Lee Westcott had by then attracted the attention of Jason Atherton, who asked him to oversee his two new restaurants in Hong Kong – 22 Ships and Ham & Sherry. Working here as executive chef, Lee Westcott helped build the menus for these modern Spanish tapas eateries, both centred on theatrical, open kitchens.
The creative small plates at 22 Ships and its sister restaurant, Ham & Sherry, included the signature Iberico pork and foie gras burgers with avocado purée and pickled cucumbers, as well as more traditional fare such as Roasted padron peppers with garlic and sea salt. The Baked smoked bone marrow with onion jam, sourdough and gentleman’s relish butter garnered rave reviews, and desserts such as ‘PBJ’ peanut ice cream with salted peanut caramel and cherry sorbet offered a playful end to the meal.
In 2014, Lee Westcott returned to the UK to finally realise his dream of opening his own restaurant. Backed by Jason Atherton, but very much in the hands of the young chef, Typing Room is located in Town Hall Hotel in East London’s Bethnal Green, where Lee Westcott also oversees the hotel’s brasserie, Corner Room, and its Peg & Patriot bar.
His style of food at Typing Room is seasonal and modern with eclectic influences collected during his travels. Like his mentor, Tom Aikens, he treats vegetables with care and reverence – his Yeasted cauliflower, pickled raisins, crispy capers and mint is fast becoming a signature dish, inspired by Noma’s treatment of undervalued vegetables. He explains in a recent interview: ‘If you are a skilled chef with imagination, you will want to elevate a vegetable to something delicious and beautiful, to do all sorts of things to it that will surprise people.’
Meat and fish are not neglected in his menus, however, and his Crispy fish skin, salt cod brandade and oyster emulsion and Lamb, smoked aubergine, yoghurt and onions are as beautiful as they are mouth-watering. His dessert of Strawberry, pistachio and white chocolate is also a delight and the Rye-barley IPA sourdough with whipped Marmite butter served for the bread course has been received with wild acclaim.
Marina O’Loughlin, writing in The Guardian, describes the food as ‘bloody marvellous’, done with ‘delicacy and wit’. Fay Maschler of The Evening Standard describes the ‘tone of culinary alacrity, vivacity and attack’ that is set from the very first snack, noting ‘the preparation throughout has been incredibly labour-intensive but never laboured’. She declares the entire dining experience ‘a triumph’.
Still in the early stages of his career, Lee Westcott is already cooking remarkably accomplished food with stunning creativity and flair. With his own restaurant he now has the space to realise his own, unique style and what style it is. Delicate, beautiful, inventive and with masterful flavour.