He left after three years at Le Manoir, where he was now sous chef, for his first head chef role at The Greenway in Cheltenham. In less than a year he had achieved a Good Food Guide rating of 7/10 and three AA rosettes. Next he joined the small, family-run Ynyshir Hall in Wales, achieving his first Michelin star in 2006, as well as 8/10 in the Good Food Guide and four AA rosettes. He says “here I could at last begin to use the experience gained to create my own food, giving people a fantastic dining experience.”
In 2007 he made what he describes as “the biggest decision of my life” and walking away from what he had built in Wales, he started afresh at Danesfield House near Marlow. Here he was in charge of driving the restaurant forward – sourcing new suppliers, working with new people. He says this opportunity offered “more competition, more responsibility and more of a challenge! The pressure to succeed commercially was turned up several notches because there were several Michelin-starred restaurants in the immediate location – most of which were run by celebrity chefs with regular television exposure. This would be very different to Ynyshir Hall.”
The gamble paid off, and over the next seven years Adam Simmonds went on to establish Danesfield House (later renamed Adam Simmonds at Danesfield House) as one of the finest restaurants in the country. The second Michelin star of his career was awarded in 2010, to which he added another four AA rosettes. He also earnt a further 8/10 rating in the Good Food Guide and his restaurant was placed 13th in the country in the publication’s 2013 list. The Guide also tipped Adam Simmonds as one of the decade’s “Chefs to Watch” describing his cooking as “staggeringly confident with bags of exuberant vitality and class … top-flight ingredients are deployed with real intelligence”. Adam Simmonds says of his experience there: “I learnt that if the highest standards were achieved through the food we cooked and the service which was provided, then the marketing took care of itself.”
The seasons are at the heart of Adam Simmonds’ food – a focus influenced by his time at Le Manoir. He says: “For the food to be the best, you have to go seasonal. When produce comes in, it’s lovely to work with. There’s always a whole host of new things.” Particularly acclaimed at Danesfield House was his Slow-cooked duck egg with duck confit, asparagus and cobnuts, his Crab salad, mackerel tartare, cucumber and avocado and the stunning dessert of Lemon parfait, fennel pollen ice cream, fennel granita, and olive oil jelly.
His dishes are delicate and fresh, but intensely flavoured, as with his Lightly poached native oysters, beetroot purée and horseradish foam. Unusual combinations are paired with aplomb, such as his Roasted chicken oyster, smoked cod roe, hay-baked celeriac and egg yolks and his Beef fillet, watercress and nasturtium purée, bone marrow and red wine. Adam Simmonds describes his tasting menus as “a journey of flavour, texture and temperature.” He continues: “Dining out should be an experience which engages all of your senses. You eat with your eyes first, then the aroma and burst of flavours hit you. But as a diner your experience is enveloped in the ambiance and service. This provides the foundation for the experience, every little detail combining to deliver a tidal wave of pleasure to the senses.”
Over the years, the kind of plates he designs has evolved. He says: “Style changes as you mature – you become a more rounded chef. Before it was about how many things I could get on a plate and now it is about stripping it back and allowing the products to talk. It’s more about the ingredients than trying to be clever. That is how I’ve changed.”
He appeared on the 2013 and 2014 series of Great British Menu, going on to win a place in the veteran’s banquet for his D-Day brief – one of the highlights of his career. He says of the experience: “I think meeting the veterans and being able to cook for them at St. Paul’s cathedral was really a massive encouragement to do well and I met some fantastic people along the way. I have some fantastic memories that will stay with me forever, so for that I am very grateful.”
In 2014 he left Danesfield House to work on opening his own restaurant – a dream since he was young. He says of his time in Marlow: “It was a fantastic time there. I was sorry to go, but it was a natural progression. I had achieved what I could achieve there. Now there’s only one challenge left, to create my own restaurant. To do this it takes time to focus on what needs to be achieved, this was something I couldn’t do whilst running the restaurants.” While he puts his plans into action, he is overseeing the kitchen at The Pavillion in London’s Kensington, working in an advisory role with the current team.
He envisages his future restaurant as “somewhere very relaxed, informal, and modern – hopefully all on one floor with glass so they can see into the kitchen.” He says that for him a fantastic dining experience is “where people feel at ease, where they can walk in and not feel intimidated. It is great if guests feel they can ask questions if they want to, so we can take them on a journey from when they come through the door to when they leave.” He continues: “People come out for an experience, don’t they? We have to exceed their expectations, but in a non-stuffy or pretentious way.” The food will be very much in the style that Adam Simmonds has honed over his years cooking at the top of his game, but for now the details remain mysterious. He says: “Nothing is set in stone.”