Paul Askew

Where do chefs relax when they’re off duty? The man behind Liverpool’s Art School Restaurant tells Fleur Rollet-Manus about the local food scene and the meal that made him weep with joy

When you’re not in the kitchen, where can we find you?

Liverpool is bouncing at the moment, so I’m always checking something out. When service ends the team often go to Salt Dog Slim’s in Seel Street. We’re also big fans of Maray on Bold Street, which serves Middle Eastern-inspired small plates, and we have a big soft spot for Nisha Katona’s street food at Mowgli.

And how about your local producers – who can we visit?

Check out Edge and Son at New Ferry on The Wirral. It’s a fifth-generation butcher that still has a slaughterhouse out back. They’ve been dealing with the same farmers for those five generations and know everything about the animal. I really value having that level of traceability and control over the meat I serve.

Can you still find a good scouse in Liverpool?

Ma Boyle’s is well known for it. If you wander along Bold Street, there are lots of pubs creating their own versions passed down from mothers, aunts and grandmas – all trying to out-scouse one another.

Any recommendations further afield?

The most mind-blowing meal I’ve ever eaten in my life was in the Basque Country, at Eneko Atxa’s Azurmendi in Bilbao. It’s the only restaurant on the planet that’s made me cry from joy at the end of the meal. My other favourite in the region is Restaurante Martín Berasategui, near San Sebastián – the hospitality is just second to none. In the UK, I recently went down to London and dined at Ollie Dabbous’ Hide in Mayfair. Every course has spectacular flavours.

What’s next on your list?

I’m excited to try Kerridge’s Bar & Grill. Tom Kerridge is what I call ‘a proper chef’. It’s not all about sous vide, science and dry ice floating across the tables. It’s real food cooked with real passion and from the heart.

Where do you head when you have downtime?

We shut the first week of August and all go away then. This year I’m taking two weeks off as I feel I’ve earnt it. I’ll be spending it at The King Jason hotel in Cyprus, on Fig Tree Bay – such a beautiful area.

Where in the world has the best food?

I lived abroad as a child and was enchanted by the spice markets in South East Asia and the fish markets in Singapore. Without those early experiences, I don’t think I would have found myself in this industry. You’ll see hints of flavours from the Middle East to North America and, of course, South East Asia in all my food. In Singapore, some of the best flavours come from the hawker stands. The most delicious I had was from a 12-year-old boy barbecuing chicken satay on the roadside at Newton Circus.

What’s next for The Art School?

We’re launching a new food and drink festival in Birkenhead Park on 7-8 September. I’ve roped Ellis Barrie and Tom Brown to come and host chef demos – we’re as thick as thieves after being on the telly together.

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