Arbor restaurant at The Green House hotel - meeting chef Andy Hilton
PUBLISHED: 10:28 26 January 2015 | UPDATED: 15:29 06 November 2017
Andy Hilton is head chef at Arbor restaurant at The Green House hotel which recently won Gold at the Dorset Tourism Awards. He tells us about his locally inspired menu
Loccal and seasonal runs through the heart of Andy Hilton’s imaginative and award-winning menus, with produce drawn from across Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire. The Green House, which is set in the heart of Bournemouth, was developed on sustainable principles, so there is as much organic, Fairtrade and farm assured produce as possible, including honey from bee hives on the hotel’s roof!
• Who got you into cooking?
My cooking was encouraged by my father. Saturdays we’d create spicy curries and Sundays were all about the roast. It was the one day of the week where the whole family would all sit down and eat together. The smell was amazing, whenever I get a whiff of a good joint of meat roasting it takes me back.
• What made you decide to be a chef?
Both my parents worked and I would always cook dinner after school, trying out different things. They just smiled and devoured them regardless. I guess cooking is in my blood!
• Tell me about your training?
I trained at South Devon College but my passion to be a chef really took hold when I started working at the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath. I learnt how to think about food and to treat everything with the respect it deserves. It was tough, 18 hour days, but the pride of working in one of the most recognised hotels in the world kept us motivated and passionate about what we did. When training my guys or girls in the kitchen I’m not concerned with their skill set, they just need the drive and passion.
• Who are your culinary heroes and why?
My previous head chef, Gordon Jones, whose ability to see a finished dish within a stack of raw materials is amazing. He taught me not to work in the constraints of ‘normal’. He’d say “try and be different” and “let your food reflect your personality.” Hence daily I strive to make my food look amazing and taste even better.
• What inspires your menus at Arbor?
The richness of local ingredients including seafood from the Dorset coast, fresh produce from one of England’s garden counties, meat from nearby Wiltshire and game from the New Forest. Food has to invoke emotion. It should be inviting through presentation, colour and aroma. Then it has to start a debate. If at some point during the meal, diners don’t halt their conversation to comment on the food then I’ve failed.
• What are your signature dishes?
Certain factors go into every dish I create: always contrasting textures, fresh herbs and flavourings, hot and cold. Colour is very important, and every dish must have a clean presentation. These are my signatures.
• Do you source your ingredients locally?
We put a lot of effort into selecting our food and drink suppliers, working closely with them to come up with fair and ethical agreements that benefit them and us. We buy only from quality assured specialist providers within a 50-mile radius, who are as passionate about food excellence as we are. You can find out more about how we source our ingredients on our website.
• Do you have any favourite ingredients?
A bottle of truffle oil is never far from my side, but for me fresh herbs are essential. They can enhance any component of a dish.
• What’s on your 2015 menu?
Our spring menu will feature lamb, maybe a bit of rabbit and all the lovely seafood from Poole Quay, matched with local seasonal fruit and veg including spring mushrooms, elderflowers, berries and preserves from the New Forest. I have a passion for wildly varied ingredients gathered from a treasured collection of small local artisan suppliers, many are family-run businesses. It’s going to be a great year for Arbor!