The Alistair Little Evolution

Rebecca Varidel
29th Mar 2018

His LinkedIn profile states he "was at the forefront of the British restaurant revolution of the late 1980s and early 1990s, replacing the plush grill-rooms and overcooked stodge with bright minimalist design, and Eastern-influenced dishes." Although in the UK these are established, well known facts about the Chef, cook book author, deli owner and TV presenter.

At the other side of the world, he has been working on spring soup recipes for a launch this month.

And next month, in April Alistair Little will be popping up down under.

Alistair Little is known for his love of our city, and last year it was announced Little was looking to open here. Now, after four decades in London, he is making his way across the pond for the next era of his career – Sydney, Australia.

To him the exciting possibilities in Australian dining radiate from “the sheer vitality and irreverence of it. Nothing is impossible nothing is too hard. Fusion food that is not confusion food. There is no solemnity about Australian restaurants, no hushed temples of gastronomy just enjoyment, often raucous enjoyment. This lack of prejudice and preconception appeals greatly to me”.

Merivale is joining forces with the renowned British Chef for an exciting pop-up restaurant at Level 1, Hotel CBD. Little Bistro will run from Monday April 23rd until late 2018, serving a short, seasonal menu characterised by the simplicity and innate good taste that has typified Little’s legendary career.

The self taught Chef read social anthropology and archaeology at Cambridge, and was ahead of his time, teaching himself to cook from the books of an earlier British evolutionary Elizabeth David. Marcella Hazan's Classic Italian Cookbook was another source of education and inspiration.

"My first love is the simple and diverse pleasures of food from Umbria, Tuscany and the Veneto region. My Tasting Places school runs classes around the world, but Italy is the centre of my culinary universe" he exudes. As a child gained he gained his passion for cooking whilst travelling across Europe with his father.

In 1983, he opened the ground-breaking 192 Kensington Park Road and met fellow chefs Rowley Leigh and Simon Hopkinson. By chatting, swapping recipes and sharing stories, the three established a culinary path still followed widely today - flexible menus, primacy of produce and a strict adherence to seasonality – and irrevocably changed the face of British cooking. Notably, this is where the menu being served at Little Bistro began its long evolutionary development.

An early advocate of ethical food, Little opened his celebrated eponymous restaurants in 1985 and 1996 respectively. Here, he cooked to critical acclaim for seventeen years, cementing his name as one of the most interesting and innovative chefs of his generation. After leaving his namesake restaurant in 2002, he opened Tavola in West London, a food and tableware shop that supplied the lucky inhabitants of Westbourne Grove with take-away food cooked by the culinary pioneer.

Little’s collaboration with Merivale will see forty years of cooking and skill concentrated into a short menu of his recipes – many classics, some familiar, some new, but all have stood the test of time. Think smaller dishes, like ‘pepata of mussels, cooked in white wine, chilli and garlic’ and ‘autumn vegetable minestrone with porcini, new season’s oil and Parmigiano Reggiano’, alongside mains like “roast crown of duck with an apple, potato and rosemary galette, frisee salad” and ‘vegetable tagine with cous-cous and a chermoula relish’.

He describes his approach to the food as “keeping it simple”, noting - “something as fuss free as chicken liver pate or apple tart when executed perfectly can make people sit up and pay attention”.

Alastair Little at Hotel CBD will open for lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday from 23 April.

“Working with Merivale is dream proposition for me”, says Little. “With the support of the group, the staff in place and the venue ready to go, I get the chance to take Sydney by storm, or at least a small section of it, and can focus on what I love most – creating and evolving recipes, and working closely with the people I teach to cook them”.