Best of times, worst of times: Matthew Parr

Categories: Behind the stalls

The likes and dislikes of the owner of Oak and Smoke

Fantasy job
This is it. I spent more than 15 years working in the corporate world as a salesman in telecommunications and then in real estate in Indonesia, before deciding I wanted a complete change. I knew I wanted to start a business in a field I was passionate about, which is great quality, ethical, sustainable food. I created Oak and Smoke based on that premise.

Worst job
That was working for a giant telecommunications company in the City, selling datacoms. I didn’t really understand the technology, or the reason why people were buying it.

Favourite holiday destination
My first instinct is to say Bali. I lived there for almost five years and it is lovely to return and see friends and family and enjoy the culture, food and weather. But I am also really inspired by South America, which is somewhere I have not been. I really love the Mexican street food I have tried in London and would love to go there to try it for real. Also, that region has such a rich history and deep layers of culture, so if I was to choose a fantasy destination it would probably be Mexico.

Favourite childhood dish
I remember really loving soft herring roe. It is probably still my favourite food, but it is very hard to get nowadays. It was my grandmother who introduced me to it. It was very fresh and we would have it lightly coated in flour, fried very lightly in some butter and eaten on some toast with salt and black pepper. It was lovely.

Signature dish
I cook a lot, but my signature dish sounds very simple. I love venison and like to cook a really good cut of it with a deep, rich red wine gravy served with some really buttery mashed potatoes. It isn’t complicated but every time I cook it, it is wonderful.

Worst kitchen disaster
I was having friends and family over for dinner and had bought some beautiful prawns here at Borough Market. They were one of the last things to go on and I made the schoolboy error of leaving them on for far too long. By the time I retrieved them they were these shrunken rubbery little bullets, but I had to serve them and not even a very nice, freshly made marie rose sauce could cover up the disaster.

Best recent meal
I recently went to the Plum and Spilt Milk restaurant in King’s Cross and had their venison dish with fennel, rosemary and a heritage tomato beurre blanc. That was outstanding, absolutely beautiful.

Favourite drink
In terms of alcohol, a really good quality dark ale, but on an everyday basis I’m pretty much addicted to freshly squeezed orange juice. At the moment I’m having to ration myself to two a day, or I’d spend half the day nipping off to buy some more.

Worst drink
Southern Comfort. I can’t stand it. Not just drinking it, but if you open a bottle of it the smell gets to me. It is just so overly sweet. There may be a teenage story behind that dislike, but if there is I can’t remember it.

Worst school subject
Maths, and I don’t think I’m the only person who would have said that. I think it is something about the way it was taught that was the real problem.

Favourite school subject
History. I was fascinated by the age of exploration—the era when countries Spain, Britain and Portugal were heading out to explore the East, searching for things like spices, sugar, nutmeg. Maybe my love of Asia started there.

Best recent gig
I saw Basement Jaxx not too long ago and they were incredible. Loads of energy, brilliant music and a great feeling through the whole crowd.

Favourite thing about London
I really like the multicultural nature of the city. I also love that it has the feel of a place where anyone is welcome, and can be free to express who they are.

Worst thing about London
Property prices. As someone who was born and raised here, the fact that we have allowed the city to arrive at a place where it feels impossible to buy that first property is quite frankly a disgrace.

Best way to relax
I love open spaces. I like fishing by a lake or on the bank of a river, or just going for long walks and being around nature and wildlife.

Favourite city
Tokyo. In many ways it feels alien, but for me it has a similar spirit and vibe to London.

Everyday bug bear
A lack of manners. Take the time to say please and thank you. More people need to step outside of themselves and realise that there are other people in the world apart from them.

Hangover cure
Drink more. Have a big pint of Guinness. If that isn’t available, a full English breakfast.