Great Island Chefs: Ben Cooke of The Little Gloster
The Little Gloster in Gurnard is one of the Island’s top gastro heavens - as voted for by Island visitors having scooped the 2015 myisleofwight Award for Best Gastronomic Experience. Sitting right on the waters edge, the unassuming exterior belies the culinary creative and expertise that is delivered as standard on the inside. Self classed as a location offering “non-pretentious, well-priced food and drink, in a warm and friendly ambiance” this is a venue well worth discovering.
The food is fresh and simple, with a strong Scandinavian influence. Cowes born owner and head chef Ben Cooke’s philosophy is to let the flavours speak for themselves by keeping it simple – a skill picked up from his Danish grandmother and fine tuned by years working aboard some of the worlds premier super yachts serving high end cuisine. A real family affair, Ben works with his wife Holly, who ensures the smooth running of the Little Gloster, and even Ben's mother and Grandmother pitch in.
Also offering beautiful B&B accommodation The Little Gloster is the perfect place to stay and dine.
myisleofwight caught up with Ben to find out how life back on the Island has been…
myIOW: “When did you open and was it a big change in lifestyle?”
Ben: “We opened on 4th June 2010 after two months refurbishment of the restaurant, B&B and kitchen. I am really enjoying being land based once again and loving the stability of onshore life and having such a reliable source of excellent local produce. Being in such a unique location right on the sea’s edge is a massive bonus and still feels like I’m afloat.”
myIOW: “Had your prior experience set you in good stead for the challenges of running your own restaurant?”
Ben: “I have spent my whole life working towards fulfilling my childhood dream of running my own restaurant, and the success of The Little Gloster so far is hopefully a testament to all the hard work involved in developing it into a reality. My grandparents owned The Gloster Hotel in Cowes so it’s in my blood.”
myIOW: “Where did you learn to cook and who are your greatest influences?”
Ben: “I started my life in kitchens as a kitchen porter from the age of 12 and worked my way up. I started with classical French and English Chefs and went on to work with Michelin Trained Chefs from around the world including New Zealand and Sweden. I am a strong believer that chefs need to have a natural understanding of food & flavour but know that research and reading can fine tune your own tastes. I encourage my chefs to borrow books and take them home with them to keep current. There is nothing more satisfying than having a member of my team with a true passion for food, come and ask me questions about a method he has read up on and my thoughts on it, and seeing them put it into action in the kitchen.”
myIOW: “What is your favourite dish on the menu and the one of which you are most proud?”
Ben: “Tricky question but if I had to have one it would be our house cured Gravadlax. It’s delicious, versatile and doesn’t get boring. You can eat it as we do for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but our favourite way of serving it is simply with Danish Rye Bread, as my Scandinavian relatives do.”
myIOW: “What are your hopes for the future?”
Ben: “Currently we are purely focused on fine tuning the Restaurant & B&B. It is tempting to develop the brand/business but for now we are dedicated to continuing our work & current success. Customer satisfaction and the ability to offer exquisite food with fantastic service in an unbeatable setting is the most important ongoing project there is.”
The Little Gloster, 31 Marsh Road, Gurnard, Isle of Wight, PO31 8JQ, 01983 298776
16 May 2016