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Ticket to ride: Ollie Templeton on the evolution of Carousel

Ticket to ride: Ollie Templeton on the evolution of Carousel

by Tom Shingler 01 July 2019

London restaurant Carousel is known for its regular guest chef dinners, but head chef Ollie Templeton is quietly making the lunch menu an equally exciting thing to experience. Tom Shingler talks to him about how it’s evolved over the years, while Ollie shares five recipes from the menu.


Running a restaurant is tough enough when there’s a steady team of chefs in the kitchen, but at Carousel in Marylebone, the dinner menu is constantly changing. That’s because it’s not like your average restaurant; instead, guest chefs from all over the world set up shop for a week or two to share their dishes with diners via a single tasting menu. These rapid-fire residencies prove immensely popular, as it gives Londoners the chance to taste the food of chefs as far-flung as Japan and the US, but without the need to jump on a flight.

At the heart of all this is head chef Ollie Templeton, who set up Carousel with his cousins Will, Ed and Anna. As well as constantly searching for new chefs to invite to the restaurant, he looks after perhaps Marylebone’s best-kept secret – the lunch menu. While it’s easy to shout about big-name chefs from across the world serving one-off menus for a few weeks, spreading the word about Carousel’s lunch offering has been a bit of a slow burner. But those who have stopped in for a bite during the day know that there’s some fantastic cooking on the go – simple, seasonal food with little twists and tricks thrown in.

‘We started Carousel five years ago when I was twenty-two, so I was very young,’ Ollie tells me as we sit down in the restaurant's bright, open dining room. ‘I’d grown up in Spain so I naturally loved that sort of Mediterranean cuisine, and after studying at Leith’s I worked at Moro in Farringdon for two years. They were doing things like baking their own bread and making yoghurt when no one else was, so it was a great place to spark your curiosity.’

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Ollie set up Carousel with his cousins Ed, Will and Anna back in 2014
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The dining room is open, spacious and very relaxed

Ollie knew how to cook but hadn’t experienced much outside of Moro, so his initial plan was to travel the world and get experience in as many different restaurants as he could. However, when the opportunity to open Carousel came about, he and his cousins realised they could bring that same wealth of experience to their own place; turning the idea of a stage on its head. The concept for Carousel was born, and guest chefs started to cook every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Visitors also started off providing a few dishes of the day to serve at lunch, but it proved too big of an ask – so Ollie and his team decided to start doing their own thing instead.

‘We’ve always been conscious about things like food waste, and there were always surplus ingredients from the chefs who would come and cook here,’ he explains. ‘The idea was to create weekly changing menus that made use of this excess produce – although of course we’d order in lots of other ingredients too. Changing the menu every single week proved a bit confusing, so we moved towards a more regular prix fixe kind of menu.’

This eventually evolved into a more ambitious offering, as the kitchen team became inspired and influenced by the constant stream of new chefs coming into the kitchen. The prix fixe has become a mix of snacks, small plates, pastas and larger dishes, which can be ordered in any amount and combination. This, combined with the incredibly laidback atmosphere of Carousel, proved successful, and Ollie’s own dishes are starting to get the recognition they deserve.

‘The food I cook has always been really simple. It’s always been led by good produce, and I like to hone in on one ingredient rather than adding lots of different elements to a plate,' he says. 'When we’re coming up with menus, we just look at what ingredients are at their peak and base the dishes around them. We’ve learnt a lot of skills from the visiting chefs over the years, so there’s plenty of fermentation and preserving going on, but we really want the plates to feel simple and not fussy at all.’

These techniques are there to heighten the main ingredients, rather than being a way for the chefs to show off. Steamed cod, for example, comes with a lemon verbena sauce and preserved gooseberries, while Jersey Royals and asparagus come with a garnish of fermented wild garlic. The stars of the show are still the cod, the Jersey Royals and the asparagus – they’re just accented by the various tips and tricks Ollie and his team have picked up from the many visiting chefs.

‘By far the coolest thing about working here is getting to see how different chefs from all over the world work and letting that influence how you cook,’ he tells me. ‘It’s not about seeing a recipe and lifting it; it’s more about a certain technique or little idea that can then be used in different dishes. Something like an egg yolk cured in soy and mirin – something the chef from Sushi Sho in Stockholm showed us when he came here – is great, but we can then play around with it, and now we cure our egg yolks in chicken garam. The technique is the same, but we’ve adapted it for our own dishes.’

Egg yolks cured in chicken garam might not sound simple to you or me, but using this unusual method of preserving simply amps up the umami flavour of the egg, rather than introducing crazy, inaccessible flavours. The same goes for the crunchy puffed koji grains on the chocolate tart, or the miso stirred into the crème fraiche that's served with pickled and charred cucumbers. There are often less than five major elements on the plate, and sometimes as few as two – but because the ingredients are top quality, Ollie and his team don’t have to do much to them for the flavours to sing.

‘When we’re working with the guest chefs it’s often quite technical and complex, so the lunch menu gives us a chance to offer something a little more relaxed,’ he says. ‘We’re still pushing every day to do something different and develop our skills, but because it’s for the lunch menu you don’t want to make things too fancy or complicated. Whenever we go out we head to somewhere with a great vibe, good drinks and simple, tasty food without any fuss. I want the lunch menu at Carousel to be just that.’

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