Andy Needham, L’Amorosa chef-patron
Profile by Emily Manson
I often hear the lament in Chiswick that the chains are taking over. Or the charity shops. Or the coffee shops. But thankfully there are some standout exceptions waving the flag for independence which we are very lucky to have. One such example is Andy Needham and his restaurant L’Amorosa, a stone’s throw from Ravenscourt Park. Formerly the cutesy café Lola & Simon, since Andy took over in 2014, he’s turned it into the very definition of a hidden gem.
His culinary pedigree takes in The Savoy, Zafferano and the three Michelin starred Le Pre Catalan in Paris, as well as the iconic restaurateur Claudio Pulze’s A to Z restaurant group which (for those of you who were dining out in ‘90s London will remember) also included some of the other hottest restaurants in town such as Gordon Ramsay’s Aubergine, Ken Lo’s Memories of China and Marco Pierre White’s Canteen.
It was, in fact, at the Savoy that Andy first met Giorgio Locatelli, who was to become his mentor and the driving force behind his passion for Italian cuisine. Andy was an apprentice commis at the time, while the older Giorgio was already a senior sous in kitchens which can only be described as from a different age – 100 chefs, archaic hierarchy and ridiculously EU-regulation-busting hours. Handily, the one thing Giorgio couldn’t make was Yorkshire pudding to accompany the classic Savoy Sunday rib of beef, so he turned to the Yorkshire-born Andy for a lunch-time tutorial and their near-30 year friendship began.
It was Giorgio who found him the subsequent work placement in Paris, it was Giorgio who he worked with at Olivo – a tiny but fabulous restaurant in the heart of Belgravia that helped redefine Italian cuisine from 70s trattoria into a fine dining genre. Here, says Andy, “we worked all day and read cookery books every night after service to come up with menus.” It’s telling that some of these dishes are still favourites on menus today. After Andy’s travels through France, Spain and Italy, he was well and truly hooked on Italian cuisine. “Paris was fantastic but I found the cooking overly busy. There were 10 or 12 pans to make one plate of food. Although there’s discipline to Italian cuisine, there’s also a simplicity and I love the stories and family side that go with the food – they can talk about an ingredient for hours and it makes for people sitting around, enjoying themselves and relaxing.” It was also Giorgio who recruited him to Zafferano, where Andy headed up the kitchen during the 12 years it held a Michelin star amongst other accolades, including Tatler’s most consistently excellent restaurant of the decade.
Belgravia’s loss is our gain
Fast forward through those heady years and there’s a new era in Andy’s life. He was living in west London and a father of two young kids when he finally left Zafferano for a break and to take stock (puntastic – you’re welcome). But his wife Lynne notes that “it quickly became apparent Andy was utterly incapable of cooking for just 4 people” and the fridge, freezer and all available storage space were soon filled with his culinary creations.
So when the Lola & Simon opportunity came up, he not only jumped at the chance, but was clearly also gently pushed out of the family kitchen! Happily, he’s genuinely delighted with the way it’s worked out. He still loves the fact that every day in a restaurant is different, and now it’s his own – almost every chef’s dream – the challenges and pressure are increased and more varied, but as he explains: “It’s a good pressure and if you like the industry, you never stop getting a kick out of it.”
This autonomy and his dedication to simple Italian cuisine made with the finest ingredients means the restaurant is regularly filled with London’s top foodies who choose to dine there when ‘off-duty’. It’s also recognised with a Michelin Bib Gourmand – the accolade this coveted guide gives to great value quality dining.
He loves the fact he has minimal staff, so the food is truly his, from the sourcing to the preparation, cooking and plating up, and because it’s quite a small restaurant, he now enjoys being able to come out the kitchen and chat to his guests. “It’s so much more than the kitchen now, I’m buying produce, creating menus and finding different levels of enjoyment. I never stop learning.”
And he also loves the local community and that he knows them: “It’s not just that I work in the area, I feel like it’s their restaurant too. It’s not easy running your own restaurant but I feel like it’s the right place for the right time in our lives and there’s a real connection with the area. I always try to do something different when we close for a bit to keep it new for our customers, so they can be part of our journey too.”
And we, his locals, can just sit back and reap the rewards of this independence and his epic culinary journey. To celebrate L’Amorosa being named the only restaurant in the borough to retain a Bib Gourmand in this year’s Michelin Guide, chef patron Andy is offering 25% off all bookings from 5-7pm Tuesday to Saturday or for lunch Wednesday to Saturday. Just quote Michelin Early Diner when booking to enjoy this fabulous deal off the entire menu & enjoy a taste of L’Amorosa’s irresistible flavours.