Revealing Q&A with leading Herts restaurant owner and head chef

Spiced brown shrimp, Fox & Hounds, Barley, Hertfordshire

Spiced brown shrimp, Fox & Hounds, Barley - Credit: Fox & Hounds

Brett Barnes, co-owner and head chef of the Fox & Hounds in Barley, Hertfordshire, opens the door to his kitchen 

Describe your style 
The food we do at the Fox & Hounds is unmistakably British. I think that’s what people want from a country pub. Of course we use influences from other cuisines but you will always find pies, puddings, grilled chops and other traditional British favourites. 

How do you decide your menu? 
It seems a cliché nowadays but the menu is dictated by the seasons. We change three to four dishes a week so can put ingredients straight on the menu as soon as they are at their best and build a dish around them. Equally, if a dish isn’t selling as well as we’d like we just drop it and try out something else. 

Brett Barnes, head chef and co-owner of the Fox and Hounds, Barley, Hertfordshire

Brett Barnes, head chef and co-owner of the Fox and Hounds, Barley - Credit: Fox & Hounds

Which local producers do you use? 
Our bread comes from the Hot Numbers bakery in Shepreth. Fruit and vegetables come from Fisher & Woods down the road in Saffron Waldon - they are passionate about using local farmers so a lot of the produce we use is grown in Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Essex. Meat comes from The Rare Breed Meat company, 40 miles away, and much is reared on their family farm. 

Which menu dish do you most enjoy preparing? 
This is a tough question as our menu is constantly changing and evolving. I like variety, and it's good not having to do the same thing on repeat! I enjoy the changing produce we get through the seasons.  

What ingredient is most important to your cooking? 
Maldon sea salt. It is a lovely clean tasting salt, easy to flake delicately into salads, or rub into a large cut of meat. As any chef knows, food is just bland without it. 

Who did you train under and what did they teach you? 
I worked for Mark Hix on and off for several years, and he has probably influenced my cooking the most. He is passionate about using British artisan producers and farmers; foreign ingredients were banned during my time there! He is also a master of restraint, using one or two seasonal ingredients on a plate with very little else to accompany them, so that the star ingredients shone. 

Next food trend? 
With the rising cost of pretty much everything, I think we’ll see a big resurgence in people growing their own herbs and veg. It's something we’ve always tried to do a bit of at the F&H, and we’ve just got ourselves a greenhouse so we’ll be growing our own chillies, herbs, berries and tomatoes.  

Quick grill

What's in your fridge at home? 
A huge variety of sauces and condiments! Beer, wine and Greek yoghurt for my two-year-old. 

Favourite quick meal? 
A fridge-clear-out fried rice with oyster sauce and a fried egg. 

Top three tips for amateur cooks? 
Use cook books while you learn the basics.
Keep tasting as you cook. 
Don’t be scared of salt. 

Best cookbook? 
Bruce’s Cookbook by Bruce Poole (chef patron of Chez Bruce).