Nestled away in a rural corner of West Sussex is the spiritual home of The Gladwin Brothers. The three siblings – one a restauranteur, one a chef and the other a farmer are the culinary minds behind three of London’s best restaurants: The Shed, Rabbit & Nutbourne.
If you’re yet to taste their delicious, seasonal take on wild food then we’d suggest this is a good place to start. We recently caught up with them to learn more about each of the brothers and hear what’s involved in their field-to-fork cooking style.
CAN YOU TELL US HOW ‘THE GLADWIN BROTHERS’ FIRST CAME ABOUT?
Richard - ‘At a young age, our parents moved us down to a small vineyard in West Sussex and from there we learnt how to work the land and how to work as a team. Both our parents are keen chefs and our father is a seasoned restauranteur - food has always been a big thing in our family.”
“We didn’t have a grand plan but one Christmas day we had what we call a ‘meeting’ (sneaking into an outbuilding at home, sinking a bottle of wine and then coming up with some fun ideas). Oliver had been learning about cooking and foraging, Gregory was working on the farm and I'd just helped open two restaurants. It seemed the right thing to do so we dropped the bombshell to our parents over Christmas dinner…”
ONCE THE PARTNERSHIP WAS FORMED, WHAT CAME FIRST?
Richard – “I was the only one of us in London when we first launched The Shed in Notting Hill. Oliver was busy learning what essentially is the concept behind our restaurants at the River Cottage so I was tasked with finding a site.”
Oliver – “We had a few simple requirements for the first restaurant - big walk-in fridge for on-site butchery and we wanted somewhere with character and eccentricity. We found exactly that in The Shed so I went and worked their undercover to get a feel for the space and the kitchen – it was the one.”
Richard – “From there, we did a cookbook to capture the story of what we were trying to achieve as The Gladwin Brothers. We then opened Rabbit, on the Kings Road. The idea was to capture more of the countryside than The Shed – bringing together the three of us: a farmer, chef and restauranteur. Rabbit was about looking into the hedgerow and showing all of what the countryside had to offer in terms of food.”
Oliver – “Our business then needed to expand sideways as Richard and I were running around like headless chickens trying to get all the produce into the kitchens ready for each service. We took on some warehouse space in Battersea which meant we could skin all the deer and venison and pluck all the birds. Things that take up loads of space and make loads of mess around a kitchen."
Richard - “Whilst developing our business behind the scenes, this restaurant came up for sale in Battersea. It was a restaurant we’d been to many times as a family and it held something quite special for us. When it came up for sale we were full of joys and were desperate to get our hands on it. We took the big bite and opened Nutbourne.”
OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS, CHEFS AND RESTAURANTEURS HAVE GAINED ALMOST ROCKSTAR STATUS. WHO DO YOU LOOK UP TO?
Oliver – “Ha, well I can certainly tell you that working in the catering industry isn’t all rock’n’roll! That said, a chef I really admire is Simon Rogan – he really believes in wild food and does it in a really elegant way. His dishes are simple so that he doesn’t detract from the delicious flavours of natural ingredients.”
THE LONDON FOOD SCENE IS RAPIDLY GROWING & EVOLVING. HOW DO YOU KEEP PEOPLE INTERESTED IN WHAT THE GLADWIN BROTHERS HAVE TO OFFER?
Richard – “Food trends do certainly affect things but we’re lucky in the sense that we’re not limited to a certain product. We’re not limited to making a great burger, taco or pizza so we’re able to be incredibly experimental and come up with some exciting new menus and dishes.”
Oliver - “What I try to drum into our kitchens and team is that we are the best ‘local’ restaurant. We’re breaking boundaries – I can experiment how to age my own brother’s cows for 64 days, butcher it into a Tomahawk beef steak and put that on ten people’s plates. You can’t get that anywhere else - what we’re doing is so special!”
WHAT'S IT LIKE WORKING AS THREE BROTHERS?
Richard - “We learnt early on how to get things done. It’s knowing how to be a team of three brothers and knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses – if we have to go for a throwing completion, I’ll watch!”
“Our jobs are so diverse and each takes equally long amounts of time. If there’s any job that requires more hours than hospitality it’s cattle and sheep farming, on your own! There’s no way we could achieve our vision without each of our expertise. We slot in well with each other, and if someone is wrong…”
Gregory – “We make sure they know about it!”
DO RESTAURANTEURS AND CHEFS PLAY AN INCREASINGLY IMPORTANT ROLE IN EDUCATING DINERS ON WHERE THEIR FOOD COMES FROM?
Oliver – “Hugely! We are ambassadors of the farming industry – we know that for a humble carrot to grow it needs to be in the ground for nearly a year. The carrot could be picked, delivered to the kitchen, peeled in 30 seconds, cooked it in two minutes and then the guest can eat it in one mouthful. All the hard work that has gone into producing that fantastic ingredient and it doesn’t get the full credit deserved.”
“The most important thing is that we’re kind to not only each other in our business but also the produce we use. If that mentality is used across the business then we’re hopefully helping to educated consumers the right way.”
ELIMINATING FOOD WASTE IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR BUSINESS. WHAT COULD THE INDUSTRY DO MORE TO REDUCE THIS ISSUE?
Oliver – “Smaller and more adaptable menus. To be a skilled cook you need to spontaneously be able to change your dishes to what you have got in the fridge. And, have that ambition to respect the produce and not let anything go to waste! There are also brilliant techniques of preservation like fermentation that can give food a longer life.”
“We actually recently had the Sustainable Restaurant Awards party where I served up a cricket popcorn mouthful – I used cricket because it’s a great potential future source of protein. Our heritage as human-beings has been lost with supermarkets bringing in tropical fruits from all across the world – all year round. We’re missing the first bit of education where children learn about nature, where food comes from and the possibilities of what local nature offers.”
WHAT IS NEXT FOR THE GLADWIN BROTHERS, WHAT CAN WE SEE OVER THE NEXT COUPLE OF MONTHS?
Richard – “We’re actually opening a pop-up restaurant in Earls Court, a new concept being opened by the team behind Pergola on the Roof. We’re taking our wild food into a more snacking format and creating some amazing new toasted sourdough soldiers – we’re really excited!”
QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS. WHAT’S YOUR DEATH ROW MEAL?
Gregory – “Steak Tartare”
Richard – “I’m lobster thermidor with Châteauneuf-Du-Pape, could I be anymore cliché?”
FAVOURITE DISH ON ONE OF YOUR MENUS AT THE MOMENT?
Oliver – “Yesterday I cooked a desert of green gauges that are slightly caramelised in butter so they’re golden. I added some brown demerara sugar so that you’ve got a delicious caramel. I then served it with goat’s curd, some charred earl grey tea marshmallows, burnt white chocolate and dropped a bomb of lemon verbena powder. It not only looked like first class food but the flavours were insane.”
FAVOURITE NEW RESTAURANT IN LONDON THAT ISN’T YOURS?
Richard – “Well, I must admit that as a restauranteur and spending all my working hours in kitchens I do struggle to eat at other restaurants.
“The thing I’m most excited about is a present I recently received called a Roccbox. It’s a table top wood fired oven perfect for slow roast lamb, spatchcock chicken or even venison loin – all done on my balcony in London. It’s the best thing for a foodie guy!”
WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST PET HATE WHEN IT COMES TO COOKING?
Oliver – “When I find lemon pips in food – it’s a sign of a lazy chef. You bite into it thinking it’s a really nice pine nut and actually you’ve got the sharp bitterness of lemon.”
Richard – “Green vegetables. In the water. Before it comes to the boil. OH.MY.GOD.”