Andrei Lussmann of Lussmanns Sustainable Kitchen 21 Jul 2022
Andrei Lussmann of Lussmanns Sustainable Kitchen
Lussmanns Sustainable Kitchen offers incredible dining from its prime location next to St Albans Cathedral. Fresh from his latest prestigious award we talked to Andrei Lussmann about life as an award-winning restaurateur in our wonderful city.
What brought you to St Albans from your first café in Kensington?
Our first restaurant in Hertfordshire was in Hertford, which we opened in 2004. London was already becoming saturated with good restaurants and I thought Hertfordshire was fertile ground for Lussmanns because I knew that many of the towns and villages in the county were becoming more attractive and popular with London commuters and more cosmopolitan in flavour. I think I have been proved right: we opened in St Albans in 2005 and the city has changed so much since then – it’s a buzzy, trendy place which is like a mini-London.
You have won an array of awards as a sustainable restaurant. Tell us about them and why running a sustainable kitchen is so important to you.
The founding ethos of Lussmanns is the fundamental belief that it is possible to be ethical and profitable, while making sustainable dining accessible to everyone, and consistently delivering great food, service and value to diners. So, sustainability is extremely important to us.
What we are trying to do is be sustainable and environmentally aware with every decision we make, while giving our customers a fantastic experience so they come again, and again.
We think holistically about being sustainable, so it affects all the decisions we make about our energy, our waste disposal, our suppliers, our producers, and our support of the local communities of which we are a part.
We are a founding member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association, winner of the Food Made Good Awards 2018 alongside 7 other national awards, in addition to our 3* rating (the highest score possible) – audited and accredited by the Sustainable Restaurant Association in 2019.
Lussmanns was also given the prestigious Menu of the Year award in 2019 and 2020 at the UK’s Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) annual Sustainable Seafood Forum and Awards. The award recognises restaurant menus that have created new and exciting sustainable seafood offerings to UK diners while helping to advance consumer awareness about the MSC.
And I am really thrilled to announce that we have just been named Best sustainable restaurant (group) in the UK in the highly regarded Marie Claire annual Sustainability Awards.
This is a national award in recognition of “the brands, organisations, and products that are genuinely implementing change and building a better tomorrow”. This magazine has been at the forefront of sustainability issues for many years now and a panel of 50 expert judges made this decision. It’s an accolade that my staff and I are truly honoured to receive.
What do you enjoy most about running a restaurant?
When things are going well, it’s the best job in the world: exciting, rewarding, mentally stretching and life affirming. The hospitality industry is about people, relationships, welcome. Food and drink is at the heart of our lives, of our connection with each other. I enjoy the family feeling within the group, and the incredible feedback we get day in day out from our customers. When it’s challenging – it can be a nightmare! The pandemic was the most difficult period in the history of the industry and it’s still affecting us all. But we pull together and we get through.
What do you like best about this vibrant and historic city?
St Albans is really the best of England – it’s visually beautiful, steeped in history and full of the most creative, amazing people and businesses. We are very lucky that the Lussmanns restaurant is situated right in the heart of the Cathedral quarter and probably the prettiest most historic lane – Waxhouse Gate. This year we have outside tables for the first time and I don’t think there is a more stunning location to sit and have a cold glass of wine!
St Albans is an area with a great reputation for food. How and why do you think it has become such a popular destination for foodies?
I think there are 3 main reasons: St Albans has always claimed to have the highest number of pubs per square mile so it’s always been big on hospitality, because it was not that far away from London so travellers would stop over here to get refreshments. Secondly, there are some incredible farms and producers around the region, in Hertfordshire, so that helps with supplies and ingredients. And thirdly many talented creative people have moved here from London, bringing their expertise with them but also their discernment, and they expect great food.
You have an incredible menu. It’s hard to choose! Give us your recommendations for a starter, main and dessert
They change because our menu changes a lot with new specials all the time. However, I think my favourite starter is Hunter’s Linguine, which is wild rabbit, Monmouthshire Pancetta and oyster mushrooms. My number one main is between the Free-range Label Anglais chicken schnitzel with chilli and caper linguine & garden & herb salad, and the MSC Hake puttanesca and frites, with olives anchovies and tomatoes. And the pud I would opt for at the moment is the sweet and bitter orange brulee, with organic cream, Cointreau and Maldon salt.
St Albans has a strong community spirit; how do you get involved?
We obviously work with many environmental organisations such as Save The Sea and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, but we believe that supporting the local communities is part of the sustainability ethos in practice, so it’s very important to Lussmanns to do this. I think we’ve raised in the region of £50000 over the past 15 years for local good causes and have supported literally hundreds, including Youth Talk, Herts Homeless, Muscle Help Foundation, Trussell Trust (foodbanks), Mind in Herts, Rennie Grove Hospice, the list goes on.
We also try to shine a light on causes by holding events such as last October when my team at Lussmanns St Albans hosted the Brilliant Breakfast, with the BBC’s Martine Croxall and Daisy Cooper in aid of The Prince’s Trust’s Women Supporting Women initiative, raising money and getting a lot of press coverage too.
You have had many famous diners, who has been the most memorable?
When I ran the café in Kensington, we were lucky enough to cook for David Bowie – that’s memorable. But I think the secret to running a good restaurant is to treat everyone as if they are a VIP.
You never seem to stand still, what is next for Lussmanns?
So much! We only opened Berkhamsted a few months ago and we’ve just opened the garden there – which has around 70 covers in it, so getting all the umbrellas and furniture for that shipped in has been a big task. We’ve also opened an al fresco terrace in St Albans so that’s new. We are always revising our menus and adding new specials and looking for ways to improve our offering. And of course, I am always on the lookout for ways to extend the Lussmanns brand and ethos further afield – so maybe outside of Hertfordshire next. Watch this space!
For people visiting St Albans, what would be your three top tips for them to enjoy the best of St Albans?
Apart from dining at Lussmanns?! There are so many things to enjoy in St Albans, to limit it to 3 is hard. Verulamium Park is stunning and a must-see, especially this time of year. It’s 100 acres of parkland, filled with roman ruins, has a vast beautiful lake at its centre, complete with a heronry island, and gives beautiful views of the Cathedral from everywhere. The Cathedral itself, of course, is breath-taking and must be explored. Finally, the shopping is wonderful – especially the independents we have throughout the city, and our famous street market, which is one of the oldest in the country.
St Albans, Herts AL3 4EW