We talk to James Pressly, the new Executive Chef at De Vere Latimer Estate Hotel
Executive Chef James Pressly took over running the busy kitchen at the hub of the Latimer Estate Hotel five months ago and is gradually making his mark.
Pressly, a South African by birth, has an impressive gastro chef pedigree earned by heading up kitchens at top hotels worldwide – most recently in South America and the Bahamas.
In a role that’s both administrative and creative, James works closely with the Latimer Estate Restaurant Manager, leading a productive brigade of 12-16 chefs/sous chefs. He orders and oversees food delivery, ensures an efficient schedule, plans menus and more. And he loves it.
“After 31 years I am still excited by the kitchen buzz. It’s full on here and we all get on well which gives good results. We cater for weekly conferences, dinner for hotel guests and visitors in the 1838 restaurant and serve afternoon teas and lunches in the bar.”
The 1838 restaurant takes its name from the year the Tudor style mansion house was completed and is also the year William Morris was born (the restaurant wallcovering is a signature Morris design). It is spacious, light and airy with an open kitchen so chefs are on view – rare for a hotel.
One of James’s recent priorities has been developing innovative recipes and updating the restaurant’s menu.
“I am aiming to keep dishes seasonal and ingredients sustainable, sourcing locally or nationally where possible. We get watercress from Sarratt and lamb from Wales, salt marsh lamb when in season. The coastal sheep graze in the salt marsh estuaries which are doused by the sea so rich in plants and minerals like Samphire, Sorrel, Sea Lavender and Thrift which gives a distinctive meat flavour and tender texture. It’s delicious roasted.
Lamb dishes have developed with me. In South Africa we would cook lamb on the traditional barbecue or braai (Afrikaans for roasted meat) . In the early days I served lamb with Mediterranean veg. In our restaurant lamb will be with seasonal Jersey Royals, cherry tomatoes, glazed shallots and pea puree, served with a thyme jus. It’s delicious”
Other new 1838 Menu additions include Corn-fed Chicken, cooked with celery and served with leeks; Sea Bream – oven baked or pan fried and Plaice with lemon capers and new potatoes. And for pudding lovers there’s chocolate fondant to die for, sharp lemon torte, a classic British cheeseboard and a rhubarb special coming up in April.
“I might have tennis elbow and tender tendons from constant chopping but I still have fire in my belly when I cook. There’s nothing better than guests enjoying what we prepare.”
The 1838 restaurant at De Vere Latimer Estate is open for dinner daily. James and his team at Latimer Estate 1838 restaurant have put together a special Mother’s Day menu on Sunday 11 March. Details opposite. Afternoon teas and lunches are served in the Library and Huntley bar