in Sauternes and Chateau Pétrus in Pomerol.
My interest and understanding of wine was developed during this time and I now consider wine to be an important and exciting element of the dining experience at the Drunken Butler. The list is focused on the producers and includes lesser known gems – much of which is biodynamic, natural or organic – with French, Austrian, Italian and Spanish wines making up the bulk of the wine offer.
Who has influenced your career?
This has to be my family. I’ve learned so much from both my mum and grandmother and they have really inspired me to push on in my career.
What about the food experience?
We will leave that to the Michelin Guide Inspectors who recently reported…“The chef-owner’s quiet enthusiasm pervades every aspect of this small but bright restaurant. The cooking is classical French at heart but also informed by his travels and Persian heritage; dishes provide plenty of colour, texture and flavour.”
If you would like to visit The Drunken Butler full details are below.
T H E D R U N K E N B U T L E R
20 ROSEBERY AVENUE