City centre bar/kitchen Drapers has recently recruited a new head chef, Sarah Jenkins. Food Covolution caught up with her for a natter about her plans for this iconic Coventry venue.
Food Covolution: Hi Sarah! Can you tell us a bit about your background and influences?
Sarah Jenkins: My mum is a fantastic cook and she’s always inspired me, but the first pro kitchen I worked in was the Earlsdon Cottage when I was fourteen! I think my mum just wanted to find me a job and the woman who ran the bar was a friend of hers. Since then I’ve done my Food Preparation NVQ to Level III and worked in lots of places that people in Coventry would know, like Hearsall Golf Club, Millsy’s, the Quadrant Club and the Jacobean, and Ego in Kenilworth. They all taught me something. And of course, my first head chef job was at Blue Bistro…
FC: That’s a name that keeps coming up. It’s left quite a legacy.
SJ: Getting that job was just what I needed because it gave me the freedom to do what I wanted. We did a Titanic Night, based on the First Class menu of the last night, and an Alice in Wonderland night with actors hired from the Belgrade. Probably it was a bit too wacky sometimes. I had frogs’ legs and snails on the menu just because I could.
FC: Are these the kinds of ideas you want to introduce at Drapers?
SJ: I’m trying to inject some of it into here, yes. Drapers has given me that same freedom, and I just want to push it as much as I can. We already do the Sunday Roast Club and Wednesday Curry Nights – although I’m thinking of changing them to Spice Nights because I want to bring in more influences like Malaysian or Thai – and I want to introduce at least one special event a month.
FC: Like the Drunk Pudding Club you did at Beer Gonzo..?
SJ: Drunk Pudding Club at Beer Gonzo was hard work! There’s no kitchen there so we had to prepare everything at Drapers and transport it. I couldn’t do anything frozen, anything hot, anything that needed to be chilled for a long time. But…it worked! I thought “if I can do that at Gonzo, imagine what I can do at Drapers!”. We’re now planning a new Drunk Pudding Club event for Drapers called ‘To Space and Beyond’. It will be more theatrical, but will still tie in with drinks from Beer Gonzo. I’m not really a desserts specialist – I just love going mad with things, and that’s easier to do with desserts than with a steak!
FC: Any other events in the pipeline?
SJ: I’d like to do a vegan night and we’ve got a Soul Food and Blues night coming up on 23rd August. You’ll get a nip of bourbon when you arrive and then what I call bowl food – sort of tapas style, but Southern, like gumbo and macaroni cheese. And live blues music, of course.
FC: Tell us about your new menu.
SJ: The idea moving forwards is to change the menu every three months, so it’s seasonal, sustainable and supportive of brilliant local suppliers like Clive Miller’s fishmongers in Coventry Market. We’ve gone for some slightly unusual ingredients like mogo chips, which are similar to potato chips but firmer, and don’t go soggy in sauce. We’re not a restaurant, we’re a kitchen/bar so you order at the bar; because you don’t have a waiter coming over to your table to describe the dishes before you order, we’ve included a guide to any possibly unfamiliar ingredients on the menu itself.
FC: And you’ve developed an innovative way of signalling potential allergens?
SJ: What we’ve done is, we’ve gone through every single ingredient for every single dish to identify all the major allergens; but rather than having a separate allergens guide, I’ve put it all on the menu itself. Every allergen is allocated a number, which is then explained in the key. The relevant numbers are listed next to every dish. We’ve used a different shade of green to ensure it stands out and is user-friendly.
FC: The menu certainly looks very stylish – it also showcases the work of a local artist?
SJ: Yes – this menu displays the work of a lady called Emily (@CoventryLife), but every time I change the menu, I’m going to get a new image. It can be anything to do with Drapers, drawn by anyone, any age. I love that creativity, and I love applying it to food. I can’t imagine being any more passionate about food than I am!
The new menu at Drapers includes a range of small plates, mains, burgers, sharing boards, vegan/vegetarian options, home made cakes, pastries and daily specials.