Chris Zachwieja has been appointed head chef of The Soak, the latest arrival on London Victoria’s growing bar and restaurant scene. On the menu, you will find meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, cakes and drinks built around fermenting, pickling, brining and steeping techniques. Taking inspiration from the Grade II listed building it is adjoined to, the design is influenced by the richness of a Parisian chateau – mixed with the vibrancy of the city that surrounds it. With The Soak set to open its doors at the end of April, Chris talks about his passion for pickles and why 2019 will see foodies ‘soaking’ up the latest trend that not only tastes great but has health benefits too.
Q. What is your background in the hospitality industry?
I first became a chef in my native Poland, where I learned my trade in hotel kitchens. After I moved to the UK, I progressed from cooking in gastro pubs to Michelin starred restaurants, including a stint under Tom Aikens. I was then appointed as a development chef for one of the most famous hotels in London, The Ritz and for the last three years I have worked at Boisdale of Belgravia, a stone’s throw away from The Soak.
Q. What attracted you to this particular project?
Nothing tastes more like Polish home-cooking than soaked, pickled, or fermented food. Brining and fermenting are the techniques that I was brought up on, and I’ve used this style of cooking ever since I began working in kitchens in my native Poland. The seasonal menu I am developing will include delicious signature dishes that have been enhanced through brining, steeping, fermenting and soaking, I am excited to start sharing these flavours with our customers.
Q. Why is the menu focused on brining, steeping, fermenting and soaking?
We wanted to come up with a concept that was unique to the area of Victoria. I believe steeping and preserving are the best ways to develop deep, bold and strong flavours, whether it be with meats or vegetables or preparing fruit for use in desserts. The soaking techniques allow flavour to absorb deep into the foods and enhance tenderness. It’s all about creating taste through longer periods of time, using methods that soak and steep food and drink with long-lasting flavour. Not only are we enriching flavour but we are also using techniques that provide many health benefits, for example kefir, a fermented milk, can aid digestion.
Q. What meal times will be available?
The venue will be open from 7am, with extended opening hours until 2am on Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays, offering a new late-night experience to the area. Breakfast will be served from 7-10.30am, Monday-Friday and from 8am on a Saturday. We will also be offering an all-day Sunday brunch served from 10am-4pm. Lunch and dinner will be served every day of the week, with late night nibbles available on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The food and drink menus will have specialist dishes tailored to different times of the day, so our guests can experience ‘soaked’ food and drink all day.
Q. Can you explain more about the thinking behind the signature Rum Baba and the dish itself?
This is one of my favourite items on our menu. The Rum Baba is a traditional dessert soaked in fermented rum, topped with juicy, roasted pineapple, it’s a special dish which guests will be able to enjoy as a punchy afternoon treat or from our dessert menu. What better way to represent the concept behind The Soak than with our very own signature ‘soaked’ Rum Baba? I can’t wait for everyone to try it.
Q. What dishes are you most excited about?
The menu will be seasonal, and the dishes will be regularly rotated to reflect the changing seasons, the team is also working hard to source our food and drink from local suppliers to help reduce our carbon footprint. The dish I’m most excited about is the cured venison tartare, for this dish we will be using the haunch muscle, which is a beautiful cut of meat, and is perfectly prepared through soaking techniques. The result is similar to a bresaola, but with a twist because we’ll use an array of beautiful delicate spices.
The slow cooked Beef Cheek Bourguignon will also be extra special and requires an extended brining process to capture all the flavours and is topped off with gorgeous shallots and mushrooms.
For more information please visit www.thesoak.co.uk