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Interview with Paul Hart from Hart's Restaurant in Leigh, Lancashire

Hart's restaurant in Leigh, Lancashire is a consistent favourite for Eat & Drink reviewers, so we decided to ask chef and proprieter Paul Hart a few questions about how he approaches running a top restaurant, and his opinions on some topical issues.

Also see our restaurant review of Hart's Restaurant.

Sandro: What is your view on Genetically Engineered food?

Paul: I don't really see a need for G.M. foods except to make chemical companies a lot of money. The companies sometimes argue that it will make food cheaper and as a result will help to feed more people, but the foods produced as a result of G.M. will only end up in wealthy Western supermarkets. Add to this, the possible effects of windborne, cross pollination, and other, as yet unknown problems, and I don't think the risk is worth it.

Sandro: How hard is it to ensure that your suppliers keep up to your standards?

Paul: Regular complaining helps to maintain standards, as does using more than one supplier for every product.

Sandro: How hard is it to keep up to your own standards?

Paul: Very difficult ! No-one tells me off ! I respond to customer comments, as much as my own desire to constantly improve.

Sandro: Do you receive feedback from your clientelle which modifies your approach?

Paul: Absolutely, theres no point in doing what I want to do if my customers don't like it.

Sandro: I picked up a "Hi-Life" Diners Club leaflet from Hart's - I've signed up, and have done before with other similar schemes - Have you signed up?

Paul: Yes, but I get free membership for participating in the scheme, and I've only recently stated to use it but I do use it regularly now.

Sandro: Where do you eat out?

Paul: Everywhere I can, and I'm not snobby about where I eat, a good burger is as satisfying as a perfect bowl of Moules Mariniere or a 50 three course A la carte in a fine establishment, and if I could, I would eat in a different place every time .

Sandro: I've had several "unusual" meals at Hart's - Ostrich, Alligator and so on - Is this because of customer demand, or to attract the adventurous? What sort of take-up do you get on the more "adventurous" dishes?

Paul: It started as a result of me trying to be different, and to get people talking, however, it still surprise me that a back street bistro in a town like Leigh has such adventurous customers, and has become a driving force in itself.

Sandro: How about a "Menu de Degustation" evening?

Paul: Yes, this has been suggested by many customers who cannot decide what to have from the menu. I will be considering this when I reprint the menus this year.

Sandro: Do customers having a chat with you during the evening distract you from the task in hand?

Paul: Sometimes but I enjoy it and get feedback and have made a few friends.

Sandro: How do your customers disappoint you? Do any disappoint you?

Paul: Few customers do, but I find customers who try to get something for nothing, or for example, quibble over the 75 pence corkage because "they opened their own wine" etc, fortunately these customers are rare.

Sandro: What are your views on the trend which seems to be gathering headway of limiting the amount of time a table can be allocated to a particular party?

Paul: I don't like it and only do it myself if the restaurant is fully booked. I will suggest to a customer that we have a party in at, say 9pm and if they wish, they can have that table until 8.45, but if customers ring and we have vacant tables it is theirs for the evening.


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