Dining Out

Meet Chef Rizwan Ahmed

One-on-one with the chef

Posted

Can you name a few of the most popular dishes at Hourglass Brasserie?
Our menu changes four times a year, with the seasons, so right now we’re in winter (although I’m hoping spring is right around the corner). Customers love our stuffed quail appetizer and our caramelized squid app. The quail is served with Mission fig, Prosciutto, pork sausage and a balsamic port reduction, while the squid is served on harissa (a Middle Eastern Sauce) and accompanied by Spanish chorizo, red capsicum (like a red bell pepper) and smoked paprika. Oh, and people love our beet salad. That always stays on the menu: I just change the garnishes and dressings.

It seems that for a French restaurant, your menu is quite global. What world cuisines influence you most?
Well, I’m half English and half Pakistani, so obviously much comes from my heritage. I’ve also worked and studied throughout the world. I attended Le Cordon Bleu in London for five years and worked at the Newport Room, a five diamond award-winning restaurant in Bermuda. It was known for its elegant French cuisine. I’ve always had a passion for food so it was easy to fall in love with the French methods of cooking. The French really know what they’re doing in the kitchen.

It must have been hard to leave sunny Bermuda. What brought you to Bristol?
I met my wife while I was in Bermuda – she’s a nurse and was working there at the time. We fell in love and I followed her home to be near the in-laws. I really love it here.

I hear you’ve worked with some Michelin-starred chefs and in some pretty impressive kitchens. Do tell.
I apprenticed under Paul Gayler at the Lanesborough Hotel in London. After that I worked under British-born French chef Michel Roux at the Michelin-starred Le Gavroche in London. I went on to work under Andre Garrett at the Michelin-starred restaurant The Orrery, also in London. I learned from the best.

What entrée menu items do you make especially well due to your formal training?
On the winter menu, customers are really enjoying the Roasted Duck Breast (with a confit of leg, pickled apples, parsnips, plum compote, purple mash and jus natural) and the “Four Hour” Braised Short Ribs. They’re served with glazed baby carrots, pearl onions, pommes mousseline and braising jus.

You recently got a full liquor license. How has that affected your business?
People used to call and ask, “Do you have a full liquor license?” When I’d say no, they’d say, “I’ll come in when you do.” Luckily, they have.

What drink from the bar would you recommend to a guest?
Wine. A strong drink dulls the palate. I don’t believe in following the old rules of white wine with fish and red with meat. I ask the customer, “What do you like?” If they like a merlot, I suggest a merlot, regardless of what they are eating. I believe people should drink the wines that they like.

What’s the best thing about being located on Thames Street?
The waterfront views and the convenience. People can park anywhere, come in to eat, then stroll around downtown after their meal.

What’s your favorite dish?
Well, since I’m half Pakistani I have to go with Brain Masala. It’s salted lamb brain. It’s spicy (I love spice), and the creaminess of the brain is just delicious. If I was choosing my last meal on earth, that would be it.