“My two most influential mentors are John Williams at The Ritz and Julien Gautier who was my head chef at Léon de Lyon,” says Harvey Trollope, head chef at Sam’s Riverside in Hammersmith. “They both taught me to take care of everything I do; that is the key to success – if you don’t care, you simply won’t succeed,” he adds.
With such prominent names playing an important role in his development as a chef, it’s of no surprise that Trollope is already seeing early success heading up the kitchen at Sam’s.
We visit Sam’s on a Thursday evening in the winter. The place is packed with guests of all ages and there’s a strong presence from the pre-theatre crowd as they grab a bite before catching a show at the newly reopened Riverside Studios next door.
Our corner booth gives us a good view of the spacious dining room, well-stocked bar, and Trollope expediting from the kitchen. Our server tells us they have a new breakfast menu and that they have a dog-friendly area too. I comment on the huge patio outside and how I’m sure Sam’s will be an absolute hotspot in the summer.
As a welcome bite we’re offered some crunchy fresh radishes served simply with butter and salt. It’s a clear message that Trollope isn’t afraid of letting his ingredients sing and keeping things simple. Next come the famous parmesan churros, and they’re absolutely worth the hype. Magically, they are lip-smackingly rich whilst being light and airy at the same time.
Half a dozen Carlingford Lough oysters, beef tartare with a quail egg and dripping toast, and salt-baked celeriac with hollandaise and a hazelnut crumb follow. From the veg, to the seafood, to the meat, Trollope allows his ingredients to shine; the oysters are fresh, the seasoning on the tartare bring out the flavours of the beef, and the hollandaise is a true complement to the celeriac.
For our mains, we hear that Sam’s is known for their seafood and so we choose the roast brill with chanterelles, meuniere butter, and chicken jus; and the hake with crab bisque and beluga lentils. Each fish is perfectly cooked and the accompanying broths give a real meaty umami taste that is not commonly found in white fish dishes.
Dessert is, unfortunately, the only disappointment of the meal as the beautiful rum baba with pineapple and verbena just didn’t quite live up to its presentation.
Despite only being open for a few months, Sam’s Riverside has been able to gain quite a following within the local community. It’s a shame that the current situation has forced them to close their doors for the time being, but they have since launched Sam’s Pledge, where patrons can buy vouchers to be used once they open again, which will help them support their financial commitments and the wellbeing of their staff.
LLM – Luxury Lifestyle Magazine spoke with Trollope weeks before the lockdown to hear why working at Sam’s is unlike anything he’s done in the past.
You’ve been in the restaurant world for quite some time. Would you have done anything differently when first starting out?
I would have liked to do an apprenticeship in either a butchers or a fishmonger, but never did. I started my career in contract catering and didn’t move into fine dining restaurants until I was 22. I’m sure that if I had moved sooner, I could have accelerated my career.
You’ve cooked in some really intimidating kitchens. Was there anything you did to build your confidence and ensure you always kept that drive?
I spent five years in Lyon working in Michelin two-starred Léon de Lyon without any formal training and as the only English chef in the kitchen. My philosophy has always been to put my head down and to prove to myself that I can do anything I apply myself to.
What makes Sam’s Riverside different from any other place you’ve worked at?
I have never operated a high-volume kitchen that offers the style of food we are serving at Sam’s. I’m used to fine dining with 10 elements on each plate, whereas this is great food with great flavours, done simply. So it has been a huge learning curve for me and we are continuing to sculpt a voice and style for the menu.
The parmesan churros at Sam’s are life-changing. So decadent yet almost light and airy at the same time. How did you come up with it?
This actually comes from my wife’s grandmother who lives in Lyon. She would often fry her cheese gougères and when we were looking through ideas for bar snacks, we gave them a go. We went through tens of different cheeses to find the right one. Although I would have settled on Mrs. Kirkham’s 12-year-old cheddar, Sam really wanted to go with the stronger flavour of Parmesan.
Speaking of Sam Harrison, what has it been like to collaborate with him? Did you ever butt heads?
Any restaurant opening is hard work and involves long hours and tiring days, so of course there have been moments of tension. Like any relationship, Sam and I have had to learn about each other and how we can work together. That being said, it’s been great to learn a different style of restaurant from Sam – one that combines quality with speed of service.
What is your favourite item on the menu right now and which wine would you pair it with?
The clams, braised trotter, and white beans – it’s a dish that transcends the seasons and I particularly like to work with the more humble ingredients and less favourable cuts; I would much rather muck around with a turnip or a swede over a chantenay carrot. I would pair the dish with a Chardonnay, perhaps a Petit Chablis.
Can you tell me about some of the relationships you’ve built with your suppliers and how this has influenced your dishes?
One of our vegetable suppliers popped by one day on his scooter with a tray of fantastic beetroots, which prompted me to do something with them. They are on the set menu right now simply baked en papillote.
Hiring and retaining talent is one of the biggest challenges in any industry, but most especially in hospitality. How do you speak to your staff about career growth and progression?
I speak to my team the same way that I was spoken to as a junior chef – with respectful, relentless discipline. It worked to inspire me, but I appreciate that not everyone works in the same way. My main goal is to ensure my team are better chefs by the time they leave, whenever that may be.
You’re at the airport heading to your favourite city to unwind. Where are you going?
Lyon – it’s where I met my wife and where I spent five years of my life. I love the food and the conviviality of their bouchon Lyonnaise restaurants. You can sit and drink Beaujolais at 10.30 in the morning.
What is one food trend you wish would just go away?
Bao. I don’t see the point in them.
Come summer, we all know that your prime location will mean it will be a very busy season for you. Are you ready?
We are making ourselves ready as we speak.
Address: 1 Crisp Rd, Hammersmith, London W6 9DN
Phone: 020 8237 1020
Image credits: Andrew Burton