Interview With Steven Ellis, The Game Loving Chef/Patron Of The Bailiwick, Windsor


The Covid pandemic may have scuppered one Berkshire venue for chef Steven Ellis, but he’s back with a refreshing revamp of The Bailiwick in Windsor

Can you give us an idea of your background pre-The Bailiwick?

I started my career at Jamie Oliver’s Restaurant Fifteen in Old Street, London, as a chef rather than an apprentice which he was famed for. I moved on from here to refine my skills at the three Michelin starred restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, where I spent a large part of my career training under the watchful eye of Clare Smyth MBE at helm, and I fell in love with the idea of ‘gastro’.

I then took a few years out and spent them working at the Michelin starred pub the Star Inn Harome, North Yorkshire, which is also where I met my wife Ami. I set up my first pub, The Oxford Blue, in 2015 in Old Windsor, which I ran with my wife up until the Covid outbreak – due to reasons out of our control we sadly had to closed this chapter. However, as the saying goes “as one door closes, another opens” and in this case it came in the form of The Bailiwick Freehouse on the gates of the Windsor Great Park.

Outside Shot
The Bailiwick

What was it like to work with Clare Smyth? 

I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was one of the most challenging and hardest times in my career to date. However, if you asked me if I had the chance to do it all again would I? Then the answer would be absolutely yes! 

Clare helped me develop my skills, and refine my look on how a professional kitchen should be run as well as operate. She showed me how to respect our job and treat it the same as how a professional football team would operate. My passion to succeed grew immensely under her tuition, and I do owe her a lot regarding where I am in my career to date. 

Can you sum up your style of cooking?

I would describe my cooking style as being traditionally British influenced, but using French cooking. The ingredients that I am most passionate about and excites me the most has to be game. I was introduced to this at The Star Inn, they used to have shooting parties and would bring back their day’s shoot for us to cook.

What appealed to you about taking over The Bailiwick and when was this?

Location was everything about the Bailiwick for me and Ami. Having been operating in the area previously at The Oxford Blue we started to build a strong relationship with Peter [Clayton], who is the head Gamekeeper from the Windsor Great Park. Over time he introduced us to a number of other people from the park, and this flourished into a close working relationship with the park, using a lot of their produce as sustainability and locality is a huge part of our ethos. Being on the gates of the park, we couldn’t get any closer if we tried! Being able to use a lot of their produce as well as their Windsor Great Park sparkling wine helps add to our story. It was in fact Peter who told us that the Bailiwick was going on the market originally.

Steven And Ami Ellis
Ami and Steven Ellis

How perfect is the location?

For our beliefs and ethos, the location is perfect. Like anywhere it has its pros and cons, and one issue we do struggle with is the lack of parking. But as we tell our guests, this pub was here a long time before cars were invented, and I could think of worse places to be located which don’t have the Windsor Great Park and Virginia Water on your doorstep!

Was there a lot you wanted to change? 

As we took it on over lockdown, we took advantage of not being able to open and carried out a full refurb. It was a whole family affair carried out by Ami’s father who did all the structural work, and my brother taking on all the electrical works. A lot of changes were done, but we see them in a more positive way. The bar for example was moved back to the middle of the pub which we found out from old pictures was where it originally was. 

What do the menus offer? 

We feel we offer a good mixed selection of dishes to our guests. Due to being short staffed at the beginning we were unable to prepare our a la carte menu for lunch and dinner. So instead, we created a more relaxed lunch time offering made up of classic pub fare, which gave us the extra time to prepare our more refined a la carte offering for the evenings. What we didn’t release at the time and has now become a blessing in disguise, is that our lunch time trade of walkers, elderly couples, and tourists don’t want a heavy three-course menu! This has stuck and enabled us to offer three different styles throughout the week. On Sundays we offer a traditional roast style menu, as we get a lot of groups and families visiting. This is more of a sharing style where we fill the tables with their chosen cut of meat and vegetables, cauliflower cheese and roast potatoes – the communal aspect works much better than just plating dishes all up individually. 

Pig Trotter Terrine
Pig Trotter Terrine

Why do you have a love for game?

For me I love the fact that game is still ‘wild’ and not farmed, I’m a fan of the traditional hunter/gatherer style of working. I sit down at the beginning of the week with the local game keeper and discuss what’s in or coming into season, how many braces I would like, how many whole venison I would need to hang etc. The benefits I believe are that from one season during the year, you get an array of different wild animals and flavours that suit different garnishes and match different wines, making winter my favourite season. The majority of game meat is very lean, it’s far more healthier to eat than any of your usual farmed meats like pork, beef, or chicken.   

Are there certain dishes that really stand out for you at the moment?

I don’t have a particular dish that I favour as we change the menus regularly throughout the seasons. In terms of ingredients, I do have a huge love for venison. What people don’t release is that venison isn’t only available just in the winter season, there are different species available all year round, we use them in an array of different dishes throughout the year. I just love how versatile the meat is, it’s a great one to start with if someone is trying game for the first time.

Where do you source your produce from? 

From across the British Isles, but we try to source as local as possible. A large proportion of our produce comes from the Windsor Great Park, not just the game, we get whole pigs from the royal farm. 

They make the most of being located by Windsor Great Park

What kind of things is your wife creating as Head Pastry Chef? 

Ami is extremely passionate about crafting dishes that perfectly showcase her extensive experience, passion for pastry, and love of art. She seamlessly blends classic comfort food with technical accomplishment so that our guests can enjoy recognisable favourites in a more exciting and challenging way. Highlights from the menu at the moment include Ami’s signature spiced vanilla parfait with mulled pear jelly, honey toasted oats and maple poached baby pears.

Food aside, what else do you think The Bailiwick offers?

I feel aside from the food we offer, we also have a great drinks offering, whether that be a proper pint, coffee or a few cocktails and catch up with friends. 

What are your plans for 2023? 

At the moment as it is only early doors, our future plans are to have a successful business that has a regular occurrence of happy guests.


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