There’s been much ado about The Spotted Pig, the West Village’s perpetually packed gastropub, that spawned a trend in militantly seasonal comfort food spots. With a massive spread of all things offal, masterful ricotta gnudi and a greatly sought-after Roquefort burger, Ken Friedman & Chef April Bloomfield has indeed taken New York City by storm. (Not an easy feat). Bloomfield seamlessly mingles Italian cooking with simple bar food techniques, resulting in anything from a slow-roasted beef shin with polenta to a simple, but exquisite salad of roasted pumpkin & shaved pecorinio. It’s no wonder people will wait over two hours to snag a table at The Spotted Pig: Bloomfield’s resume reads such classic establishments as River Café, Chez Panisse and Kensington Place.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
A police woman. I wanted to be a copper. I used to watch Cagney & Lacey, Chips, & NYPD Blue. It’s ironic because I actually wanted to be a NYC cop, but thought that would never happen and now I’m here.
What was your first job in food?
Dishwashing in a small restaurant in Birmingham. I think it was called The Mill.
What was your experience like at Kensington Place?
It was great; simple, modern European cuisine. It was a small kitchen because it was only 1991 and the food scene in England had just begun to bloom. But it expanded as the cuisine quickly caught on.
How did you Ken Friedman manage to lure you over from London’s River Cafe to open the Spotted Pig?
He knew Jamie Oliver, who gave Ken my name. He brought me over for this great jetset weekend. He got me a limo, put me up in a hotel overlooking Union Square and I just loved it. We went to Otto, Lupa & Babbo all in one night. I was stuffed.
Why did you leave the rather illustrious River Cafe?
I was ready for a change, wanted to try something different.
How do you like living in NYC?
I love it here. I have no plans to go back to England right now.
Would you say you’re preoccupied with the almighty pig?
I like pork a lot. I’m British: we eat a lot of pork. My mom used to cook these perfect pork loins with the most amazing cracklings. I’d chomp down on crackling, my mouth full of potatoes & pork. It’s making me hungry for that right now.
What’s your favorite dish on The Spotted Pig’s menu right now?
The carrot salad.
What’s your least favorite dish on the menu (and yes, you must pick one)?
Oh, please. No, that’s not fair. We only opened The Spotted Pig just a few years ago. I’m not that bored yet.
Where do you get your inspiration for putting out a new menu every single day?
I try to change the menu as much as I can; I stick with the seasons. If I see something in the market or in another restaurant, whatever inspires me. Sometimes, I’ll be reading a cookbook over a cup of tea and see something new I like. I try to eat out at least once a week.
Not many chefs can so seamlessly mingle Italian & English pub food. Was that an organic union for you?
Well, I’ve worked in both kinds of restaurants, so it wasn’t that difficult. So yes, I guess it was organic.
I won’t name names, but you’ve obviously started a gastro-pub trend in these parts? Flattered? What do you make of your followers?
It’s a good thing if people are doing it well. If more people can eat in a nice, relaxed atmosphere, but still have wonderful food that’s affordable – that’s great.
Were you ever worried that the American palate wouldn’t take to dishes like roll mops or devils on horseback (or even know what the hell those bar snacks are exactly)?
No, I just didn’t think about it. I wanted to do it and I know New Yorkers are very receptive to new stuff. We sell a lot of those dishes.
What is your junk food of choice?
Spicy buffalo wings.
Other than your own, what’s your favorite restaurant in NYC?
Well, I love Prune. I also love Rai Rai Ken, because it’s really cheap. They cook the pork right in front of you. Get the ramen.
Are there any trends you wish would die already?
No, not really.
What’s next on the horizon for you? Any new ventures or restaurants in the works? Spill the beans…
Yes, we just signed a lease on 10th Avenue, between Del Posto & Craftsteak. It’s a fish restaurant. It may be English style, European. I don’t think it will open for awhile, probably January or February.
Do you ever think of opening another Spotted Pig?
Maybe in the future, but not right now.
Address: 314 West 11th St., at Greenwich St.
Until we eat again,
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