Behind the pass
with Nick Grieves.
Nick was twenty-seven years old when he realised that he wanted to be in the kitchen. He grew up in Newcastle and studied construction at university, then left the North East for Qatar, where he worked as a construction manager. ‘I used to cook at home and throughout university for the lads because they were terrible,’ he says. ‘I never thought it would turn into a profession.’ Indeed, if not for the recession in the late 2000s, Nick may never have found his way over to the stove. The global economic downturn sent the construction industry into a tailspin – Nick’s company went bust and he moved home, eventually taking over a pub called The Garden House in Durham.
‘We knew the pub from back in the day – it used to be really great – and we thought we could take it on and make a bit of money,’ says Nick. ‘I was a bit naive to be honest. We didn’t have any staff in the kitchen for the first month, so I went in to help with all the food, and I just really loved it.’ Before long, Nick was in the kitchen seven days a week. He taught himself new techniques by reading books and watching YouTube videos (mostly those belonging to Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray). Slowly but surely, Nick and team pushed the kitchen at The Garden House to new heights. ‘It wasn’t crazy food,’ he says. ‘We just pushed to do things that were a bit out of the ordinary for a normal pub.’
But whilst the kitchen at The Garden House was thriving, the business underneath was going sour. Sharing ownership with friends and family was putting a huge strain on his relationships, and after a few years, Nick sold his share of the pub. ‘It was such a high-pressure situation, it just didn’t work out,’ he says. ‘I wanted to keep cooking and learning in a more formal setting – there’s only so much you can teach yourself really – so I headed to London and took a job at Fera.’
Simon Rogan’s Fera, in the historic Claridge’s Hotel, was effectively the legendary chef’s London outpost – delivering his famous farm-to-fork ethos to punters in the capital. There was a huge brigade working there; disciplined, slick and a world away from the kitchen Nick was used to. ‘There’s about fifty chefs on the rota at Fera,’ says Nick. ‘I was used to working in a team of five, assuming everyone was in! I loved my time there – I loved Simon’s food long before that, and I learnt so much about food and produce and about how proper kitchens work.’
Nick spent the next four months at Fera, but for a self-taught chef who had learnt his trade watching videos of Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray on YouTube, a job at The River Café was always the dream. ‘I just went there on my own and asked if they had any jobs going,’ he laughs. Nick came back to do a trial the following week, and a couple of weeks later he was a chef at the illustrious Thames-side restaurant. ‘It was amazing. You always see chefs talking about the importance of good produce, but at The River Café you get to know every single product – not just the protein and the vegetables, but every little thing, right down to the onions that go into the stock. You can really taste the difference in all the food.’
The camaraderie and emphasis on à la minute cooking and fresh produce turned out to be a huge influence on Nick, but it wasn’t long before he felt the call to be his own boss again. ‘I wish I could have stayed for longer, but I was so used to working for myself – I was a little too old to be told what to do,’ he says. He had a solid plan to return to the North East and open his own restaurant, but absolutely no funds to carry it out. ‘I felt really stuck. I was sitting in a pub around the corner from the café, chatting to my gran on the phone. I explained that I was trying to leave London and open a restaurant back home, and she was just like, ‘well, I’ll help you with it if you want.’ I was blown away. I had no idea she would be able to help.’ Turns out, Nick’s gran was dead serious – a month later, she had lent Nick the money, and he moved back up to Newcastle to find a site. He found one, but another buyer swooped and took it from under his nose at the last minute. ‘It was the best thing that could have happened,’ he grins. ‘A couple of weeks later, I found something better. That would become his restaurant – The Patricia – named after the woman that made it all happen.
Still, Nick’s budgets were tight – Granny Patricia wasn’t made of money. ‘Most places probably spend more money on their chairs than I spent on the entire restaurant!’ Nick laughs. ‘Being from a construction background ended up being pretty handy – I did most of the work myself.’ Nick admits the restaurant was still ‘a bit rickety’ when it first opened, but a months later Marina O’Loughlin appeared in the dining room and published a stellar review in The Guardian shortly after. Nick was trying to keep the name a secret from his gran to surprise her, but Marina’s review let the cat out of the bag a bit early. ‘She was still over the moon,’ he grins. ‘She came up and spent the evening walking around the restaurant, visiting all the tables! Everyone loved it.’ Patricia’s health means that she probably won’t have the chance to visit the restaurant again, but The Patricia will stand as a testament to her generosity. ‘I’m glad she got to see it,’ says Nick with a smile. ‘I built this for her.’
Nick’s food at The Patricia is honest and simple. He doesn’t shun technical methods of cooking, but the dishes and flavours themselves are very focused – every dish on the à la carte menu features just three or four elements at a time. ‘I don’t like to have anything on the plate that shouldn’t be there,’ he explains. ‘I think too many elements confuses things – our food here is super clean.
Small batch, low intervention wines
We source our wine from small suppliers and friends, who solely import Natural Wines, also known as Low Intervention wines.
In its purest form, it is wine made from fermented grape juice and nothing else.
When you make wine with indigenous yeast and very little additions, then you’re drinking something that is a much truer representation of where it’s from.
This results in wines that taste alive!
Because there are no residual products, pesticides, insecticides, you’re not polluting your body either.
It’s increasingly important to be conscious of our environment and pollution, we deal solely in natural wine because it reflects these values.
All low intervention wine is the product of sustainable agriculture, which benefits both the wine and the environment…but most of all, something delicious in your glass
Ones to Watch : Nick Grieves
Nick Grieves quit a career in construction to teach himself how to cook. After time at Fera and The River Café, he returned to his home city of Newcastle and opened The Patricia – a restaurant that is leading the evolution of the food scene on Tyneside.
A little belter - The Guardian
The chef gets that eating out should be about pleasure. This is rarer than you think.
The Patricia - Going Strong
As Jesmond bistro, The Patricia, celebrates a year of success and national attention, Jessica Laing chats to chef-owner, Nick Grieves, about food memories, simple pleasures and putting business into his own hands…