Alex Perkins is that man. The White Horse & Griffin in Whitby was his first foray into the industry and he could have done a lot worse than learn at his father Stewart’s knee; his seafood menu in this hugely popular gastropub was legendary.
Alex had some formal training at Scarborough College and went on to work at the much-revered Blue Bicycle in York before starting his own venture, Bridge Cottage Bistro in Sandsend ten years ago, which he has since had to close due to the pandemic.
What began as a cute café serving up fabulous homemade cake and good coffee matured into a vibrant restaurant, and as his reputation grew he gained recognition from national reviewers and a place in the Waitrose Good Food Guide.
He says: “The types of dishes I cooked at Bridge Cottage Bistro were mostly self-taught, through reading books, adapting recipes and experimenting. It helped that my dad went out in the boat most days and brought back crab and lobster which immediately went onto the menu that day. Fish and seafood are my absolute passion, so the chance to live and cook by the sea was too good an opportunity to miss,” he says.
Perkins cooks with a huge heart and bags of style, innovative but with a simplicity that lets the box-fresh ingredients do the talking.
What was the first thing you remember cooking? I don’t remember the first thing I cooked, but I have my parents to thank for my career as I grew up in the industry and there was always fresh food in the house. I remember crabs in the sink, plucking pheasants on the doorstep and catching my first fish and wanting to keep it as a pet.
Who is your culinary inspiration? It’s not so much who, as what. Growing up we didn’t go out for dinner often, but if we did it was a real treat. I loved the whole experience, not just the great food, but the lighting, the ambiance, the occasion. From a young age I remember wanting to recreate this.
Who would be your dream dinner party guests? They’d be guests that brought a course each. Christian Puglisi entree, Skye Gyngell starter, Francis Mallman main, Marcus Samuelsson another main (it will have to be an all-day feast) Jessica Prealpato dessert, Nuno Mendes post dessert pasteis de nata, Yasmin Khan for after-dinner stories and Dave Grohl to bring the beers.
What piece of kit could you not live without? Sounds a bit of a no-brainer, but a really good knife.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Baking (and eating) triple chocolate cookies with my son.
Favourite ingredient? I love using sea vegetables, but my absolute favourite would have to be crab for its flavour and versatility.
What would be your last supper dish? Whole roast turbot on the bone. I think you can see a pattern emerging here!
How has Covid-19 impacted on you? At the beginning of the first lockdown it was incredibly hard as I had to close the restaurant for good. But I try and keep as positive as possible.
I have been able to spend so much more quality time with my son that I would have never had the chance to if I was working day and night in the kitchen.
Thankfully we live by the sea, which has never been more of a blessing than over the last year both physically and mentally.
My partner Amy and I have also been working on menu ideas and renovating an art deco hair salon in Scarborough that will be my new premises in the hopefully not-too-distant future.
We are keeping an open mind about the exact type of food we will serve especially in the current climate.
But we would definitely one day hope that it will serve classic rustic food with a focus on things from the sea, cake, coffee and a huge selection of fine teas. A bistro and teahouse by the sea.