Interview: Spanish City's Head Pastry Chef Kristian Branch | Living North

Interview: Spanish City's Head Pastry Chef Kristian Branch

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We catch up with Spanish City’s Head Pastry Chef Kristian Branch to discuss his alternative take on afternoon tea, his culinary adventures in the Caribbean, and his busy days working at Spanish City

 

Tell us about the restaurants you’ve worked in. 

At 15, I worked at The Fisherman’s Lodge in Jesmond. Then I moved to The Hilton in Regent’s Park, London. When I arrived, there were no pastry chefs – so I was just left to do it by myself. After that I worked at one of Terence Conran’s restaurants, called Zinc, and then, out of the blue, I was offered a job as a Head Pastry Chef, working in the Caribbean at The Hilton, St Lucia. I stayed there for nearly four years, before returning to the UK – I missed the small luxuries and home comforts. I was Head Pastry Chef at Cameron House in Loch Lomond, before coming back to Newcastle. I worked for a couple of years at The Vermont, then I spent 10 years at Jesmond Dene House as the Head Pastry Chef – and I’ve been at Spanish City since its opening last year. 

 

Was patisserie a part of your childhood?

I was quite lucky, because when I was younger my mum was really creative, and she used to make all of my birthday cakes – I remember once she made me a football pitch cake! My dad also used to own restaurants, so I would always be running around in the kitchens.

 

What is your favourite patisserie to prepare?

It’s actually changed – I’ve always really enjoyed doing fine-dining desserts, and making a single dish look beautiful. But now, I really enjoy doing the miniature petits gâteaux for Valerie’s tearoom, because you can do such a different range of shapes and colours – it looks beautiful when you put it all together. 

 

What is the secret to making the perfect scone?

Making sure your dough isn’t too dry, using good quality ingredients, and not over-kneading it.

 

Where do you like to eat in the North East? 

I like going to independent places more than the chains. I go to Thai House Café on Clayton Street – that’s a favourite of mine for a quick meal. It’s just really nice, fresh, home-cooked food. 

 

Describe a typical day at work. 

No two days are ever the same. On Saturday I came to work and made some little cakes for the display at Valerie’s tearoom, then I made cakes for Trenchers fish and chip restaurant, 160 bread rolls for a wedding, sticky toffee puddings for 90 people, 60 afternoon teas for 1910 restaurant, scones for the Champagne bar, and 16 kilos of waffle batter for the pancake and waffle house –  it was a crazy day.

 

Which of your dishes do you feel represents Spanish City the best? 

In Valerie’s tearoom, we serve a lemon meringue and salted caramel tarts, which are both really popular – but we’re also getting a following for our giant scones, and sell up to 150 a day. One of the other desserts that represents Spanish City is the meringue sphere at 1910 – it looks like the white dome, and is served with a cherry consommé. 

 

Tell us about the themed afternoon teas you offer. 

Our summer afternoon tea is inspired by the seaside, and includes a chocolate truffle shaped like a sandcastle with a little icing flag, a seashell-shaped macaron with a blueberry pearl sitting in it (the blueberry is rolled in silver dust, so it looks like a pearl), a knickerbocker glory and a lemon cheesecake made into the shape of an ice cream cone, with a handmade chocolate flake. The gentleman’s afternoon tea, which is obviously not just for gentlemen, is a more savoury take on an afternoon tea. It includes a rueben sandwich with pastrami, nordic-style gravlax with pickled cucumber and a pork, sage and onion sausage roll.

 

Spanish City, Whitley Bay NE26 1BG 

0191 691 7090 www.spanishcity.co.uk

Published in: September 2019

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