Willie Lonnie is the Head Chef at 11 Brasserie at No 11, a boutique hotel and restaurant on Edinburgh’s Brunswick Street.
A five minute walk from Edinburgh Playhouse, No 11 was designed by William Playfair, the architect who created many of the city’s most famous buildings. The Royal Scottish Academy, Surgeons’ Hall and the University’s Old College are all Playfair buildings.
Black Watch regimental club
The Georgian townhouse has its own interesting history. In the 1930s, it was home to the regimental club of the Black Watch. It began its latest lease of life in 2012 when Hamish and Susan Grant completely refurbished the previous hotel and re-opened as 11 Brunswick Street.
Chef Lonnie has a long CV taking in stints everywhere from the Braidhills Hotel in Edinburgh to Vong in Knightsbridge. From Bouzy Rouge in Glasgow to L’Auberge and The Ship on the Shore in Edinburgh, he has spent many a year rocking the range in Central Belt restaurants.
In this interview, he talked to 5pm Dining about his love of game and the importance of respecting your ingredients. The video shows Chef prepping a starter of spiced and marinaded pigeon with celeriac pakora and butternut squash purée.
If you would like to try Chef Lonnie’s food then we are currently running a great 5pm Big Deal: £38 for a three course meal for two.
Can you describe the style of food served at the brasserie?
WL: Primarily using local produce, we serve traditional Scottish recipes with a modern edge and the occasional international influence. We try to respect the food and by that I mean cooking with care and a light touch. We want to allow the natural flavours to burst through. We also cook everything from scratch.
Why is using local, seasonal produce important for you?
WL: First and foremost, it is worth remembering that nature does the work to produce the flavour – a good chef merely enhances natures work by presenting the food well.
When you think about Scotland, we have low population density, low pollution and wide open spaces with lots of clean air and fresh spring water. As a result, animals that graze/feed in Scotland do so in some of the best natural spaces in the world. For instance, take Hebridean lamb. Those sheep dine on seaweed and grass – imagine what a natural, unusual (not to mention therapeutic) fantastic flavour that diet gives to the meat.
It is a similar story with the different varieties of venison, game birds, wild salmon and trout that we have in Scotland. The natural environment – all that fresh water, heather and meadow grass – promotes fresh, natural flavours.
Do you have a favourite time of year in the kitchen?
WL: Autumn because there is such a lovely variety of things to work with. All the ingredients which I like to cook with game and meat are at their best at that time of year. All those wild mushrooms and root vegetables give unique flavours to my dishes and, of course, the game season is getting into gear at that time of year.
Is there a product/ingredient that you really look forward to using each year?
WL: Local wild mushrooms from the forager. The flavours and shapes are so varied and that makes them interesting and exciting to work with.
What is the best thing about being a chef?
WL: There are lots of things I love about being a chef – constant change, always working with something different and having to adapt to the various challenges that a kitchen can present. The role comes with great job satisfaction as well. When the diner has really enjoyed their dish and is enthusing about the flavours and texture – you know that you are doing a great job.
And the worst?
WL: I love the job and I find it difficult to switch off, so I am always mulling over new ideas. Such commitment can play havoc with the social life but I wouldn’t have it any other way!
What is your favourite dish on the menu? And why?
WL: Pigeon because the flavours are unusual and it’s a pleasure to prep.