Think of French food and you have a fairly good idea of what to expect — the same goes for well-established cuisines like Italian, Spanish, and even Singaporean. British cuisine, on the other hand, has a much leaner presence around the world. It’s why Briton Kirk Westaway — JAAN’s Executive Chef for the last 5 years — wants to put the spotlight on food from his home country.
“We’re trying to change people’s expectations of what British food has been for the last 50 to 100 years,” says Westaway, who says he’s been hard at work preparing for the restaurant’s long-awaited reopening after the circuit breaker.
What that means is moving beyond the grim perception of soggy fish and chips and beer (though Westaway has offered a fine take on both in his casual pop-up concept at the famed Anti:dote bar), and turning it into something a little more elevated
But make no mistake, Westaway doesn’t want a return to a Downton Abbey-esque dining parlour: “It’s not pretentious or awkward,” he says of his creations at JAAN. “It’s easy, simple comfort food that’s delicious and elevated with passionate craftsmanship. Even though we’re a fine dining establishment, we still want people to feel comfortable.”
Read on to see what you can expect at the freshly reopened restaurant.
What does ‘British cuisine’ look like, and how do you put your spin on things at JAAN?
It’s comfort food, gastropubs, but people have since travelled and gained experience around the world, and have returned to create their unique high-end versions.
Sourceability is especially important in British cuisine. Most restaurants in the UK source very, very locally. We’re talking a few hundred metres in some cases. Which is why our main focus at JAAN is securing the world’s best ingredients from gourmet suppliers and letting them shine based on the seasons.
We are trying to change people’s expectations of what British food has been for the last 50-100 years, and I truly hope to put a mark on British cuisine by simply highlighting the very best ingredients with my personal touch and interpretation — not reinventing the wheel entirely.
When people talk about French cuisine, or Italian, and so on, there’s usually a sort of mental image that they have. But what about for British cuisine — what would you say is the sort of mood you’re trying to create?
We apply the philosophy “Reinventing British” to our menu. It’s easy simple comfort food that is delicious and elevated with passionate craftsmanship, but not pretentious or awkward. We want to create an experience where people can relax, from the food to the mood of the restaurant. Even though we’re a fine dining establishment, we still want people to feel comfortable.
How has the lockdown treated you so far? What sort of ideas have you come up with during that time?
The Anti:dote pop-up was a creative product and effort designed during the lockdown, along with the new summer menu at JAAN. There’s a dish on the menu called “Lockdown Apple Pie” that has proven to be a big favourite. I’ve also been cooking a few things up at home like pickles and sourdough.
At JAAN, you wanted to present a more classy take on British cuisine — but your pop-up at Anti:dote is a little more casual. How exactly does the pop-up differ from Jaan’s usual fare?
The pop-up at Anti:dote is a fun and creative way to reinvent the popular gastropub in the UK — highlighting the classics and serving them in the way they’re meant to be served while being elevated with a more refined twist.
We wanted to remind people of the flavours they missed from the UK through a simpler meal – people can come in for fish and chips and a beer and be done in 30 minutes.
JAAN is a special place where many would regard of more as an occasion restaurant, for celebrating moments you might remember for years and years.