Nick Parkinson started his career at the age of 12, working as a bottle boy in his local pub in Bray.
“In the old days you used to get money back getting the old soda bottles out of the bin, and I’d go through and fill a crate up and sell it back to them, making 50p.”
Since then things have changed a little for Nick, who now has over 30 years of experience. With three AA rosettes, two restaurants, one Michelin star and hundreds of happy customers, it’s safe to say he’s done rather well. His career really took off when he joined the Savoy Hotel, London, as an apprentice chef. He was thrown in at the deep end and set straight to work, being sent to Billingsgate to learn how to correctly gut a fish, butcher meat and make everything from scratch.
“I’ve always had a huge interest in produce itself. I love tasting new dishes, produce and wine. My most memorable experience as a chef was my first day at the Savoy and it taught me a lot; I was part of a huge team working in a massive commercial kitchen.”
After completing his training, Nick continued his culinary quest by working in kitchens in France and Italy. He then moved to Australia in 1988, where he stayed put for 13 years. He worked his way up the hotel hierarchy and became Food and Beverage Director for Holiday Inn/Intercontinental Hotels, covering all of Australasia. This meant working and managing a huge number of staff and hotels. When he returned to the UK, it was time for a change.
“I came back from Australia in 2001 and I wanted to work with a smaller group, so I bought a pub down the road from my family home. The fact that you work for yourself is fantastic; everything is down to me and everything is my responsibility. I love that and meeting new people from all different walks of life.”
The Royal Oak Paley Street is excellent. The food is unpretentious, showcasing the very best of local, seasonal produce with each dish perfectly executed. It earned its first Michelin star in 2010, a just award for the team’s hard work, and for Nick’s leadership.
“Keeping the pub going for 15 years has been my biggest achievement, and getting the star was the highlight. We didn’t want to do anything too big to celebrate the milestone so I just had a glass of Champagne with my wife.”
When his second pub opened in 2012, Nick’s success soared. The Belgian Arms in Holyport is an excellent gastropub. The team takes pride in serving excellent food, and keeps the atmosphere of a traditional pub alive. You can always pop in for a good pint of bitter, which was important to Parkinson senior, who has helped his son throughout his career (yes, he is the son of Michael Parkinson).
Nick Parkinson has come a long way from collecting empty soda bottles for 50p. From humble beginnings to colossal heights, he says he has no plans to expand his business any further, but if the right pub came along… who knows?