BY CAROLYN JUNG
Given where they met (at Michelin two-starred Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in the United Kingdom) and, later, where they worked (he at Michelin three-starred Per Se, she at Michelin-starred Blue Hill, both in New York), when husband-and-wife chefs Rupert and Carrie Blease decided to open their own restaurant, it might have seemed a given that it would embody all the gilded bells and whistles of their prior fine-dining universe.
Not so. The pair established their 40-seat Lord Stanley—named for Rupert’s father and an oft-visited pub in London—in San Francisco in 2015.
It’s designed with concrete floors and bare wood tables in a bright yet spartan space, and it focuses on serving carefully curated, ingredient-driven dishes equally stripped of fanfare and fuss.
Think salt cod beignets to dunk in tartar sauce; seabass arrayed with spring peas, favas, and seaweed; and deep, dark chocolate pudding accented with toasted sourdough.
“We intended from the start to open something like this,’’ says Rupert Blease. “We enjoyed working at those places, and now and then, we still like to eat at those kinds of places. But this is more fun for guests.’’
Their instincts paid off. Barely a year after opening, Lord Stanley was named the nation’s third best new restaurant of 2016 by Bon Appétit magazine, an honor that even caught the couple by surprise. “Our Instagram account just started blowing up at 5 a.m. that morning,’’ recalls Carrie Blease.
“Then, we got the email about it later that day. We had just come back from a two-week holiday, during which time the restaurant was closed. It was a nice way to return.’’
And with that came the crowds, which have continued ever since. Rupert, a native of England who grew up in rural southern France, fell into cooking when he took a dishwashing job at a restaurant after high school.
Carrie, who hails from Los Angeles, developed a passion for cooking after touring the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. An externship led her to Raymond Blanc’s fabled Oxford restaurant, where Rupert had already been working for 18 months.
Rather than eyeing the young Southern Californian with skepticism, he was impressed by her level of proficiency, which was already far beyond most he’d seen come through the restaurant. It took only a month before the two started dating.
And ever since their restaurant opened in San Francisco’s Russian Hill neighborhood—a city they chose to settle in because of its temperate climate and unparalleled ingredients—the sous vide technique has played an integral role.
The small kitchen boasts three circulators. It’s a good bet that at least one is operating 24-7, too. Without sous-vide, the chefs say, they’d have to employ more cooks, use more equipment, and all of that would require a larger kitchen.
“There’s probably a sous vide component on almost every dish,’’ Rupert says, “whether it’s the actual cooking or just compressing something.’’
Short ribs cook sous vide at 140°F (60°C) for 48 hours before being finished on a wood-burning grill and served with pickled black trumpet mushrooms, and petals of thinly sliced turnips and kohlrabi arrayed like a rose. [Check out the recipe for Braised Short Ribs here!]
Large leaves of sorrel are compressed to give them a translucent finish, before being frozen into leaf “popsicles’’ that add a pop to desserts.
And golf ball-sized Yukon Gold potatoes cook in aromatic oil at 190°F (88°C) for 12 hours, until they miraculously sweeten and take on the texture of fudge—an experiment gone dazzlingly right.