An original Bristolian, Freddy Bird came back to the city eight years ago and heads up a string of top kitchens, including Lido – and this one at home, which we take a nosy at
Freddy Bird’s current kitchen would be, we get the impression, unrecognisable to anyone who knew it before he and wife Ness moved in four-and-a-half years ago. The last student house on the street, its kitchen was its smallest room.
“We’d all be crowded around a tiny table in the corner; this whole family of five,” he tells us. “I really wanted space to cook and entertain in.”
Now, the bright and airy open-plan space comfortably houses a generous amount of storage, a central island with a beast of a gas hob, plenty of worktop space, a long dining table and a couple of arm chairs. Floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall glass doors fold back to open the room out onto the lawn, and expand the space even further.
A crisp white colour palatte receives pops of brightness courtesy of the eclectic furnishings, a mix of the old (inherited from Ness’ grandma) and the new. Think a geometric-patterned rug, orange-framed full-length mirror, pink paper decorations suspended over the dining table, colourful platters and a thick Ukrainian throw – the maker of which Freddy watched at work – that’s draped over one of the chairs.
The room cuts a cool, clean figure while staying refreshingly understated: the result of huband/wife collaboration.
“It was a joint effort – otherwise known as a battle!” he jokes. “My style isn’t particularly modern, but I do like basic. So this is a compromise.”
Work on the kitchen started as soon as they moved in, with Freddy digging up the flooring himself and roping in his kitchen team at the Lido to come and strip wallpaper.
The extension, however, is a recent addition, and took seven months to complete. Freddy kept his hands off that particular project, however, coming up with designs but then entrusting the builders with it, as we find out by asking if he was very involved with the renovation work.
“No, no – I can’t even hang a picture!” he admits. “I’m just good at ideas. I was more than happy to come up with the basic plan, then hand it all over.”
Now it’s all done though, this former Moro chef definitely gets the most out of his new kitchen.
“I do most of the cooking, really,” he says, “although I’m sure my wife would tell you otherwise!” (NB: we have received no counter statement from Ness thus far, but it may or may not be worth noting that we haven’t actually asked for one, either – so you can make your own judgments here…)
“I love making Sunday roasts, and like it when Ness takes the kids over the park or something in the morning, and I can turn my music up, have the kitchen to myself, and just get cooking.”
That said, the pair do make quite the kitchen team.
“We always work together on catering jobs for events,” Freddy says. “She’s a really good cook. The first time she cooked for me it was a lasagne, done properly, with venison. I was happy.”
What about equipment, then? You’d think this pro would be pretty precious when it comes to his culinary tools, no? Well, apparently not…
“I’m not really attached to anything,” Freddy explains. “I use it until it’s had it, then just get rid. Precious kit, like knives and stuff, I keep at work. We only have blunt knives here!
“There are things I couldn’t do without at home, though. Definitely a pestle and mortar and spice grinder.”
And, indeed, he fetches out a hefty stone pestle and mortar to show us. “I always smash these by dropping them,” Freddy says, picking up the pestle. “So they get replaced a lot!”
His mobile starts to ring and, after a glance at the screen, Freddy makes his apologies and tells us he should probably answer. He quickly gets immersed in a conversation about markets and ingredients; what’s looking good that day, and what’s staying on the menu.
Remembering that working full time at the well-established Lido Bristol, and overseeing two other kitchens (the group he works for also owns Three Brothers Burgers and Glassboat), must make you pretty busy, we say our goodbyes and leave this Jack of one trade to it. And we haven’t even mentioned a fourth venture (Thames Lido, set in a Grade II listed Edwardian swimming baths in Reading, and currently mid-build) yet…