Sam Hart is co-owner with his brother Eddie of Quo Vadis restaurant and members’ club in Soho (www.quovadissoho.co.uk). They also run Barrafina and Fino restaurants in London.
How did your interest in Spanish food come about?
My mother grew up in Mallorca and we used to spend our summer holidays there. We were very foodie at home anyway, as my father had a Michelin-starred restaurant [at Hambleton Hall hotel] but our visits inspired us about what Spain and the Mediterranean had to offer. We’d always eat very simply with excellent Mallorcan ingredients – amazing peppers and aubergines, green beans, lamb and fresh fish.
Were you kept out of the kitchen as a child?
Mealtimes at home were always a big thing, and in the summer holidays we also used to work for my dad in his restaurants – washing up or in the salad section. We were never fooled as to quite how tough the life of a chef is.
Did you ever consider a different career?
I spent the early part of my life saying I definitely wasn’t going to get involved in the restaurant business. I worked in the City for a year and a half but I left to open a nightclub in Mexico. We did bar food, and it gave us experience of running a small business.
Is it difficult working with a brother?
No, we’ve always got on very well. We have a similar view about what we like and don’t like. The brilliant thing is that there are two of us instead of one when we’re under pressure.
What is driving the tapas scene in London?
Spain as a restaurant sector has started to grow but there is still a long way to go, if you think of the number of Italian or Indian restaurants. But there’s no reason why Spanish tapas couldn’t be as prevalent as pasta – the small plate, sharing trend is here to stay.
What about the renewed interest in sherry?
That also has a way to go – it’s an amazing drink and I hope word will spread. I like manzanilla. I have it as an aperitif with almonds, cold meats, fish and shellfish.
What are you proudest of producing?
It’s one thing to run a restaurant for a year or two, but the really great restaurants keep up their standards for decades. Fino is eight-and-a-half years now, something to be proud of.
Who would be at your dream dinner party?
Pep Manubens – his restaurant Cal Pep in Barcelona inspired us to do Barrafina. We hang out quite a bit with Pep but I’ve never sat down with him for dinner.
‘Barrafina: A Spanish Cookbook’, by Sam Hart, Eddie Hart and Nieves Barragan Mohacho is published by Fig Tree in July