Q&A: Stuart Muir – Harvey Nichols
Head Chef talks festive food as Christmas approaches
How does your restaurant change in look and atmosphere in December? What effect are you hoping for?
Christmas is always an exciting time for Harvey Nichols and the Forth Floor. We are in full Christmas swing come December and there is always a great buzz throughout the Restaurant, Bar and Brassiere. Our aim is to get people into the festive spirit with great Christmas menus and themed cocktails. With the introduction of the Christmas activity in St Andrew Square, the Forth Floor is the best place in town to relax and take in the sights of the city. Harvey Nichols always develop an innovative visual scheme forChristmas and the Forth Floor is no different, but our plans are closely guarded and won’t be unveiled until mid November.
What are the challenges in catering for larger groups and parties? What works? What doesn't work?
Restaurant wise we always aim to cater for groups of any size and pride ourselves on being able to offer high quality dishes that taste delicious and look good, no matter how many people are dinging. For very large groups we tend to offer a reduced or set menu which is pre determined by the clients and guests. This is to ensure that the quality of the dishes remain consistent throughout service and to make sure that we can serve each and every table relatively quickly and efficiently in order to maintain an excellent dining
experience for everyone.
Any top tips for cooking for a big group at home?
Preparation is the key! Plan in advance where you can to ensure you don’t leave yourself too much to do all at once, especially if your group is a large one. I always tend to offer a selection of food to where guests can help themselves rather than a sit-down dinner. Makes life easier, plus a great way to get everyone involved!
OK, a stalk of fresh brussels sprouts has just arrived in the kitchen. What do you do next?
I love Brussels sprouts, there are loads of things you can do with them but at home I prefer the classic brussels sprouts with chestnut and bacon butter. Fry off some bacon and chestnuts in a little oil until browned and then drain off the oil and pop the bacon and chestnuts into a bowl. Beat in butter and leave to cool. You can keep this in the fridge over night or even freeze it for up to a month before you need to use it. Snap off the sprouts and score the ends, boil them for around 5–6mins, drain and pop into a bowl. Dot the bacon/chestnut butter over them and toss until all of the sprouts are coated. It’s simple and really delicious. If I have leftovers I always make a frittata for Boxing Day which can be eaten hot or cold. Just thinly slice up some potatoes (best if you have leftover’s as these don’t need boiled) boil them for a few minutes then drain and set aside. Roughly chop your leftover sprouts in bacon/chestnut butter. Beat some eggs with a little milk, salt and pepper and add to an oiled frying pan, add in the potato and sprouts and keep on the hob for a few minutes until the underside of the frittata is golden brown, then pop the pan under the grill for a few minutes until the mixture browns on top. You can serve hot or cold, I prefer to leave it to cool then cut into bite sized portions and serves as canapés – perfect for Boxing Day parties.
What's your favourite day of the Christmas season? What are you likely to be eating?
Christmas Day of course. I’ve got two kids, so for me it’s great to see how excited they are on Christmas morning. The stress of the build up is all worth it when you see their faces and realise that for them Christmas is a magical time. As a chef I’m always the designated cook, but I do like to get the whole family involved in the prep.