Cambridge chef Tristan Welch comes home
The jet-setting chef is to run the 110-seat, all-day restaurant at the 192-bedroom University Arms Hotel on Parker’s Piece.
The hotel, which originally opened in 1834, is scheduled to reopen this winter following a £80m refurbishment.
The venture will mark the return to the region for Welch, who spent just over three years in the Caribbean plying his trade at the Cotton House and the Beach Café in Mustique, a popular holiday resort with the rich and famous.
Welch, who grew up just outside Cambridge, started his career in London, where he trained under Gary Rhodes, before joining Le Gavroche, a famous French restaurant in Mayfair.
The classically French-trained chef furthered his career at L’Arpege in Paris and Glenapp Castle in Ballantrae, Ayrshire, before returning to London to take up the post of head chef at Gordon Ramsay’s two-Michelin-star Petrus restaurant at the Berkeley hotel.
Welch was appointed to head the relaunch of Launceston Place in Kensington in 2007, before moving to the Caribbean with his wife and three children in 2013 – the year planning permission was granted to completely refurbish the University Arms hotel.
A very enthusiastic Welch told the Cambridge Independent: “It’s so special to me to come back home and do this. It’s really, really exciting, standing outside the front of it now just looking at it there...
“I’ve such fond memories of playing on Parker’s Piece, and I always looked at the University Arms and thought ‘Wow!’, and to be part of it now, I’m very proud – chuffed to bits, actually.”
How did Welch come to be involved in this ambitious project? “I met some people in the Caribbean and they said they’d just bought a hotel in Cambridge and were looking at restaurants,” he replied.
“Our relationship developed, and I was always going to come back to Cambridge anyway... Mustique is a special place, but Cambridge is equally as special.”
Commenting on how the city is now a force to be reckoned with as far as quality food and drink are concerned, Welch continued: “Absolutely – I think now’s the time.
“Obviously, coming from here, you always keep an eye on home. It was a wee bit of a culinary desert with a few beautiful oases, but now my gosh the place is coming alive – and I’ll be part of it, which is so exciting.
“Cambridge is on the cusp of something very special and we’ve been waiting a long time for this.”
Welch has big plans for Parker’s Tavern, so called because it overlooks Parker’s Piece, which itself was named after Edward Parker, who is believed to have been the city’s first restaurateur in the 17th century.
“We’re opening the most amazing restaurant and hotel,” he enthused. “It’s designed by [interior designer] Martin Brudnizki, the architect is John Simpson, the Queen’s architect, so already they’re setting a real standard.”
Welch is adamant that everyone will be welcome at Parker’s Tavern, which will specialise in classic British food with a little twist.
“It’s all relaxed and informal,” he said. “We want people to come and use it as much as they like.
“It’s not fine dining. Cooking is about creating happiness and having fun times, and that is what Parker’s Tavern is going to be all about. It’s going to be very hospitable and welcoming.”
Welch concluded: “It’s going to be a delicious taste of Cambridge; that’s the idea. There’ll be a real locality to it.
“We’re hoping to get some of these really exciting food producers from Cambridge to come and showcase here.
“It’s a hotel as well, so people will be travelling in from out of town – and I want to give them a taste of Cambridge, a taste of the place that I’m so passionate about.”