Food/Drink

Martins West Brings Market-Fresh British Pub Fare to Silicon Valley

Thursday Apr 30, 2009

The successful marriage of a relaxed dining atmosphere and chef-driven cuisine has proven itself across the globe in countless culture-specific forms such as the Italian trattoria, British gastropub and French brasserie. This Spring on May 7, 2009, these two key components come together in Silicon Valley at new restaurant Martins West Pub, co-owned by General Manger Moira Beveridge, Bar Manager Derek Smith and Executive Chef Michael Dotson. Dotson's menu, demonstrating his reverence for local, sustainable ingredients and authentic British pub fare, is served in surroundings as convivial as a neighborhood saloon.

"I've searched for years for a chef and space to make this vision a reality," says Beveridge. "Martins West has always been evolving in my mind, but it took a perfect partnership and shared enthusiasm and passion to bring this to fruition."

Martins West Pub gets its name from Martin Irons, owner of the original Martins restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland. Irons was a childhood family friend of Beveridge who stood out among local restaurant owners due to his remarkable ability to create a dining experience that was always delicious, warm and memorable. Inspired by these infectious ideals, Martins West takes the concept of a comforting, quality-driven dining experience into its Northern California setting of Redwood City.

Martins West serves approachable, farm-fresh pub fare inspired by authentic British dishes. Menu items change frequently depending on what's in season. Selections such as a seasonal banger with mash, house-made charcuterie and peat-grilled lamb T-bone with Rancho Gordo yellow eye bean stew and herb-crusted haggis represent the hand-crafted, locally sourced approach Dotson takes to the modern British pub style of cuisine.

"Martins West will serve a new style of food that is both comforting and innovative," said Dotson. "It will be impossible for me to cook this menu without using all the outstanding local ingredients I have at my fingertips as a chef living in Northern California."

Adept at wearing many hospitality-related hats with ease, Beveridge's inspiration for her dream restaurant began at an early age. Throughout her childhood, her family would spend summers on the North Scottish island of Arran, where they owned The Whiting Bay Hotel. When Beveridge was ten, her father's business took the family from California to Killearn, a town outside Glasgow, which became the springboard for much cultural exploration throughout Europe. Beveridge brings the worldly appreciation for authenticity she cultivated throughout her youth and years in the food industry to Martins West.

Dotson carries over twenty years of professional chef experience to the kitchen at Martins West. He earned a three-star rating from the San Francisco Chronicle by Michael Bauer in 1997 for his food at PlumpJack Caf? in Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe, Cailf. Two years later, Bauer called Dotson "one of the Bay Area's brightest stars" when he reviewed his food at Heirloom in Sonoma, Calif. Dotson has since worked at such diverse restaurants as the Michelin-starred Au Crocodile in Strasbourg, France, Evvia Estiatorio in Palo Alto, Calif., and Ammos Estiatorio in New York City.

Beveridge, who managed Stoa Restaurant and Wine Bar in Palo Alto after graduating from San Francisco's California Culinary Academy in 2004, first met Dotson during her subsequent position as host and bartender at Evvia Estiatorio. Dotson served as chef at this popular Palo Alto, Calif., Greek restaurant from 2001 until 2006. Beveridge and Dotson went on to work together at Sens restaurant in San Francisco in 2007 where Beveridge served as the event coordinator and Dotson again held the position of executive chef.

Owner and Bar Manager Smith oversees the bar with an impressive selection of imported and locally brewed beers on tap along with an extensive bottled beer selection including farm house ales and hand crafted and imported beers. Rounding out the beverage program is a global wine list comprising many California options, a compelling seasonal cocktail list and an extensive selection of scotch, chosen to compliment the food and the overall theme of the restaurant. Coffee and espresso from Blue Bottle Coffee Company based out of Oakland, Calif. serves as exclusive java supplier for the restaurant.

Executive Pastry Chef Kelly Fields, who met Dotson and Beverage while working at Sens Restaurant in San Francisco, possesses an array of impressive pastry experience including work with Susan Spicer at her restaurant, Spice, Inc. in New Orleans. Fields also served as consulting executive pastry chef for the entire John Besh Restaurant Group before moving to San Francisco. At Martins West, Fields oversees a menu of classic British desserts reinterpreted with modern, seasonal ingredients. For example, her sticky toffee pudding with brandied caramel and homemade drunken raisin ice cream provides a new take on a tried-and-tested British recipe. Other updated versions of traditional sweet endings include Fields' bitter chocolate p?t? with heather cream and candied peanuts and a local cheese plate, which comes with a seasonal house-made compote such as rhubarb-almond in spring.

Martins West inhabits the historic Alhambra building, which was a theater and saloon when it first opened in 1896. The Alhambra was a preeminent center for art and entertainment throughout the next few decades. Wyatt Earp, the legendary outlaw and deputy, would frequent the saloon and watch his wife Josie sing from the rafters at the adjoining upstairs theatre. When the Prohibition Act forced the saloon to close its doors in 1920, the Alhambra continued to serve as an alcohol-free meeting place until the 1950s. The next known owner took over in 1998 and attempted to refurbish the interior and reopen as a theatre and music venue. In 2001, when the construction team was out to lunch, the building's roof caught fire and the project came to a halt.

The Martins West team chose to keep many elements of the original interior intact in order to evoke the rich history of the space. The smoke marks from the flames of the fire remain untouched on the brick walls near the back ceiling. A row of turn-of-the-century columns forms a focal point running down the center of the dining area. As one enters, a 25-foot wooden bar made from an inverted 80,000-gallon Redwood water tank draws the eye to the right-hand side of the dining area. The bar's wooden slats are wrapped in the same horizontal steel bands that held the original structure together.

The build-out, furnishings and operational practices at Martins West reflect an earnest effort to respect the environment. Dining tables are fashioned out of reclaimed wine barrels; reclaimed stools provide a place to kick one's heels up in the bar area and old menus are re-used as coasters throughout the establishment. All employees are trained in best recycling practices on the premises.

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