Cycene, meaning "kitchen" in Old English, recreates an intimate and cosy dining experience guided by Executive Chef Theo Clench. In his words "A visit to Cycene emulates the feeling of dining in someone’s private home, I think the movement through the dining experience also contributes to making it special".
Born from a collaboration with The Blue Mountain School in Redchurch Street, this Michelin-starred restaurant invites you on an unparalleled gastronomic journey. Chef Clench's 10-course menu, shaped by years of culinary exploration in Eastern Asia and Australasia, unfolds throughout the restaurant space – from the first-floor bar to the upstairs kitchen and the refined dining room. Each dish reflects Clench's dedication to extracting optimal flavours from simple and quality ingredients, emphasising his love for seafood. Dazzling creations like aged bluefin tuna belly and the Chocolate Sabayon Tart establish Cycene as a distinctive gem in London's culinary landscape.
Executive Chef Theo Clench has honed his craft from Michelin-starred restaurants like Trinity, Clove Club, and Portland, to Fitzrovia’s West African restaurant Akoko, to now earning Cycene's first Michelin-star within 5 months of its opening. Here, he shares with us his culinary journey, creative drive and dedication to showcasing his craft uniquely to himself and Cycene.
1. How would you describe your culinary journey?
I’ve always enjoyed cooking and eating more than anything else. When I think back to my childhood, each day was punctuated by dinner with my family. We didn't dine out much, but we'd all sit down and share at least one meal together. I began my culinary journey at the age of 14, landing my first job as a kitchen porter. From there, I worked at various gastropubs in and around Brighton. I was pretty strategic with every move, each restaurant I joined was more ambitious than the last, but with that, I would take a step down in position and salary to then move further up the chain.
On my way up through the ranks, I'd say there have been a few particularly formative positions that have played a crucial role in my development. One of them was working with Adam Byatt at Trinity. He's an incredible teacher and has had a lasting influence on me. What I found most inspiring about him was his technique, which is rooted in honest, classic cookery. There was no tampering with water baths or anything like that. – just a focus on the fundamentals. He taught us to rely on touch, to cook everything in the pan, and to continuously taste the food as we prepared it. My time at Bonhams' with Tom Kemble was equally pivotal. Working with him taught me the importance of provenance and the quality of produce. These principles heavily influence my cooking style at Cycene today.
While there's a growing movement towards sourcing ingredients exclusively from the UK, I have a slightly different perspective. I believe that there’s an art to sourcing the best ingredients from around the world and it’s taken me ten years to find the right suppliers and people.
2. What do you love the most about cooking?
For me, the beauty of cooking is in the act of combining processes to craft a successful menu. As I touched on earlier, the relationships I've built with producers and suppliers play a crucial role in this. A producer called Hubert, for example, has devoted his entire life to growing tomatoes. Then there's the pigeon supplier, a multi-generational expert in the field who hand-selects each bird specifically for our restaurant. It's remarkable to see people dedicating their lives to their craft, whether it's cooking or growing tomatoes, and I have immense respect for that level of dedication.
My culinary inspiration largely stems from classic cookery because those flavours simply work. At Cycene, we offer a movable feast, starting with a course of broth and bread in the ground floor bar. Then, we lead our guests upstairs to the main dining room for the rest of the meal, including a course served in the kitchen. These interactive moments create a sense of belonging and offer a glimpse into aspects of dining that you wouldn’t typically have access to. It's all about making people feel like they're part of something truly special.
"It's all about making people feel like they're part of something truly special."
- Executive Chef Theo Clench of Cycene
3. Can you share with us your creative process when crafting a new dish or menu?
I usually form dishes around a protein, looking at what’s available in that season and choosing the highest quality ingredient from the suppliers I work with. This involves reaching out to my network of fishermen, gamekeepers, and butchers to get a feel for what’s at its finest right now. We only work with top-quality ingredients, so we handle them with respect and consider ways in which we can do that ingredient justice. I find that I often come up with creative ideas when I’m free from distractions. Currently, on the menu, we have a dish that I think demonstrates this process, ‘Pigeon au sang’, the pigeon is sourced from Brittany - bred in pairs and handpicked specially for the restaurant. We serve confit and barbecued pigeon leg, with a roasted crown and a smoked beetroot, liver and Ecuadorian chocolate purée, alongside preserved cherry covered with Oxalis petals, and a fermented peppercorn and Madeira jus.
4. How would you describe your role at Cycene?
I’m the Executive Chef at Cycene, which turned one this month. My role is pretty all-encompassing, I do a bit of everything - from managing the kitchen to the front-of-house team, which involves getting to know each person and identifying their individual strengths. As an Executive Chef, I’d say there’s nothing I’m exempt from, in order for the kitchen to run at its best, you need to be able to do anything that needs doing, if I need to jump in the pot wash do the bins then I will always lend a hand.
"As an Executive Chef, I’d say there’s nothing I’m exempt from, in order for the kitchen to run at its best, you need to be able to do anything that needs doing, if I need to jump in the pot wash do the bins then I will always lend a hand."
- Executive Chef Theo Clench of Cycene
5. What do you hope the guests will take away from dining at Cycene?
Cycene falls under the umbrella of Blue Mountain School, founded by James and Christie Brown. This is their second culinary project, after their previous restaurant on the same site, Mãos. James and Christie are visionaries and Cycene is a testament to their creative discipline. Alongside Cycene, the Browns are the brains behind Blue Mountain School - a diverse and creative space that brings together art, design and food across the six-storey building which definitely makes the space unique. A visit to Cycene emulates the feeling of dining in someone’s private home, I think the movement through the dining experience also contributes to making it special. The evening starts on the ground floor before guests are led to the first-floor kitchen and dining room which is currently adorned with an artwork by Frank Auerbach and is lit by candlelight.
All imagery is provided by Goya Communications.