Leeds restaurants: Meet the pro chef behind Chapel Allerton's Hern that locals can't get enough of

Leeds chef Richard (Rab) Adams is big on simplicity.

By Abbey Maclure
Saturday, 18th September 2021, 4:45 pm

You won't find fancy wine pairings, extravagant decor or uninterpretable menus at his Chapel Allerton restaurant Hern.

What he does do is well-made, tasty food - offering a weekly set menu that makes the most of the produce he gets in from local suppliers, from plum stones to a whole carcass of meat.

"We didn’t want to fall back on cliches like being local or seasonal," Rab told the Yorkshire Evening Post.

Robert (Rab) Adams is the owner of Hern in Chapel Allerton

"We do that, but it doesn’t define the restaurant.

“These phrases have become meaningless; we don’t say we’re local, we don’t call it a tasting menu, and we don’t do wine pairings.

“We want to keep the same clients and I feel really fortunate to have people who have been coming since the early days.”

Rab was born in northeast Scotland and although his mum was a "domestic machine", food was about getting fuel on the table.

Rab making homemade bread in Hern's tiny kitchen

He studied physics at the University of Edinburgh and got an office job for an oil company in his early 20s.

It was only then that his culinary journey began; Rab worked weekends as a breakfast chef and saved up to put himself through catering college.

The 35-year-old added: “I got more and more into it, there was something about it that drew me in. I didn’t have any desire to work upwards in the career I was doing.

“It was a career where you didn’t get to learn anything. That was part of the intrigue of being a chef."

After graduating from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in London, Rab learned the ropes at former Michelin-star restaurant Hedone, before a stint at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

It was while he was working under Josh Overington at Le Cochon Aveugle in York that he began to develop plans for his own restaurant.

"We had lots of returning customers and a lot of freedom and input, cooking good products and improving all the time," Rab said.

“That’s when I started thinking about building a more accessible restaurant. I’d never worked in a casual restaurant, or anywhere that wasn’t fancy.

"I wanted Hern to be in a suburb, at a lower price point, with lots of returning customers.”

Hern offers a £32 evening menu from 6pm-10pm on Wednesday-Saturday: A simple wine list, snacks, a vegetable-based course, a meat course, a cheese supplement and dessert.

Sometimes there's a fish supplement, depending on what produce Rab gets in, and a small a la carte lunch menu on Fridays and Saturdays lets him play around with ingredients.

The dishes are inspired by the produce that's delivered to the restaurant; he recently created a pearl barley starter using a bounty of mixed squash that's coming into season.

He turned the squash into a puree with lots of brown butter, served with a confit egg yolk, spinach, sheep's cheese and a buttermilk dressing.

Rab added: “The style of service is unpretentious, we make it extremely simple. If they don’t want to ask any questions, we won’t bombard them."

“We don’t want people to take one mouthful and gaze upwards at the stars, contemplating what we’ve done. It’s not that restaurant.”

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