chantelle nicholson

Meet the chef: Chantelle Nicholson of Apricity

14 Sep 2023 | |By Annie Lewis

2023 has been quite the year for one of the most eco-conscious chefs in the country. We catch up with Chantelle Nicholson to talk zero-waste recipes and sustainable restaurants

It’s quite the accolade to have your restaurant named the most sustainable in London. In a world of fast food, single-use plastics and unsustainable carnivorous diets, it’s no easy task to break free from the constraints which have, in the past, trapped restaurants. But, having been awarded a green Michelin star and Innovator of the Year at the National Restaurant Awards earlier this year, Chantelle Nicholson’s Apricity has made it look like light work. 

The law-student-turned-chef started her culinary career in her home country of New Zealand, where her first taste of the kitchen came from a job in a local cafe. Fast forward a decade and Nicholson – who gained her reputation as chef-owner of Covent Garden’s Tredwells before it closed in 2021 – is championing regenerative farming techniques, eco-conscious produce and sustainable dishes, changing the game and setting the bar for many other restaurants to follow. 

Apricity, situated in the heart of Mayfair and just a hop from Selfridges, opened just last year and has already made a name for itself in an area affiliated with affluence and luxury. That isn’t to say Apricity isn’t the latter; its tasting menu dishes of cured Chalk Stream trout with crème fraîche and pickled beetroot and Cheswell Grange ox tongue with Namayasai farm daikon and aromatic broth wouldn’t look out of place at any five-star hotel, and besides, it’s this bill of fare which contributed to Nicholson’s green starred success. However, it has redefined the meaning of luxury through a low-waste lens, showing how flavours can be reimagined in sustainable recipes. Take, for example, Nicholson’s coffee-roasted carrots; the result of her partnership with responsible coffee brand illy, where she’s made her own bespoke coffee blend too. 

Inside, Apricity has been reimagined by designers Object Space Place in a low-carbon refit featuring pink-hued plaster, plenty of plants and chairs made via recycled waste. In the kitchen, British vegetables, regeneratively farmed meat and sustainably caught fish from the British Isles sit alongside a list of low intervention wines at the bar, sourced from growers that care about soil and biodiversity while championing English vineyards. As the website states, the aim “is to not only meet acceptable levels of responsibility towards sustainability, but to work hard to find best practice and to share these learnings. We’re committed to moving towards a circular economy and whilst we know that there is no silver bullet, we are constantly redesigning and transitioning to improve.” Sounds good to us. 

2023 has been quite the year for Nicholson – and she’s just getting started. One to watch in the capital, she tells us all about closing chapters, holistic approaches and why she wanted to open in Mayfair

Tell me about your childhood in New Zealand. Were you always interested in food?

Growing up in New Zealand, I was always interested and surrounded by good food and incredible produce. We always had a veggie garden and we used to spend most of our summers at my aunt and uncle’s stonefruit orchard. So loving food came rather naturally to me, as did eating seasonally and cooking.

What pushed you to initially study law before becoming a chef?

I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do when the time came to decide what was next. I thought I would keep things broad and therefore did a double degree in law and commerce. I studied at New Zealand’s University of Otago, which is famous for its vibrant student life. I really enjoyed my time there, perhaps not so much the studying part though!

What restaurants did you work in during the early years of your career?

I trained on the job. My first job was at a local café. I popped in there one day with my CV and said I was looking for a cooking job. I had zero experience, but they took a chance on me and I ended up being there for two years. I then took on another job at a restaurant within a boutique hotel before stopping cooking for two years to focus on working in the field I studied, only to be lured to London with a job offer at the Savoy Grill after making it to the final of a chef competition in New Zealand.

How did the pace of life in London compare to your home town in New Zealand?

It was rather different to begin with! My seven hour working days, sitting at a desk, morphed into 18 hour days on my feet. But I loved learning.

Kitchens were, historically, known to be quite tough and unforgiving environments. Are you more conscious of creating a positive environment for your colleagues?

Indeed. There were experiences I had that I wanted to ensure I changed. Hence my commitment to working at a more holistic level, and really valuing people, at Apricity.

What encouraged you to open in Tredwells in 2014 and why did it close after your Green Michelin-starred success?

I was up for a new challenge in 2014 and a standalone site was very enticing. I really enjoyed the experience but when I took a long look at what I really wanted to create, I decided that I needed to pass over the keys to Tredwells to create a business with more purpose.

Why did you open Apricity last year? What gap in Mayfair were you trying to fill?

I wanted to open a restaurant that was more focused on the 360-degree approach to hospitality and food. I’m not sure I tried to fill a gap, more so that I tried to create something that was aligned with circular economy principles, that served delicious food, had a great, low-intervention wine list and boasted a team of wonderful people.

2023 has proven to be an exciting but busy year for you so far, having won a green Michelin star and partnering with illy. Have you got any further plans for this year?

We never really sit still. Restaurants are living, breathing things and we want to keep on the path to trying to improve what we do.

Why did you want to partner with illy? What inspired you to use coffee in your recipes?

I first drank illy coffee way back in about 1992 in New Zealand. I really loved it, and have done ever since. I feel illy’s ethos aligns with mine, hence the partnership. I’m a huge coffee fan, so to be able to create my own, unique blend with illy is so cool! And it has been good working on a few new recipes to showcase the flavour.

What's your favourite zero-waste recipe you have created with illy?

It’s hard to choose! I love the earthy, savouriness of the coffee-baked carrots, but also enjoy the spent-coffee granita with milk ice cream – a great summer treat.

What is your favourite London restaurant at the moment?

I have too many! I love what Silo and Native do, as it is aligned so well with Apricity. I also love the delicious food at my local pub Hicce Hart, as well as my favourite local Thai restaurant, Supawan. They’re all very different, but all serve delicious food.

How do you spend your free time away from the restaurant?

I love being outside with nature: foraging, swimming, by the sea, in the park. I also adore catching up with friends and family, which generally goes hand in hand with good food and wine!


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