Q&A: Alain Roux on his new venture in Edinburgh and Scotland’s national larder

Alain Roux.
Alain Roux.
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Alain Roux talks of the importance of using local produce and says family recipes remain at the heart of his cooking, as he opens new venture Brasserie Prince at The Balmoral

How are you feeling about your new restaurant in ­Edinburgh? Is this an exciting time for you?

The Balmoral Brasserie.

The Balmoral Brasserie.

Very exciting! This is an incredible opportunity to share my food with Edinburgh.

It is a beautiful and compelling city, with warm, generous people and an exciting café, bar and restaurant culture. The new brasserie will be at the heart of The Balmoral; it has undergone a complete refurbishment – there will be a new dining room, restaurant, bar and kitchen.

It’s a huge investment by the Forte family [the hotel’s owners] and a challenge for me.

Although very much part of The Balmoral, Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux will have a different identity to the hotel and this is important.

The menu will be my signature, a distillation of all that I have learned so far and love about food which has been little affected by time or fashion. This is my first major new enterprise, as chef patron at The Waterside Inn, now having held three Michelin stars for more than 30 years, and I am enjoying every minute, like a dad with a new addition to the family!

What’s it like partnering up with an existing business?

Do you have to make compromises or are you able to do your own thing?

We see that this is the first joint venture between the Roux and Forte families.

It is a privilege to partner with the Forte family, and the family element is key. So many hotels and restaurants are corporate chains but this is different. The brasserie is very much my own thing and this is how the Forte family wish it to be.

But, of course, I have greatly benefited and been informed by our association.

Like any partnership, it is two-way. Our families share a long friendship and the same passion for customer service, quality, excellence and we respect and understand one another. Our alliance is unique – Britain’s best-known hotel and culinary families together in this project.

And it is true to say that Lydia Forte – Sir Rocco Forte’s daughter and Rocco Forte Hotel’s bar and restaurant development manager – and I represent the new generation as we aim to reflect the modern perspective in the interior design and menu. It’s just great fun!

To continue the family theme, my father, Michel, is at the centre of the project with me. He is a huge inspiration in all that I do, but in particular this new brasserie. He is enjoying the thrill of starting a new place, a process he loves and he is interested in every small detail. His drive, enthusiasm and guidance are empowering for me and the whole team. He will be a frequent visitor.

I will work closely with my exceptional resident head chef, Phil Hickman, who has been with me for five years at The Waterside Inn and whose passion and fine skills will be showcased perfectly at Brasserie Prince. With our strong team he will execute the menu overseen by me with precision and flair.

What do you think of Scottish produce and Scottish food? What do you think you will add to the culinary scene when you open?

I am in awe of Scottish produce, it is a natural larder like no other. As many of Scotland’s wild and delicious ingredients as possible will feature in our menu. You will find the Scottish seashore represented, not only with the finest fruits de mer platters, overflowing with oysters and langoustines but also crab, lobster, salmon, scallops, trout, monkfish and bouillabaisse will all feature.

Along with head chef Phil Hickman, I have created a menu committed to provenance and one that is seasonally led, with very simple, delicious, high quality ingredients prepared to a high standard. There will be Highland beef, venison when in season, lamb, fine fruits and vegetables, even haggis, black pudding and Mallaig kippers.

But I am French through and through so there will be no mistaking that this is a French brasserie. It is from the heart, embedded in nostalgia and will represent the finest Roux heritage cooking.

My great-grandfather and grandfather were charcutiers in Paris so there will be delicious French and some Italian, charcuterie, terrines and cheeses.

And the most amazing Roux family cook of all, my paternal Grandma Germaine, who will be represented with some of her tasty, hearty, flavourful dishes. All of us grew up on her veal blanquette so this had to feature, along with daily specials derived from her recipes.

How do you think the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France will influence the restaurant?

Our new brasserie celebrates and reinvigorates the Auld Alliance, one of Scotland’s oldest and strongest foreign alliances, reinterpreted in this exciting Forte-Roux alliance. The brasserie will reflect this affinity between France and Scotland, through its staff, food and culture. As important as our menu is, our aim is that our hospitality will be as warm and enduring as the Alliance itself.

The new restaurant will be a brasserie. What is special about this kind of restaurant and what does it allow you to do with your menu?

My dad, Michel, founded the first ever brasserie in UK, Brasserie Benoit, later Le Gamin, in the City of London in the 1970s, so he is a major inspiration. His place was always heaving with the movers and shakers of the day, serving 120 covers for lunch. It is so exciting to think that some of its most popular recipes will be served again at Brasserie Prince. It is like a distillation of all that we know as a family, but in my signature style.

The vibe and atmosphere of all-day dining defines a brasserie and sets it apart from other restaurants. There will be the bustle and excitement of an open display kitchen that will add a touch of bohemian Frenchness, with a vivid display of charcuterie, cheeses and fruits de mer.

Our menu fascinates from breakfast, brunch through to dinner and beyond with dishes from my childhood, reassuringly familiar comfort food but fresh, delicious continental style dishes too – for example, fresh waffles for breakfast, coq au vin with tagliatelle, lamb cutlets with couscous, sorrel and mint sauce, Parisian gnocchi gratin.

The menu will be complemented by an expertly curated wine list with wines sourced from France, Italy and around the world. And for those that prefer a more informal visit, our bar will be a seductive, cool area where customers can sit at the counter or tables and share platters, nibbles and choose from the alluring cocktail menu. The brasserie is the sort of place I would choose to eat.

Have you chosen a ­particular style or theme?

Brasserie Prince will be a modern yet authentic French brasserie, predicated in Roux family nostalgia whilst paying homage to the finest Scottish seasonal larder, presented in contemporary style. A cool and beautiful interior designed by Martin Brudnizki, it will be comfortable, elegant with an intimate yet glamorous atmosphere. Quite simply anyone that loves good food is welcome. Head chef Phil and I can’t wait to meet you!