He’s a Michelin-starred chef, acclaimed restauranteur, author and father – meet Mark Sargeant. Born and raised in Kent, Mark cultivated a passion for cookery at a young age. After a journey which led him into an array of the finest kitchens in the UK, Mark was awarded Young Chef of the Year in 1996 and a chance meeting with Gordon Ramsay. A thirteen year career together, a series of Michelin stars and a myriad of cookbooks followed. Now with a string of solo restaurants across the country – Rocksalt, Duke William, The Smokehouse, Wife of Bath, Plum & Spilt Milk and Sargeant’s Mess, his passion for food is a strong as ever and one which is is proud to share with his young daughters.
From first food memories of whipping up a mean Angel Delight to tricks of the trade when it comes to ordering for little ones, we’re thrilled be sharing a table with Mark in this month’s Table Talk and musing over child-friendly food from London to Folkstone…
1. I’d like a table for…
4 in Claridges foyer. Now yes this does sound amazingly extravagant and it is. It’s a once every couple of years type thing but my girls love getting dressed up and going to London and as I worked there for 10 years we all get so spoilt so it’s a treat for them and a treat for us. I want my daughters to grow up knowing how to behave when eating out and also to understand what a real special treat these times are.
2. Early-birds catch the coffee at…
Steep Street Cafe in Folkestone. It’s a really great addition to the old high street and is perfect for hot drinks and cakes. Basically all the DFL’s (down from London’s) feel right at home there and so do I.
3. Best brunch with kids?
My house. I love to cook for my kids and do it most evenings but I always make sure we have a really nice brunch together on Saturday and all sit round the table. The girls are 8 and 6 and love bacon and eggs.
4. Children’s menu must-visits…
Frankly I’m always pretty unimpressed with kids menus. I take great care in my restaurants to make them interesting but really I think when they get to over 6 they can order of the main menu so we usually ask for half portions or one to share.
5. Fave family dish at your restaurants?
At my restaurants we have always catered for families as I have one myself and my business partner Josh has 4 daughters we know the score! We have kids menus but as I said earlier I think once you’re over 6/7 you can find them something from the main menu. On Sundays at Rocksalt and Duke William we do sharing roasts for the table. It’s served family style so everyone can help themselves so it feels like a home from home without the cooking or the washing up.
6. Hidden gem for treating tiny ones?
The Harbour Arm in Folkestone. It was completely refurbished a couple of years ago and has amazing street food stalls, music, dancing, pizzas, tapas, burgers, bbq and fish tacos. We walk all along it and get a “That Burger” which my girls love and some fish tacos from “Sole Kitchen”. Then the girls have a bit of a dance to the music and we finish at the very end where the old lighthouse has been turned into a champagne bar!!
7. Best piece of advice for dining out with kids?
Well. Start them young like we did. Don’t give them iPads at the table. There is nothing more annoying than hearing Peppa Pig on the next table. You will have to go through a bit of pain but they get there in the end. We take pens and paper and they pretty much draw the whole lunch. Make sure you ask for their meals with your starters as many staff in restaurants are young and don’t have kids so don’t understand. Then drink as much as you can in the hour that their attention span allows you!!
8. Date night – takeaway or take me out?
Out for sure. We’ve not had many for a while and need to start again. We’ve been going to a comedy store in Folkestone once a month for about 8 months now as we have season tickets. This is great. Two pints. A good laugh and home by 10.30. My baby sitter also does all the ironing so every month I actually have shirts to wear!!
9. My earliest food memory…
Making Angel Delight at home. Butterscotch of course but adding extra milk so it was lighter. Clearly I was born to be a cook.
10. Five fathers, one table – who’s joining you?
Five celebrity fathers to join me on a table would be Keith Floyd because he’s an utter legend and would make a fantastic drinking partner. Rick Stein as I just love the guy. Gordon Ramsay as it’s been 10 years since we’ve spoken and after working so close to him for 13 years I just god damn miss the guy a lot!! I have a serious man crush on both Ryan Gosling and Chris Hemsworth too so they would definitely have to come along. I have a feeling they both have a great laugh in real life and would love the attention form the other diners wherever we were eating!