Magistracy Dining Room’s Alyn Williams on bringing a taste of London to Hong Kong

Alyn Williams heralds a new chapter at Magistracy Dining Room. Hailing from East London with an illustrious career having trained under British culinary icons Marcus Wareing and Gordon Ramsay, the new executive chef talks to Stephenie Gee about bringing a piece of home to the city

What set you on your culinary path?

I grew up with foodie parents who loved to cook, entertain and dine out, so I was exposed to hospitality from an early age. My first job was in a small members’ lunch club in central London, washing dishes initially, then quickly joining the kitchen team.

How did your position at Magistracy Dining Room come to be?

Around a year ago Black Sheep contacted me in London asking if I would be interested in the position. After a few meetings with the team and a visit to Hong Kong, I realised our philosophies on hospitality closely aligned, compelling me to bring British cuisine to Hong Kong.

How would you describe your cuisine and culinary philosophy?

My philosophy is to deliver great hospitality to our guests. I’m passionate about everything that goes into the dining experience and it’s always my goal to exceed expectations. My cuisine is all about good ingredients, flavour and balance. I think of it as light and progressive.

Sticky toffee pudding

Who are some of your culinary influences?

The first was my dad: he taught me about flavour and the freshness of produce. Professionally, Marcus Wareing and Angela Hartnett were big influences on me. Also, many chefs like Joël Robuchon, Simon Rogan, Alain Senderens, Fergus Henderson and Frédy Girardet have added to my knowledge and shaped my way of thinking.

Tell me about your new menu for Magistracy Dining Room – what was the inspiration?

The Magistracy has such a deep-rooted history, both in Hong Kong and British cultures, that I wanted to show off some British-inspired dishes without them being what is typically expected. Dishes with a deeper knowledge of British food history and ingredients, particularly in the beef tea broth with poached Gillardeau oysters and spring vegetables and the chef’s Dad’s allotment spring vegetables salad. We’re aiming to bring that British – and more so London – feeling to the dining room.

Soufflé ‘Arnold Bennett’

What would be a standout or your favourite?

I particularly like the beef tea broth for both flavour and the story. Also, dressed dungeness crab served with brown crab mayo and toasted crumpets (I love crumpets!) and of course, poached and roasted three yellow chicken served with a shortcrust pastry pie filled with braised leg and vegetables.

You’re big on seasonality – how do you go about sourcing ingredients for the restaurant?

I’m now learning about sourcing local ingredients. There are some very good producers of vegetables in the New Territories and mainland China. It’s very different from the UK, where we have four very distinct seasons with so much variety coming to life with each one. We’re spoiled there, so along with local produce, I’m looking to bring more British seasonal ingredients into the restaurant.

What were the challenges encountered in bringing your vision to Magistracy Dining Room?

I think the biggest challenge to start with is conveying what British or London food can be without it being what is expected, but still staying true to regional dishes and history. We have such varied cuisine styles in London that are breaking the mould. Over time, I would like to bring some more modern touches to the menu along with more ingredients sourced from the United Kingdom.

What do you hope to bring to the restaurant and what do you hope guests take away from a meal here?

I love interacting with our guests, so I hope to bring some warmth and connection from the kitchen to the dining room. And I would like our guests to leave thinking that we have given them an experience to remember for all the right reasons.

The heritage tomato tart

What’s next for you?

I only arrived in Hong Kong in January, so to have a long and happy career with Black Sheep would be nice. Also, to explore the beautiful city.

Also see: Épure’s chef de cuisine on creating a feast for the senses

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