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Q&A with Shelagh Ryan

Taste talks to Shelagh Ryan, founder of Lantana café, Salvation Jane, and Ruby Dock Cafés. In late 2014 she produced her first book, Café Kitchen, based on Lantana's Australian inspired recipes.

TASTE: What's your favourite meal?
SHELAGH: I'm a sucker for anything Asian and with pork so I'd say slow-cooked Asian pork belly with steamed rice.

TASTE: Where do you get your culinary inspiration?
SHELAGH: Everywhere – cookbooks, restaurants, travelling, food markets, ethnic supermarkets. I think about food constantly. Coming up with new dishes for the menu is definitely my favourite part of the job.

TASTE: Describe Lantana in 10 words or less.
SHELAGH: A relaxed café serving simple food with a gourmet twist.

TASTE: What, in your view, is the most underrated ingredient/basic food item here in Britain?
SHELAGH: The British don't use enough beetroot – we even put it on burgers in Australia.

TASTE: What food trend are you most enjoying at the moment?
SHELAGH: Pickling. I love the sweet and sour crunch that pickled vegetables give dishes and it's a great way to extend the life of summer vegetables like cucumbers and green beans through the winter months.

TASTE: What food trend are you most sick of?
SHELAGH: Burgers. I'm as fond of a good burger as the next person but do we really need so many burger themed restaurants?

TASTE: What's your favourite type of street food?
SHELAGH: Taiwanese Gua Boa – steamed buns filled with slow cooked meat and fresh herbs.

TASTE: What's your favourite item on the menu at Lantana?
SHELAGH: Pan-fried hake with pickled cauliflower and bacon and almond purée, currently on our dinner menu.

TASTE: Name your best food-related childhood memory.
SHELAGH: Helping Dad make the gravy for our roast chicken dinner, which we had every Saturday night.

TASTE: What's your go-to midnight snack?
SHELAGH: I'm rarely awake at midnight but my favourite snack is strong cheddar cheese on oatcakes with homemade chutney.

TASTE: What's the one ingredient everyone should have in their kitchen?
SHELAGH: Lemon. A squeeze of lemon can bring life to the humblest of dishes.

TASTE: Favourite London restaurant?
SHELAGH: Morito. It's the perfect combination of relaxed dining with sophisticated cooking.

TASTE: Is the Australian coffee invasion still on the rise in London?
SHELAGH: I hope so. There's still a lot of bad coffee out there. Personally I love a Piccolo – a double shot of espresso with some steamed milk.