As a young boy growing up in Liverpool, William Drabble was more bewitched by football than food. However, a move from Liverpool to a cottage in agricultural Norfolk proved life changing in more ways than one for the young William Drabble as, suddenly faced with rural farmland and fields groaning with crops, he became aware of where food really comes from for the first time. Food had always been an important part of his life – his grandmother had been a cook for an Earl in Yorkshire and used to regale him with stories of life in the kitchen – but suddenly an abundance of fresh produce was all around him, glorious bounty that changed month by month. Drabble’s interest was piqued.
Deciding cooking was the path he wanted to follow, he undertook unpaid work experience in a local kitchens and hotels in Norfolk from the age of fourteen, before attending Norwich City College two years later. Then followed a stint as a kitchen apprentice at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, which William Drabble remembers fondly as an incredibly valuable learning experience due to the slightly slower pace of life. Far from the baptism of fire young chefs face in busy London kitchens, here the staff took the time to teach William Drabble food preparation and cooking techniques, knowledge he would carry with him throughout his career.
Following tours of duty at The Capital Hotel, Chez Nico and Tom Aikens’ former restaurant Pied à Terre, he became head chef at Michael’s Nook in Grasmere, earning it a Michelin star within five months. The following September he moved to London’s Aubergine after Gordon Ramsay’s departure, once again winning a Michelin star for the restaurant within months and retaining it for a decade until he left the restaurant in 2009. By this point, the high-achieving Drabble was not yet 30 years old.
Today, William Drabble’s Seven Park Place at St James’s Hotel and its sibling, William’s Bar and Bistro, are recognised among the most exciting restaurants on the London dining scene. Here William Drabble not only created the menus but had a hand in the restaurant’s elegant design, and it can boast the accolade of being London’s smallest Michelin starred restaurant.
While the busy capital might be a far cry from the rural Norfolk landscape of his childhood, William Drabble’s innate inclination towards seasonal cooking – back then it was no mere culinary whim, rather the natural way to eat – is still very much apparent. Menus at Seven Park Place change with the seasons, with each time of year bringing its own favoured signature dishes – expect Carpaccio of scallops in the winter, or Roasted grouse with blackberries in spring. Drabble is particularly fond of spring, and as the months get warmer he changes his menu a little more often to make the most of the varied, colourful fruits and vegetables that the season yields.
William Drabble’s years of seasonal cooking have given the experienced chef a pragmatic approach to dish development. He is known for maintaining excellent relationships with his suppliers, speaking to them every day to gain insight and inspiration and evolving new dishes based on their recommendations.
Having sourced the finest of British produce – Lune Valley lamb, Dorset crab, Keltic Seafare scallops – William Drabble likes to keep his dishes simple. Preparing his dishes with finesse, there are definite influences from his classical French training but with an emphasis on timeless techniques over “Michelin fripperies”. Flavour combinations are so chosen to let the quality of the ingredients shine through, proving again and again that the care William Drabble puts into creating his fluid seasonal menus is time well spent.