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Meet the Chef behind The Acorn in Evershot

PUBLISHED: 15:35 03 September 2018 | UPDATED: 15:35 03 September 2018

Robert - Head Chef at The Acorn

Robert - Head Chef at The Acorn

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Robert Ndungu, Head Chef of the award-winning pub The Acorn in Evershot, reveals what is making his tastebuds tingle as summer gives way to autumn

Born and bought up on the coast of Kenya, Robert Ndungu was inspired by his mother’s ability to turn simple fresh local ingredients into flavour-packed dishes for the family. Classically trained in the French style, Robert’s menus at The Acorn embrace the seasonal larder of Dorset’s coast and countryside, though his proudest moment was cooking barbecued goat with Kenyan market greens and a homemade chimichurri sauce for the former Kenyan president Daniel Arap Moi.

Tell me about the dishes of your childhood

Growing-up on the Kenyan coast there was an abundance of fish from the Indian Ocean and Portuguese-inspired cuisine. My mother was a brilliant cook, turning humble ingredients into delicious dishes like red snapper and peppers with coconut rice - which was always a treat.

Which chefs inspired your passion for cooking?

My biggest inspiration is Keith Floyd, his TV series was shown a lot in Kenya, and I admire Michael Caines’ style of cooking. I also had the great privilege of working with Mark Hix at his fish restaurant in Lyme Regis and The Tramshed in London, where I learnt about seasonal seafood.

So what will I find on The Acorn’s menu?

Twice baked Portland crab and Cornish Yarg soufflé on pickled samphire, saffron and dill veloute and a 
cheese strawTwice baked Portland crab and Cornish Yarg soufflé on pickled samphire, saffron and dill veloute and a cheese straw

The menu reflects what fresh seasonal produce is available in Dorset and the south west; we are just 15 minutes from Lyme Bay and its locally caught fish, as well as shellfish like Portland crab and Brownsea oysters. We source meat from local farms and we also have our own herb garden. My biggest pleasure is foraging hedgerows and woods for wild garlic, berries and mushrooms.

Do you have any favourite signature dishes?

The twice-baked Portland crab and Cornish Yarg soufflé served on pickled samphire with a saffron and dill veloute is a favourite. Another is my Dorset Conker gin cured trout served with pickled cucumber, tonic gel and herb oil, a stunning combination of flavours.

And for dessert…

For a summer dessert how about elderflower marinated strawberries, strawberry pearls, homemade yoghurt and lemon ice cream? Though my personal favourtie is the chocolate mousse sphere with salted caramel centre, peanut butter crumble and caramelised bananas

created by Ana, our talented pastry chef.

What’s exciting your tastebuds at the moment?

Autumn is one of the best times for a chef, with local game such as pheasant and venison arriving in our kitchen as well as seasonal vegetables and fruits such as apples, blackberries and sloes. I particularly enjoy curing meats and fish, making pickles and planning warming dishes for

the winter.

What would be your favourite supper?

It would be on the beach at sunset with my wonderful wife Maria. We would share barbecued sardines with an onion, tomato and herb salsa, followed by grilled peaches with homemade thyme ice cream.

More at acorn-inn.co.uk

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