Amber Lau interview
The Hook & Line is situated within Plymouth's iconic Royal William Yard, the City's coolest waterfront destination. Head Chef, Amber Lau, has a passion for seafood and is influenced by her Chinese roots to produce some of the most exciting food the city has to offer.
We speak to Amber about welcoming back diners to the restaurant, what we can find on the menu this summer, plus, who she would invite to a dinner party.
How good is it to finally welcome diners back into the restaurant?
It’s been great to finally see customers walking into the Hook and Line. We take pride in delivering great tasting takeout, but I just love to cook food that’s served straight onto the plate, presented well, locally sourced and ready to eat in the restaurant! During lockdown I’ve been playing around with some beautiful specials that I’m now serving and everyone is enjoying. Hearing people laughing and having a nice time, while eating my food and drinking the cocktails is what I’ve missed the most.
For those who have yet to visit The Hook and Line, what can diners expect?
Diners can expect brilliant food, created with love and passion, carefully chosen seasonal produce and the freshest seafood you have ever tasted, all cooked in an open honest kitchen, with a lovely atmosphere.
Tell us a little about your background and how you first fell in love with cooking?
Growing up around my family’s Chinese takeaway, I was raised on such a variety of food, always trying, tasting and learning to make new things. I would eat things young children typically wouldn’t. I remember when I started to cook for family members and seeing the smiles on their faces, this is what made me fall in love with cooking. My passion grew even further when I was old enough to study professional cookery at college and managed to perfect my skills and creativity, with a focus on the presentation and flavours.
So, who have been your biggest influences and can we see some of these on your summer menu?
Rick Stein has been a big influence for me as I love to cook fish and he does it so well! I’ve always been fascinated with his TV shows, watching him travel and trying world cuisine, I also love experimenting with flavours in my cooking and definitely try to bring that vibrancy to the Hook & Line menu.
Chef Farleigh, Richard Farleigh from City College was a great inspiration to me while I was training and helped me on my path to becoming a chef.
I really like Gino D’Acampo – he cooks honest, simple dishes that are full of flavour and that’s another thing I try to achieve. It doesn’t have to be too complex to taste great!
"I remember when I started to cook for family members and seeing the smiles on their faces, this is what made me fall in love with cooking. My passion grew even further when I was old enough to study professional cookery at college and managed to perfect my skills and creativity, with a focus on the presentation and flavours."
Did you hone your skills during lockdown, or maybe discover any new techniques or ingredients to introduce to the menus?
During lockdown the Hook & Line was open for takeaways, so we were grateful to still be really busy. It was certainly strange times though, not having a restaurant of people to cook for, but if you’re a real chef who loves food, nothing can kill your passion, not even a closed venue! I’m always playing around with new menu ideas and the quieter times allowed more of that. Honey and soy grilled octopus is one of the menu additions that was perfected in lockdown and has proven really popular, served with sweet pickled rhubarb it has great taste and texture.
How important are fresh, locally sourced ingredients in your food and how fortunate are we to have such great produce on our doorsteps?
Cooking with local fish and shellfish, caught by our owner Ben’s fishing boats is just one of the reasons I’m so proud to be running this kitchen. It’s very important to me that we source sustainably. Increasingly the customer wants to know the provenance of the food on their plate, which is great to see. We’re so lucky to use seafood that has often been landed on the day we cook it, and nothing tastes as good!
I carry this commitment through to using only the freshest seasonal vegetables in my dishes, communicating daily with our supplier, Tamar Fresh. There’s great satisfaction in being able to source from and support local businesses and explore the produce they have on offer - from rainbow beetroot, cucamelon, variegated kale to wild garlic and heritage tomatoes the South West grows some of the finest produce.
What do you have planned over the summer for The Hook and Line?
Locally caught lobster is already featuring on our summer menu, it’s sweet, meaty texture works so well with a variety of flavours and feels like a really special meal. As we’re coming out of lockdown I think we all need dishes like this to celebrate and spoil ourselves with! With so much wonderful fresh seafood on offer it’s often hard to decide what to have, so I’ll be expanding small plates to enable diners to try a variety of different dishes in smaller portions.
If you could host a dinner party for 5 people (dead or alive), who would they be and why. Plus, what would you chose from the Hook and Line summer menu would you serve them?
My Auntie Claire, would be top of the list. She loved my cooking when I was in school, she would always praise and encourage me. Now I have mastered the seafood chowder I would love her to try it, I think she’d really like it.
It would be a bit daunting, as he is one of my chef heroes, but I would love to cook for Rick Stein. I feel his passion when he speaks about food and I’m sure he would love my grilled local sardines with wild garlic oil – well cooked and well-seasoned, honest food, just like the dishes he creates.
I would love Pawpaw, my Chinese grandmother to be at the table. Since she has passed, I have never tasted food like hers. She inspired me from a young age. I would often go to her house with my family and the atmosphere was indescribable. She made cooking look so easy and she knew how to put smiles on faces through the food she would cook. That’s a dream skill to have that she has kindly passed on to me. I would cook her one of my favourite specials on the menu, steamed seabass with garlic, ginger spring onions and soybeans.
Lewis Capaldi - I think he’d be great entertainment, musically and for the laughs! I know he loves takeaways so the Hook & Line Fish and Chips in our own signature batter would be a must!
David Attenborough, who wouldn’t want to cook their local, sustainably sourced seafood for David Attenborough?! He’d also bring important, thought provoking conversation. I’d definitely serve Sir David a fish platter, giving us plenty of time to eat and chat!
And drinks? Maybe a couple of summer cocktails?
The Hook & Line is certainly the right place for cocktails, with our very own speciality rum bar! Owner, Steve is the last word in cocktail making and shaking! I love the simplicity of The Sound and Stormy, just great Havana rum, with ginger beer, cola and a squeeze of lime – delicious! And for summer evenings while watching the boats go by, the Tant-Rum is perfect, combining two of our best rums with pineapple, passionfruit and mango.
Royal William Yard | PL1 3QQ
Call: 01752 265 374