Chef Q&A: Niall Keating of The Dining Room, Whatley Manor
PUBLISHED: 09:29 18 April 2019 | UPDATED: 09:29 18 April 2019
Niall Keating of The Dining Room at Whatley Manor enjoys showcasing the best of the world’s cuisines to his diners
Name: Niall Keating
Restaurant: The Dining Room at Whatley Manor
Address: Whatley Manor Hotel & Spa, Easton Grey, Malmesbury, Wiltshire, SN16 0RB
Tel: 01666 822 888
What is your earliest memory of food?
My earliest memory of food is eating Staffordshire Oatcakes with the family most weekends.
Tell us about your menu...
Depends on which restaurant you are referring to in Grey's Brasserie, the menu is a collaboration between myself and Julian Elkjær a very talented young chef who rejoins us from Denmark. The menu reflects British comfort classics but also some more exciting and open eating situations – including cuts of meat or fish to be taken in a family style. But most importantly well cooked and balanced. Beef from our local farmer – Tom Wakefield's herd that graze on organic grassland in the fields next to Whatley Manor.
The Dining Room menu features dishes that put ingredients at centre stage with the theatre and precision required to showcase our Michelin star credentials. It's a real showcase of inspiration and flavours from around the world.
How often do you change your menu?
The Brasserie menu has evolved massively from when we first opened Greys. We are now lucky to be in the position where we can pick and choose our cuts of meat and day boat fish to suit the seasons.
Whilst The Dining Room is always evolving, as we make adjustments to dishes. That's the nature of the dining room experience. For example the name of a dish might be the same but the composition of that dish will change depending on which ingredients are the freshest and most available.
As for The Green Room, that changes frequently because its based on small plate dining in its various regional iterations.
Which dish on the menu would you recommend to a customer?
Every dish on The Dining Room menu, as it's the chef's menu that showcases the best of what we are doing at that time. One of my favourite dishes right now is Pork loin and pork Jowl grilled over the Hibachi with confit turnips and Ssamjang sauce.
In Grey's it would be Julian's double cooked and slightly dried until sticky Beetroots with Brown butter, dates and sweet Walnuts.
How would you describe your approach to food?
I strive for bringing the best flavours out in every ingredient I use. I take a chance to innovate whenever I possibly can whilst keeping a close on eye precise cooking.
What advice would you give to a novice?
Get as much experience as possible, be open to learning and listening. Experience world cuisine whenever you can whilst staying true to your roots. Take a balanced chance. Take your time to develop your own cooking style.
What's your favourite local restaurant?
There are so many great restaurants to visit locally. When we can, my wife Laetizia and I will walk to one of the local restaurants so we get to enjoy the countryside. It has to be dog friendly as well because we have a beautiful Newfoundland. We want good well cooked food and a good local craft drinks menu. I like to see a few healthier dishes on their too. At the moment we tent to head to The Royal Oak in Tetbury or The Cat and Custard in Shipton Moyne.
Which chef has been your greatest inspiration?
The 3 chefs I spent the most time with. Sam Moody who was at The Bath Priory Hotel, Sat Bains of Reasturant Sat Bains in Nottingham and Corey Lee at the three-Michelin starred restaurant – benu in San Francisco.
Why should people visit you?
To relax, to enjoy, to celebrate. To try something new and ultimately to be indulged in gorgeous surroundings. Oh yes, and to meet the chefs. We like meeting guests and showing off our new kitchen to locals that are passionate about food and cooking.