JKS RESTAURANTS PARTNER WITH LUKE FARRELL
This April, JKS Restaurants will launch a series of restaurants with chef and grower of Asian ingredients, Luke Farrell.
Luke has spent over 15 years in Thailand, and training and working in kitchens across South East Asia. Alongside his extensive culinary learnings, over the years he has also acquired hundreds of cuttings and seeds which he has cultivated back at his own nursery, Ryewater, in Dorset. This has allowed him to dutifully grow and recreate his favourite regional cuisines of Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, India and China, here in the UK, as well as supply Europe’s top Thai restaurants and the Thai embassy in London.
At his ‘living library’, herbs and vegetables alike are pollinated by hundreds of butterflies in heated greenhouses, with tropical rain showers running throughout. Connected to the greenhouse is Luke’s development kitchen filled with traditional cookware, where he invites chefs to share in his joy and knowledge of South East Asian cookery.
Plaza Khao Gaeng, his debut restaurant at Arcade Food Hall Centrepoint, is a celebration of Southern Thai cuisine. Khao gaeng broadly means ‘curry over rice’. “A Southern Thai raan khao gaeng gloriously manifests this coast to jungle cuisine, under-represented outside of Thailand. It’s a kaleidoscope of curries thick with fresh coconut milk and aromatic curry pastes, fermented fish for depth, and searingly hot stir fries with cooling herbs alongside” says Luke.
Khao gaeng restaurants fill the space around them the more popular they become. Plaza is inspired by one such place that has taken over an old Thai movie theatre. Curries set out in gleaming trays fill the entrance under the faded façade and up the stairs to the box office. This anytime comfort food provides pause in a place cool and quiet from the bustle of the street below. It is in this spirit, Plaza Khao Gaeng fills the mezzanine overlooking the main food hall at Arcade.
The menu hinges on fresh curry pastes from small producers in Thailand. Some have been pounding pastes for three generations with specialist chillies, turmeric, and long pepper in ready supply. Premium shrimp paste, palm sugar and fish sauce too, ensure a strong link to Thailand’s traditional foodways.
Fresh ingredients come to Plaza from a custom built 35m long tropical greenhouse at Ryewater, which grows aromatic gingers, galangal, citrus, green papaya and delicate leaves, all with the floral and fleeting aromas that would struggle with the long journey from Thailand. Great care has been taken to weave this fresh produce with the curry pastes into the menu and dutifully recreate Southern Thai cuisine.
Think curries such as ‘Gaeng Tai Pla’, smoky mackerel with fermented fish innards, bamboo shoots and Thai aubergine; southern sour orange ‘Gaeng Som’ curry, with garcinia, among other puckering fruits, and fish; and ‘Gaeng Gati’, a perfumed chicken and coconut curry with betel leaf. Seasonal stir fries will feature ‘Klua Kling Moo’, wok-fried pork in a punchy southern curry paste, and ‘Goong pad Sator’, prawns with sator beans and pungent shrimp paste on the opening menu. Quell the spice with a range of drinks from tropical cocktails, lime sodas, Thai-style milky iced tea and coffee.
Luke’s second offering, Bebek! Bebek! is an Indonesian street food kitchen joining a roster of other brand new concepts at Arcade in the main food hall. Bringing the colour and culinary drama of an Indonesian hawker stand, the vibrant menu will focus on traditional smoked duck and chicken from Yogyakarta, made possible with new supply lines to Indonesian ingredients and fresh produce grown at Ryewater Nursery.
“The secret lies in a heady combo of charcoal grilling, smoking, frying and spice marinade. Specially imported flat pestle and mortars made with volcanic rock from Mount Merapi release the essential oils of crimson ‘devil’ chillies for sambals; crushed sour green mango, palm sugar and tamarind for dressings; and even pound the crispy-fried duck and chicken for that toothsome street food texture” says Luke.
Dive into the night-market style menu with ‘Sate Maranggi’, beef satay grilled over a cascading waterfall of smoke on a traditional double charcoal grill, moving on to main dishes of wildly spiced ‘Bebek Goreng’ duck leg or ‘Ayam Penyet’, crunchy chicken leg ‘smashed’ and slathered in sambal. All accompanied by 'kerupuk' crackers, salads spiked with pickles, tofu, tempeh and tangy sambals, the cornerstone of Indonesian cuisine.
Karam Sethi comments ‘I first met Luke in 2009 when he was a stagier at Trishna and have since followed what he’s been up to from a distance. He’s an encyclopaedia on all things Thai and Southeast Asian and the first person I called to work with on the Thai restaurant at Arcade. I can see similarities between the Indian food market in London in 2008 and the Thai food market currently. There is a genuine love for the cuisine and the opportunity to showcase pure, regional Thai food using the ingredients of Thailand is exciting.’
There’s more to come from Luke, with details of another project to be announced imminently.
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