Head chef of The Unruly Pig, Dave Wall, is best described as ‘Britalian’, offering imaginative restaurant-style dishes at surprisingly low prices. His impressive track history of gourmet cooking includes Bibendum, Gordon Ramsay’s Boxwood Café, Claridges and Le Talbooth. Dave leads the talented team at the stove of the Unruly Pig with the mantra of “unfussy food, cooked with skill, care and passion”.
Get to know Dave Wall
Did you always want to get into cooking?
Not really as I fell into cooking by accident. After A levels, I went travelling and ended up in Sydney and needed an income. I got a job at a beach hotel flipping burgers and found to my surprise I really enjoyed it. Canada followed on: skiing by day, cooking by night and by then I had caught the bug. I therefore decided to return to the UK for some proper training. And the rest, as they say, is history
What do you enjoy most about your industry?
Very simple but so very true: there is nothing better in life than the buzz of a busy restaurant on a Saturday night with the smiles and thanks of very happy customers
What is it that attracted you to gastropubs?
I had worked in London for the Gordon Ramsay Group (and then at Bibendum) before returning home to Suffolk to work at the iconic Le Talbooth restaurant. I loved the idea of working for an independent gastropub where I am given autonomy in my kitchen. After working for so many years for quite formal restaurants, I was also attracted by the idea of serving high end food but in a setting with a relaxed vibe. A pub’s a pub after all and when I go out to eat stuffiness and formality are not for me. The fact is that gastropubs are now serving some of the best food there is to be eaten in the UK – superb food but without a starchy atmosphere. It’s just great to be able to kick off an evening out with a pint of Estrella…. before the bottle of Puligny!
Where’s your favourite place to eat in the UK?
There are so many places that it would perhaps be invidious to name names, but I really do like what Dan and Natasha Smith have achieved in Canterbury both at The Fordwich Arms and The Bridge Arms. Two separate venues less than 10 miles apart but both with Michelin stars. Now that speaks volumes!
Who’s your biggest influence?
My first Head Chef, Carl Shillingford at The Anchor Inn, a gastropub in Stoke by Nayland in Suffolk. We cooked utilising whole animals solely from the proprietor’s surrounding farm, with much of the veg from the kitchen garden. We made everything from scratch, and he moulded me well with a great foundation of techniques. It was he who had a word in my ear one day to suggest that as sad as he was to lose me, that for the good of my career, I should get myself off to London to learn more and up my game. I will be forever grateful for his mentoring. He had a seminal influence upon my life.
What does a typical day off look like for you?
No different to most chefs up and down the country. It’s a hard gig. You must love those stoves and indeed I do. As ever the challenge is trying to balance having a semblance of family life with the long and unsocial hours. It is what it is but the recruitment crisis now facing the industry, now makes my typical day even more challenging
What does being a Top 50 Gastropub mean to you?
It really does mean so very much. It’s such a prestigious list containing so many famous names and skilled operators. I am very proud and feel extremely privileged to be part of the list. To be positioned at Number One in that list is an amazing honour and one my best achievements in life. I am so very grateful to everyone who voted for the team at The Unruly Pig
What’s your favourite ingredient right now?
Wild garlic. We forage it daily just up the road. I love its flexibility – great in stews, fab with pasta and risotto.
What do you think the future holds for Gastropubs?
In a difficult world for hospitality, the future looks comparatively bright. A less deferential society continues to want informality and that societal shift plays right into the hand of the gastropub. Informality is what we are all about. That doesn’t mean lax standards though – far from it. As the pandemic hopefully continues to recede, it is noticeable how customers want to speed more for a higher end, quality experience.