The Merchant House is a small, Michelin-starred restaurant in the Welsh Marches town of Ludlow, operated by the gifted and creative chef Shaun Hill. It is somewhat unusual in that Hill, who made his name at the country house hotel Gidleigh Park, has turned his back on the standard restaurant kitchen with its brigade of assistants and cooks alone in what is to all intents and purposes a domestic kitchen. He also does his own shopping and washing-up. The food that he records in Cooking at The Merchant House
is presumably pretty much as he cooks it, not requiring the usual scaling down by home economists, and not bolstered by substitutions for the complex sauces and stocks of the metropolitan chefs. And what food it is: manageable but inventive, robust yet elegant, earthy but approaching the sublime. Hill is inventive, but rightly appreciative of traditional flavours and combinations, which play a major part in his food. One dish that perhaps sums it up is the wonderful Lobster with Chickpea, Coriander and Olive Oil Sauce, in the which the sweet poached shellfish, shelled, is set off by the subtly spiced, dhal-like sauce. But Cooking at The Merchant House
is full of such treasures: Pheasant and Chestnut Soup; Red Pepper Bavarois with Asparagus; Warm Celeriac Mousse with Mushroom Sauce; Roast Loin of Veal with Marsala; Rhubarb and Strawberry Gratin. Terrific stuff, and sauced with Hill's occasionally astringent observations on buying, converting and running a restaurant. --Robin Davidson
About the Author
Shaun Hill is chef-proprietor of the Merchant House in Ludlow, which has been awarded a Michelin Guide star for culinary excellence. He first came to international attention as head chef of country house hotel Gidleigh Park. He is author of the Gidleigh Park Cookbook and regularly contributes articles to various publications including The Times and Food Illustrated. Jason Lowe is one of the UK's leading food photographers and won a prestigious Glenfiddich award for his work on Whisky. He photographs Simon Hopkinson's weekly column for The Independent.