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Henry Harris

Henry Harris

Henry spent four years as sous chef at Bibendum, and though the pair made the restaurant one of the capital's best, it's the legacy of Bibendum that proves vital to London today. The likes of Simon Hopkinson, Alastair Little and Rowley Leigh changed the course of British food, and Henry Harris was right in the centre of that movement too.

In 1991 he was approached by Dominic Ford – previously an assistant manager at Hilaire – who needed a chef to head up a new restaurant opening in Knightsbridge department store Harvey Nichols. The entire fifth floor had been cleared out to make way for a food court, which would include a restaurant, cafe, bar, a wine shop and a food hall with fresh fish, meat, cheese, vegetables and dry good. Henry went from serving 150 covers at Bibendum to double that at the Fifth Floor restaurant, and a thousand more in the cafe. It was quite the change – Henry established himself as a hot talent, but the style of cooking was never truly his own, so after serving ten years in the vertiginous location he left to open a restaurant that would truly be his own.

In 2002, Henry left Harvey Nichols and opened Racine, not far from the front doors of the lofty department store. Over the next thirteen years, Henry would exercise his right to cook the food he truly loved – bistro classics like filet au poivre, rabbit with mustard sauce and bacon, beef carbonnade and creme caramel – dishes that would make Racine into London's primo destination for French provincial cooking. He was described by Tim Hayward of The Guardian as, 'the best French chef with the decency to be British'.

Rising rents in Knightsbridge forced Henry to leave Racine in 2013, but he appreciated the chance to take a break after nearly thirty years in the kitchen. A few consultancy gigs came and went, and Henry eventually made contact with the Harcourt Inns group, responsible for renovating a number of old pubs across the city. Today, Henry is chef director of Harcourt Inns, and responsible for the menus at four London gastropubs – The Hero of Maida in Maida Vale, The Coach in Clerkenwell, The Three Cranes in Farringdon and The Crown in Chiswick, where his bistro cookery fits perfectly with the homely-but-delicious gastropub vibe.

Three things you need to know

Henry is a serious knife enthusiast – he has collected knives of all different sorts from all over the world, and kept every single one of his knives from his long, distinguished career.

Henry often returns to Leith's to host demonstrations and teach some of his classic recipes to students at the school.

He also likes to venture into Europe on his motorbike and is a keen cyclist, too.