Head chef of the recently opened bar and dining room Ganymede in Belgravia, Daniel Mertl has held positions in a number of top kitchens including Noizé, Chez Bruce and The Glasshouse. Now at Ganymede, the second site from Lunar Pub Co, Daniel serves up exceptional British cuisine and show-stopping daily changing dishes.
We caught up with Daniel to hear all about his passion for food, how hard work pays off and his appreciation of pasta.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, including your where you are today, professionally, and what got you here?
I started cooking in London in September 2001, my move in date was actually 11th September and that date resonates with me and millions of other people for obvious reasons.
I managed to bag a ‘second commis second’ position at The Savoy Hotel after being rejected by many other five-star hotels. Whilst it was a real entry level position, it was still a foot in the door which is exactly what I needed at 18 years old! Since then, I have worked in a number of kitchens, from hotels to Michelin starred restaurants, and have loved every minute of it. You certainly don’t get anywhere without hard work, determination and a certain level of talent in this industry, but it is rewarding and a real career.
What or who inspired you to become a chef?
I was always inspired by Alain Ducasse and his food. It’s so simple yet still so extraordinary.
Who has been your biggest influence to get you to where you are today?
No one in particular, this comes from within and one’s desire to succeed. You have got to really want it.
What’s your signature dish?
I don’t have one, personally I like to think I change the menu enough to give plenty of choice and variation, however if you were to ask people who know me, they would probably say the quail pithivier with madeira sauce.
What are the most important considerations when crafting your menu?
That it’s interesting. I make a conscious effort to work with flavours so that everyone enjoys what they are eating, and every choice I make has purpose, I’m not just doing things for the sake of it.
Do your personal preferences influence the menu at all?
Yes of course, I wont cook anything I dislike or wouldn’t eat myself. Luckily enough I eat pretty much everything and the only thing I don’t like is caraway seeds, so that’s one of very few things you’ll never find in my kitchen.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Modern British, focusing on the highest quality ingredients put together in in exciting ways.
Do you have a favourite time of year or set of ingredients that you look forward to working with?
Spring and autumn.
What is your favourite ingredient to create with?
Would have to be pasta, I have made countless dishes and there are endless possibilities.
What would you be doing if you weren’t a chef?
I always wanted to be a chef and never even considered another path so it’s hard to say. Maybe a plumber?!
What is your favourite dish to cook at home?
Definitely a curry!
When are you happiest?
When I’m spending time with my loved ones.
What is your favourite piece of kitchen equipment?
Probably my pasta machine which fits onto my Kitchen Aid, it makes rolling pasta so much easier.
When you’re not in the kitchen where can you be found?
I like to get down to Brighton on my days off, spending time at the beach or walking around Devil’s Dyke.
What’s your favourite takeaway or comfort food?
It’s so hard to pick just one as totally depends what mood I’m in, but my favourites are Italian, Asian, French and Indian!
Where is your favourite place to dine?
I loved so many restaurants but if I had to pick just one, I would say La Trompette. I’ve been a number of times and it’s always incredible.
What do you think is the most over-hyped food trend?
Maybe not a trend exactly but I don’t understand the need to overly complicate things in the kitchen. You often see chefs putting random ingredients together that don’t really work, just to do something that seems ‘different’, but it’s just not necessary!
What do your future plans entail?
Just keep on going, doing what we’re doing and always striving to do it better!
How have the lockdown restrictions affected your work?
I was furloughed for a long time which was really tough, and I’m definitely glad to see the back of that period of time.
What differences do you find working with local produce as opposed to non-local produce in terms of what you can create and flavour?
It’s of course amazing cooking with local produce when it’s good, but at the end of the day if I can find better quality ingredients elsewhere, I will go with what is going to produce the best end result.
How do you go about menu planning? What’s the process from picking the ingredients to getting them fresh into the kitchen and into dishes?
Dishes and menu planning is pretty simple, especially after 10 years of being a head chef. I generally start with a protein (whatever is in season) and work my way around that, finding complementing flavours and textures to balance the dish out.
How would you describe the food you create at Ganymede to someone who’s never experienced your kind of food?
It’s modern British in style, and we focus on simple presentation and high-quality ingredients.
What’s your favourite flavour combination?
Probably tomato vierge and burrata, or any creamy cheese really.
What is the USP of Ganymeade?
That Ganymede is an independently run restaurant, created by people who really care about hospitality, and have lived and breathed it for most of their adult life.
All imagery credit: Lateef Photography.