Recipe: Grilled red mullet and haddock fishcake

WORKING in one of the region's best-known and much-lauded restaurants and with a new Michelin Star to his name, Phil Thompson, executive chef at the Auberge Du Lac at Welwyn has no shortage of recipes with which to entice his customers.His grilled red mullet dish is typical of his approach. It's different but not too different. He is conscious of the Auberge's reputation and is anxious it should not intimidate potential customers. 'I certainly don't want to scare people off, so we have a happy medium menu,' he says. 'There are chicken and salmon dishes on there like everyone else and the lunch menu we keep safe; it's in the evenings that we try to wow the customers a little bit if that's what they want. It's up to the restaurant manager to suss out the customers and whether they are willing to try something a little different.'He's happy to report that people often are willing. For them, he will have something like rump of veal with Madeira-braised snails, porridge oats and sage; or perhaps a foie gras and pheasant terrine. Above all, however, he is a believer in the maxim that the customer is always right. 'We attract a wide range of people,' he points out. 'We are a destination restaurant, we do lots of birthdays and anniversaries, people around the area save up and look to us to make their visit a nice special occasion. We need to repay that by blowing them away when they come.'Grilled red mullet, haddock fishcake and garlic creamed spinachIngredients (serves 4)4 fillets of red mullet, bones and scales removed

Fishcake:400g dry mashed potato2 egg yolks200g haddock, poached in milk2 tablespoons chopped parsleySalt and pepper

Garlic creamed spinach:10g butter1 clove garlic, chopped100mls double cream4 large handfuls of picked and washed spinachMethodOn low heat, melt the butter in a pan. Add the garlic and gently cook out. When the harshness of the garlic has gone, add the cream and slowly reduce by half. Then add the spinach, wilt and blend. In a bowl, place the dry mash, egg yolks, parsley, salt and pepper. Mix through. Flake the haddock into the potato mix and gently bind together, making sure not to break the haddock too much. On a well-floured table, shape the mix into four cakes. Place into a medium heat non stick pan with one tablespoon of olive oil and gently colour both sides. Brush the fillets of red mullet with olive oil on the skin side, sprinkle with rock salt and gently grill for 2-3 minutes until cooked.To present, spoon the spinach puree into the centre of the plate. Place the fish cake in the middle and place the fillet of mullet on top. Finish with a squeeze of lemon juice.Book a tableAuberge Du LacBrocket Hall, Welwyn AL8 7XG01707