Fergus Henderson, chef, on sea urchins
GB Tell me why you chose sea urchins.
FH Well there are two reasons. They’re these amazing spiky things to look at but they’re also the sexiest things in the world. Spiky and sexy is an incredible combination really. And there’s this musk that comes last. As a chef I’m often asked what my last meal would be and the answer’s always sea urchins.
GB Do the spikes make them more sexy? The way they look a bit dangerous?
FH It’s amazing that they’re such aggressive little things but they have this beautiful orange coral. They’re just warning nature off them with this spiky armour. It’s surprising when you see them move. I was just eating them in Norway. They can move right across the table.
GB How do you like to eat them? Raw with lemon?
FH No I think lemon’s too strong. I like to just cut them open and squeeze them out and follow them with a good white wine.
GB Do you think they’re an acquired taste? Could you eat them for breakfast every day or are they best eaten more rarely?
FH It may become a bit tiresome I suppose. It’s always nice to have a break from something and come back to it. But it’s amazing to go to the Tsujiki market, the main fish market in Tokyo, and have sea urchins with sake.
GB Do you serve them in St John?
FH Yes but they’re out of season right now. It starts again in September. I’ve found these really luscious ones from Ireland. A lot of them come through the fish market in Paris, and then back again to London but it’s best if there’s not too much handling. I love the Norwegian ones.
GB Do you think that the visual beauty of things makes them more appealing to eat.
FH Yes, people do weird things with plates of food. I think simple but good food is beautiful. Less is more.
GB You come from an architectural background. Do you still look for beauty in architecture?
FH Yes I was first drawn to architecture by the Bruneschelli foundling hospital in Florence. I was so impressed by how this space had been created and that it could bring such soothing calm. It’s a wonderful place. I thought it was so powerful that I decided to do architecture. But then later I decided that food was powerful too!
GB And your restaurants themselves also have that lovely soothing effect in their simplicity.
FH I like to think so!
GB What makes something worthy of the word Beauty to you?
FH Beauty bites your nose. If something comes along that’s unexpected, I find that beautiful. It’s a lovely surprise.