Claridge’s, the iconic five-star hotel in London, has long been an arbiter of restrained British opulence. While the island nation has not always been known as a bastion of culinary delights, the U.K. institution has held firm to a tradition of feeding royalty and commoners alike — and always in refined style.
“Claridge’s: The Cookbook” by the hotel’s executive chef Martyn Nail and author Meredith Erickson colorfully showcases the famed kitchen’s signature fare including chicken pie and teatime scones alongside inventive 21st-century dishes.
“What I love about it is it’s not just a cookery book,” explains Nail on the phone from London. “Yes, it’s full of recipes, but it’s full of little moments from Claridge’s history.”
The jovial kitchen wiz, who has cooked for Queen Elizabeth II in his more than 30 years at Claridge’s, notes how this is the first book of its kind from the luxury hotel, which first opened in 1853. “It’s only taken 164 years, so we’re a bit slow with that,” he says with a laugh.
Filled with vivid images, “The Cookbook” details some of its restaurant’s most popular items for breakfast, afternoon tea, cocktails, dinner and dessert. But for those with ample space to entertain, there is an instructional chapter devoted to hosting “dinner for 100 — or more,” an activity that has become inextricably linked to the Mayfair mainstay.
“If a head of state from another country wants to host a return banquet for Her Majesty the Queen, who wouldn’t want to be a part of it,” proffers Nail before confessing such affairs now happen with less frequency than in past decades. “The world has moved on in the way they do these things.”
While tradition runs throughout the eau de nil hardcover, a focus on the future of British cuisine artfully informs Nail’s tome. “We never want to be ‘old’ and the place is constantly changing,” he explains. “Food has become [universally] lighter and more accessible — the world has become smaller.”
Nail recalls the days of the Sixties and Seventies when “food went in a direction where it was all processed,” but now prides himself on using locally sourced ingredients like ramson (wild garlic) capers, which he utilizes in the recipe for hand-dived scallops with nantaise sauce. “They’re very flavorsome — three tiny pinheads is all you need in a dish.”
Sprinkled throughout the eye-catching pages are instructions for modernized versions of British classics, which echo Nail’s globalized approach to cuisine. “Previously, food in the U.K. was a little bit more provincial,” he observes, mentioning regional specialties like Cornish pasties and Sussex plum pudding. “But we can still go back to those dishes and refine them.”
One such update is seen in Claridge’s Christmas pudding, which calls for lighter ingredients than tradition often dictates. Morello cherries and Grand Marnier replace glacé cherries and stout in Nail’s updated recipe. “Because we reduced the sugar, in the cooking process the sugars don’t caramelize and the pudding isn’t so dark. We’ve even converted guests who typically don’t like it,” he adds.
Nail hopes “The Cookbook” will transport readers to the sophisticated world of Claridge’s from the comfort of their own kitchen, which in an ever-changing world still remains to be the heart of every home — including Claridge’s. “It’s very much a blend of celebrating what is British and using the best of British ingredients and skills that have been passed down,” he explains. “And it’s lovely to sew it together with real stories of our most fond guests.”