Featured Chef – Phil Woodcock: Smiths Restaurant Gretna Green


Gretna Green, Gretna, Dumfries and Galloway, DG16 5EA- Tel: 01461 337007

Web: smithsgretnagreen.com
facebook: facebook.com/SmithsHotel
twitter: twitter.com/smithshotel


WHAT’s in a kiss?

For Phil Woodcock it’s the essential ingredient that sustains his life-long love affair with cooking.

“K-I-S-S is quite simply the acronym at the heart of everything I do – Keep It Simple Stupid,” he explains.

Phil Woodcock

Now 31, his culinary journey was kick-started helping on his grandfather’s vegetable allotment and enjoying his grandmother’s home-baked cakes using fresh eggs from her own chickens.

“I was only a kid but looking back it gave me a grounding in the importance of sourcing local produce and knowledge about the seasonality of fruit and vegetables,” he says.

Fast-forward a couple of decades and Phil, recently appointed Head Chef at four star boutique hotel Smiths at Gretna Green, is already stamping his personality on the menu.

Having just launched his first Winter Menu – which includes a main dish of locally sourced lamb served with a Scotch broth risotto, and a Black Forest dessert served with chocolate fondant and cherry sorbet – he eagerly awaits feedback.

“Ultimately, cooking is about the eating experience for the people who travel and pay to sample your food and I always want to hear their opinions,” he says.

One of south-west Scotland’s most popular eating places, Smiths’ 60-seater Chainmail restaurant enjoys a 2 AA Rosette rating and it popular with residents and non-residents alike.

Adjoining private rooms, perfect for intimate parties and celebrations, can accommodate up to 18 people.

Phil’s key to culinary nirvana?

Using only carefully-selected high-quality ingredients and ensuring freshness – by ordering little and often from local suppliers – are the keys to every successful mouth-watering dish.

The future certainly looks exciting for diners at Smiths as Norfolk-born Phil cites Swede Magnus Nilsson as one of his greatest inspirations.

The 28-year-old chef’s world-famous Faviken restaurant, set on a 20,000 acre farm and hunting estate in Northern Sweden, was recently described as the “most daring restaurant in the world.”

Every food item, from dairy products, to the meat and vegetables, is harvested, butchered and preserved by hand using the most natural and primitive methods possible and often simply cooked over open coals.

“And while this wouldn’t work here it inspires me to think of new ways of cooking and serving dishes. My own favourite types of food are cheaper cuts of meat that have been slow-cooked to bring out their natural flavours,” he says.

Whilst Faviken is on his ‘to do’ list, for now he is busy satisfying the dining needs of his own customers, some of whom travel 50 miles or more to eat at Smiths – such is its growing reputation.

“With the Winter Menu I’ve kept the food seasonal and local and then given classic dishes a twist,” he explains.

“What I like about this menu is it’s mixing of a lot of cooking techniques, from old-fashioned curing to liquid nitrogen and that keeps it interesting for my team of chefs and the people who eat here.”


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[headline] Phil’s Featured Recipe [/headline]

Black Forest dessert – a light festive alternative to Christmas pudding

Hot chocolate fondant, cherry sorbet, edible soil, kirsch cherries.

Black Forest Dessert-smiths gretna green

For the chocolate fondant.

85g/3oz caster sugar
150g/6oz butter, chopped, plus extra for greasing
150g/6oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), roughly chopped
3 free-range egg yolks
3 whole free-range eggs
1 tbsp plain flour


• Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
• Grease 4 small dariole moulds or individual pudding basins.
• Place the sugar, butter and chocolate into a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water.
• Simmer very gently until the butter and chocolate have melted, then remove from the heat.
• Whisk together until combined.
• Add the egg yolks and whole eggs and beat well.
• Fold in the flour.
• Butter and dust moulds with coco powder.
• Pour the mixture into dariole moulds or pudding basins and place in the fridge to chill for at least 20-25 minutes.
• Remove from the fridge and place onto a baking tray.
• Put straight into the oven and cook for 8-9 minutes.
• Allow to rest for a minute or two, then turn out onto individual serving plates.

For the cherry sorbet

750g black cherry puree
700ml water
300g sugar
Shot cherry sours (optional)
½ juiced lime
200g ice cream stabilizer


• Put the water and sugar into a pan and bring to the boil, once boiled allow to cool.
• Add the cherry purée and cherry sours mix well.
• Once mixture is cold add sorbet stabiliser and churn in an ice cream machine.

For the chocolate soil

1 pkt Oreo biscuits
1 pkt bourbon biscuits


• Open the Oreo biscuits, take the white cream centre out and discard, put the biscuit into a food processer.
• Do the same with the bourbons.
• Blend both to form a soil texture.

For the Chantilly cream

Whipping cream
Vanilla sugar


• Lightly whip the cream, when at dropping consistence add the sugar to taste and whisk till thick and holds its own weight.

For the dehydrated meringue shards

35g egg white
70g sugar
Pinch salt


• Place all ingredients into a mixer bowl over a pan of simmering water.
• Stir constantly until sugar has dissolved, bringing the heat up to 37c.
• When it has reached the correct temperature transfer to the mixer and whisk on high speed until cold.
• Once cold spread very thinly onto a silpat or parchment and place into a dehydrator on a high heat until dry. (Alternatively place the thinly spread meringue mixture into the bottom of an oven at its lowest temperature until the mixture is dry.)

Extra bits

Jar of kirsch cherries, fresh mint, icing sugar, coco powder
Bringing the dish together

• Starting the day before, make the cherry sorbet as this will need time to freeze also make the dehydrated meringue shards so they have time to dry out, and the chocolate soil can be made at the same time, keeping it in a air tight container.
• The chocolate fondant can be made an hour before, giving the mixture time to rest.
• The Chantilly cream can be made and put into a piping bag after making the fondant mix as this will hold in the fridge.


• While the chocolate fondant is cooking, take the chocolate soil and place on the plate in a line about 12cm long by 2cm wide, then place 3 kirsch cherries, 3 small dollops of Chantilly cream, the meringue shards and a few mint leaves on top.
• Once the chocolate fondant is cooked and rested carefully turn it out onto a wide pallet knife and carefully place to the side of the soil, the fondant is soft in the centre of be very careful when demoulding.
• Finish with a ball of the cherry sorbet and a little icing sugar.
• Serve and enjoy…


From Farm to Fork, Gretna Green & Smiths Hotel Food Story


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