10 months ago

INTERVIEW: Robin Gill, chef and restauranteur

We chatted to Robin Gill over a perfect Aperol Spritz in Sorella, just one of the restaurants in his foodie empire.

To kick things off can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about you?

Yeah, so my name is Robin Gill and we’re in Sorella! I’m a chef and restauranteur. I look after a small family of restaurants which are are all very different. We’ve got our Trattoria here. I’ve got a natural wine bar, in Brixton called Bottle + Rye, which is modelled on a Parisian cafe culture. I’ve got a brasserie, bakery and oyster bar called Darby’s in Nine Elms and I have a bakery in Brentford called Rye by the Water.

So what got you into cooking in the first place?

I guess I was always cooking at home. My brother was a cook, my sister was a cook and my auntie had a farm down in Galway so I was surrounded by food, but I failed that everything else I did when I was a kid. You know, I always wanted to be a musician but I didn’t get into it properly and I kept on bunking off classes. I bunked off school. It was actually my dad that suggested I become a cook. He was a musician and I went home after failing in school and said I was going to become an electrician. And he said, ‘What do you want to do that for? You’ve never even changed the light bulb.’ So I just wanted to please him. Then I jumped into a kitchen and loved it- fell in love with it completely. Interestingly enough, it’s gone full circle. Now that I’ve opened a couple of restaurants, I try to incorporate music into the business in some way. We have live music in Darby’s twice a week and we do a lot of events. I used to do a thing called bloodshot supper club in The Dairy, which is kind of legendary, and that involved music, really late night DJs and stuff like that.

You’re Irish born, but what brings you to Clapham? And tell us a little more about The Dairy.

I initially first move to northwest London when I first moved over. Me and two pals all went to work in Michelin restaurants. I went to a three star, Paulie went to Le Gavroche… actually another local resident! You’ve got Michelle Reed Jr living here. So he went to work there and the other fellow went to another. So initially I lived in northwest London but then all of my friends were living in Clapham. So that’s what first brought me here, and what kept me here. After that we opened our first restaurant, which was The Dairy.

The Dairy was such a gem. What made it so special?

I have to say the dairy was like a major part of our lives. My wife and I opened it in 2013, with our friends as well. The people that we open the business with were a major part of it. I guess we just threw everything at it. We had three or four beehives on the roof, we were making our own charcuterie and we were growing vegetables and herbs on the roof as well. It was really fun, it was very food focused and had an amazing wine list but it kind of broke all the rules of fine dining. It was no tablecloths, it was rock and roll loud music, and fun. And that’s what made it really, really special. It’s still an open wound, in fact, we had a son a couple of years after opening it, Ziggy and when he was about two or three, whenever we were driving past The Dairy the restaurant, he’d say, ‘That’s Daddy’s house’. It was our home, and we miss it terribly. But that was a real result of COVID and the cost of the building and all those kinds of things and it was very sad. So I’m really flattered that people still remember it. I can’t even go past without a cry.

What makes Sorella different to The Dairy or any of the other restaurants your are involved with?

A lot of people ask that because we’ve got quite a diverse portfolio. You’ve got a Parisian wine bar, you’ve got a New York style brasserie, The Dairy was like a modern bistro. Sorella is a little local Italian Trattoria and what what brings them all together is my love of produce. Everything is produce and craft driven. We have a bakery and we make our own charcuterie and fresh pasta. We share the same suppliers. I’ve been working with a family called the Bean family down in Cornwall for last 12 years and we buy fresh fish directly from them. We buy all of our meat directly from the farmers, too, and we do in house butchery at Darby’s. They’re all very different styles of cooking and experiences but what brings it together is produce. They’re all 100% produce led. What a lot of people don’t know is I spent part of my training near the Amalfi Coast, in a restaurant called Alphonso’s. They had their own farm overlooking Capri and we literally cooked whatever came up in a white van at 7.30 in the morning. They had their own fishing boat that came late at night and were cooking fish that was kicking in the morning. That’s where I was first exposed to produce and ingredients led food. Everyone’s banging on about it now but I did it right from day one. And that’s what Sorella is all about.

What’s your favourite thing on the menu here?

That’s a very tough question. You can’t narrow it down to just one thing. We were really famous for our arancini- all throughout lockdown we stayed open and just did hundreds and hundreds of arancini you. We have a carbonara arancini on at the moment which people go nuts for. We’re also known for fresh pasta and when it’s around, I’m not sure if they’re on at the moment, but we do one which is like a cacio e pepe but uses courgettes, lemon, loads of basil, black pepper and two types of cheese. It’s luxurious and super fresh with a Malfi lemon squeezed over the top as well. That’s that’s my go to. In fact we call it the honeymoon pasta because that’s where my wife and I kind of fell in love and we went back there for a honeymoon and is famous in this one little bay.

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