Allan Brown is Executive Chef at The Hawke Bar and Kitchen, a new cocktail lounge and casual dining space in Glasgow’s Merchant Square.
With a balcony location overlooking the Square, it is fantastic for people watching as well as meeting friends for a bite to eat and drinks.
Taking fresh Scottish produce as its starting point, the kitchen produces dishes which highlight the natural flavours of the ingredients. Carefully designed and plated, the food looks fantastic.
Mobile cocktail cabinet at The Hawke Bar and Kitchen
A big talking point is the tableside cocktail cabinet. This is a mobile mixologist station which is wheeled from table to table so that customers can order bespoke cocktails.
You can give The Hawke Bar and Kitchen a test flight with this Big Deal offering a two course meal for two at £15.
Can you describe the style of food served at The Hawke Bar and Kitchen?
AB: I like to think it’s a unique style. It’s from the heart. It is not following anyone else. It is led by the fresh, local produce we use. What we’re aiming for is to let those natural flavours shine through. Our job in the kitchen is to enhance those flavours and bring them out.
Presentation is also a very important part of what we do at The Hawke Bar and Kitchen. We try to make sure that every dish looks as good as it tastes.
What got you into cooking to begin with?
AB: I grew up in Fort William and there was all this fresh seafood on the doorstep. It was a place where life was quite seasonal and most of the work was in the hotels and restaurants.
I started working as a kitchen porter when I was fifteen and at school. I just stuck with it.
I’ve been in Glasgow for about ten years now. I worked under Paul Cuthbert who is now the Executive Chef at Ayr Racecourse. He was a big influence on my career after I moved to Glasgow. He put me on the right path.
What has changed on Glasgow/Scotland’s restaurant scene since you started here?
AB: People are eating out more than ever and are more clued up about food. That keep us on our toes. I think that more and more people are coming in and telling us about their dietary requirements in more and more detail.
You have a magic wand. What one thing would most improve Scotland’s restaurants?
AB: Controlling the weather would be useful. I’ve had to take seafood off the menu a number of times because the boats can’t get out. Other times, we might see walk-ins dip because it is pouring with rain. Reliable seasonal weather would help.
What is your favourite ingredient to work with?
AB: It has to be seafood. I love working with crab and langoustines. To be honest, I like working with most shellfish. They have great natural flavours and show their best when simply prepared. You just need to show them some love in the cooking.
What do you like to eat on a night off?
AB: I end up cooking a lot of Mexican.
What has been the most exotic thing you have eaten?
AB: My Head Chef is from Ethiopia. I was up at his house a few weeks ago and we had a dish called injera. It’s a chicken stew cooked in a clay pot and served in a sour pancake. That is probably the most exotic thing I have ever eaten and it was absolutely lovely.
What gadget/utensil can’t you work without?
AB: My mortar and pestle. I use that a lot for our rubs and seasoning.
Ketchup or Maldon sea salt?
You can get anyone in the world to cook you a meal. Who will it be?
AB: Rick Stein. He has the cooking skills and the chat. I haven’t eaten at any of his restaurants but me and my Head Chef are heading down to Cornwall in the next couple of months and hope to try his food then.
Apart from The Hawke Bar and Kitchen, where do you like to eat out?
AB: I have two young kids so me and the missus hardly ever get out. When we do go out, it’s the kids who choose and they want to go to the World Buffet. The kids love it because they can get anything they want.
AB: It’s being able to start a dish and follow it through to seeing a smile on someone’s face when they eat it.
And the worst?
AB: It’s the anti-social hours.
Have celeb chefs been a good or bad thing on the whole?
AB: It has been brilliant and has encouraged a lot of young people into the industry.
What’s been your worst kitchen disaster?
AB: We have been trying to think back and we haven’t had any disasters. We have what we like to call challenges and you come across them every day.
You’re cooking a special meal for your partner. What’s cooking?
AB: We’re back with shellfish again aren’t we? If it was a very special occasion, it would be good to push the boat out and go for a big fruits de mer platter.
Tell us your daftest customer complaint?
AB: ‘The soup is too hot’ or ‘This salad plate is cold. Is it just out of the fridge?’
Yes, of course it is. We always keep our plates in the fridge…
AB: We use a lot of shipping language for some reason. So we might say ‘All hands on deck’ and then, when we’re getting towards the end of a service, we might say, ‘We’re heading back to port’.
Who would win in a fight. Heston Blumenthal or Gordon Ramsay?
AB: You’ve got to go with Gordon, don’t you?