Brian McCann acknowledges that the great Philip Howard, of London’s The Square restaurant, was a pivotal influence on his cooking, educating the youngster in the supreme importance of the provenance of the foods a kitchen uses. Mr Howard has been a major influence on many chefs, always for the good. Cooks who emerge from The Square seem to share an especial confidence, but it’s a quiet confidence: they know they are good, but they let the food do the talking. Back in 2006, when Mr McCann’s cooking first earned Shu a place in this book, we described him this way: “He is passionate, he understands seasonality, he has common sense, he is brimming with confidence and enthusiasm, and his food blows you away with its delicious, elegant simplicity”. All those adjectives are true, but it might be that “common sense” – a quality rare in chefs – that sets Mr McCann apart.
His cooking in the funky, elegant Shu is full of deft, confident whispers – roast coley with creamed barley and Parmesan milk; roast salmon with burnt butter and chestnut gnocchi; smoked salmon with horseradish snow. Beautiful cooking, great place.