The chef of one of Surrey’s most exclusive restaurants shares a simple trick for cooking rice

It’s not everyday that we chat with a top chef, after all their working hours are ridiculous. Chef Wojciech Popow recently joined the kitchen at The Dining Room, a super-exclusive Japanese steakhouse tucked away inside the lavish Beaverbrook Hotel.

He gave SurreyLive a glimpse into what it’s like to work in the swanky Leatherhead mansion, and shared some cooking tips for making dishes like rice and cheesecake at home. For anyone who has dined at the gourmet sushi restaurant, you will know that perfection is key and that every plate he delivers is presented in the most elegant manner.

The iconic white house surrounded by beautiful gardens is quintessentially British with many original features and homages to Winston Churchill, but the restaurant is very different. With views over the tranquil gardens and a menu of exquisite Japanese specialties, it’s a real pleasure and dining experience in the elegant dining room.

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Your dishes are so wonderfully creative. What inspires you?

I love to enjoy, appreciate and learn from different amazing restaurants and so I am inspired by each restaurant I visit, each allowing me to learn in different ways. My personal inspiration for the concept of The Dining Room is the forest that surrounds us here on the estate. I like to translate visual elements of the forest into my dishes and our human connection with nature is linked to our cooking philosophy.



Chief Wojciech Popow in Beaverbrook

Which ingredients do you prefer to work with and why?

I like to look for fresh produce in the domain’s park; it’s amazing what we can find there and all that the forest has to offer us. Most forage ingredients have unique, deep aromas and flavors that are so different from the same products you can buy off the shelf. I especially like using fresh produce like Douglas fir sprouts because they bring citrus and pine flavors that complement many dishes.

What can diners expect if they’ve never been to a restaurant before?

They can expect a modern approach to Japanese cuisine, where we use modern techniques, but not fusion. We often use unusual ingredients, such as our Kent ants, which provide surprising flavors and textures.

What’s your ultimate comfort food at home?

Pizza, my favorite being pepperoni and jalapeno.

What’s your best trick for cooking rice?

Don’t wash the rice too much as this avoids breaking the grain, make sure you soak it properly so that the rice cooks evenly. Finally, make sure the rice to water ratio is always one to one.

What’s your best tip for making cheesecake?

Use a good quality cheese, the cheese determines the flavor of the whole cheesecake.



bento box
Bento Box at Beaverbook Hotel

What are your guilty culinary pleasures?

Chocolates and jelly beans.

How was the kitchen during confinement for you?

The confinement allowed me to share my passion in an intimate setting with my wife and children. They really appreciate my cooking, our favorite cuisines to cook are Japanese, Polish and Italian.

How long does it take to start preparing for the service?

Preparing a service like ours takes time, even several days, to create our ingredients and the different elements of our dishes. A lot of time goes into infusing and fermenting many of our ingredients, which means we can’t produce everything the same day, but the flavors are second to none. For the service of the day, each different space in the kitchen is set up one hour in advance.

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