Laura Waller is head chef at one of Hull’s most consistently high-ranking restaurants. Formerly 1884 Dock Street Kitchen, its take on modern British grub is rated by food critics, visitors and locals alike, with fans including national restaurant critic Matthew Norman. It has a prime spot on Hull’s marina and is now shifting focus to become 1884 Wine Bar And Grill, with Laura at the helm.
Q: Where did you earn your chef whites?
A: 2018 is my 17th year as a chef. I trained at Hull College, and worked as a commis chef at The Beverley Arms and later Cerutti 2, where I went from commis to running the kitchen. I then relocated to Worcestershire to work in a fine dining two-rosette restaurant, The Glasshouse, before running the kitchen at a country village pub called the Hanley Swan. I wanted to get experience of corporate dining, so I went to Warwick Castle, where I ran the kitchen doing weddings and functions.
Q: What made you come back to Hull?
A: Warwick Castle was a great experience, but I was missing home. When 1884 opened, I moved back to Hull with the aim of working at the restaurant, as I’d heard so many good things about it. Within a couple of months, I got a job here as a sous chef and was asked to be head chef in 2015.
Q: Tell us about your style of cooking.
A: We do typical British food. Everything’s always fresh, tasty and seasonal. We like to take the raw flavours and make them slightly better, and I like to incorporate a bit of hearty home-cooking style.
Q: You run the kitchen at one of the most recommended restaurants in Hull, what’s the secret?
A: The secret is the team. We have a really good team – a little family – and I hardly have any staff turnover. The passion that everybody has for their food is what makes it.
Q: The team has received a fair few accolades over the years, what are you most proud of?
A: We’re very proud of winning the REYTA Remarkable Restaurant of the Year 2018. I get very nervous about awards and I don’t like to lose … I burst into tears when they said our names because that’s how proud I was of our team. It makes everything worthwhile.
Q: Why are there still so few women head chefs?
A: People will still come into the restaurant and expect a man to be head chef. When that happens, I appreciate the fact that my staff always gently point out to customers that their head chef is woman. There are some really great female head chefs and sous chefs out there, but it is still an achievement to be a female head chef. It’s something for me to be proud of.
Q: What’s new at 1884?
A: We’ve now changed our concept to become 1884 Wine Bar And Grill. We’re still very much about fine dining and a la carte menus, but we now also have a bar menu. We do a very good steak – probably the best in the area – and it’s by far our most popular dish. We’ve got different breeds and cuts of steak, plus seasonal cuts, all reared in Yorkshire by our award-winning suppliers, Taste Tradition. We’re also planning to get a dry-aging locker so we can age our own steaks in-house.
Q: Exciting times. Anything else in the pipeline?
A: In addition to our sister restaurant 1884 Wine And Tapas on the opposite side of the marina, we’re planning to open a restaurant in Hessle, which will be 1884 Italian. There will also be an 1884 presence at the new Barrow Boys cocktail bar on Humber Street, near our flagship restaurants, plus more on the horizon.