Hot foot it to Humphry’s

Published on BespokeRSVP on 19th July 2012:

A short train and taxi ride takes you, within the hour, to the charmingly secluded Buckinghamshire country club Stoke Park. Part luxury country hotel and spa and part golf club, the exclusive property is probably more well known than you realise. As well as being the set for numerous blockbuster films such as James Bond and Bridget Jones’ Diary, it’s also the host of the annual Boodles tennis tournament. With London bursting at the seams under the weight of Olympics visitors, it’s the perfect time to visit.

The Country Club opened its doors to non-members for the first time and the award winning food alone is worthy of a visit.

Humphry’s, headed up by Executive Chef Chris Wheeler, is Stoke Park’s main restaurant and the holder of two AA Rosettes. For somewhere which only catered to members and their guests in the past, you might think that the food is stuck somewhere in history. Not quite so. Though there is a hint of the classics running through the menu (consommé and tian both make an appearance for example, as does a burgeoning cheese trolley), beautifully arranged modern British fare is served up.

The pan-fried scallops with celeriac puree and crispy pancetta was the ideal starter for me. The well prepared scallops, topped with a little caviar and adorned with jewels of port reduction, struck a balance between sweet and savoury when paired with the celeriac and pancetta. It’s a perfectly executed dish which was light but bold enough in flavour to titillate the taste buds for what’s to come next.

Unusually for me, I opted for a fishy main. It was partly inspired by the surprisingly fish heavy menu and partly because I was intrigued by the accompaniments. Indeed, for me, the violet potatoes which accompanied my oven-baked red mullet is rarely seen on restaurant menus. The main also offered char-grilled peppers, crab ravioli and lobster foam to vie for attention.

What really impressed me though, had to be the desserts. I know I’m a dessert fanatic but the stunning presentation really showed off a seriously skilled pastry section, no doubt down to the hundreds of weddings and events catered for at Stoke Park each year.

The Humphry’s Snickers is the signature dessert to go for and Taste of Apple sounds the most intriguing but I really found my fancy with the raspberry mousse and white chocolate ganache. The raspberry dessert appeared in mousse, sorbet, gel, crumble and fruit form in a delicate line on a black plate. Light, refreshingly fruity and striking in presentation, there’s really nothing not to like.

A tea or coffee is definitely recommended after dessert, if only so you can spend a little while longer staring dreamily out of the window. The view, by the way, is watercolour picturesque. With great food, wonderful views and perfect tranquillity, why would you ever leave?

Seven Pop-Ups for July

Published on BespokeRSVP on 2nd July 2012:

The pop-up restaurant craze is truly ingenious, allowing us a little of what we fancy and (hopefully) leaving us wanting more. Here are the pop-ups for July that we think you would be a fool to miss:

A Piece On The Side

Former Petersham Nurseries chef, Eloise Schwerdt, is hosting a short series of pop up dinners at The Cuckoo Club. Running from the 4th to 7th of July, 8pm to 11pm, the set menu will include Heritage tomatoes with goats curd, zartar, purple basil and bruschetta, fillet of beef with roasted beetroots, baby carrots, domestica rocket, horseradish cream and salsa verde (vegetarian option is also available) and Baklava ice cream with pistachios and viola flowers. Visit The Cuckoo Club website for more information.

Ceviche by Asia de Cuba

Fusion restaurant Asia de Cuba have always done things a little differently and during the month of July (4th – 25th to be exact), they are running a ceviche pop up in The Front Room of St Martins Lane Hotel. The ceviche menu will include dishes such as Scottish salmon and salted avocado helado; curry kingfish and passionfruit; grouper, Seville orange and Aji Amarillo; and prawn, snapper and ‘confit’ watermelon. Naturally, Asia de Cuba’s signature cocktails will also be available. Click here for details of location and contact.

Fish in the Sky

Platterform, winners of Young British Foodies’ Best Food Experience 2012, is collaborating with seafood restaurateurs Bonnie Gull of Bonnie & Wild to create a three week supper club called Bonnie-On-Sky. Hosted at Skyroom, London Bridge, the “immersive dining experience” will be all things fishy including dishes such as Isle of Lewis mussels steamed with Aspall cider and Cumbrian bacon. The supper club series will run from 5th July to 21st July, Wednesday to Saturday only. Bookings can be made here.

Mussel Men invade

Street food comes in many outrageous forms but one of the most memorable is probably Mussel Men – boys (and girls) dressed in black and white horizontal stripes serving up some of the most amazing moules frites found outdoors. On the 14th of July, however, they are taking their wares indoors to Fabrica584 for a one day pop-up. Head down for a great feast or, if you’ll rise to the challenge, partake in their hourly “Mussel Men” press up challenge for a chance to win a free feed. Click here to book your ticket.

Olympics at Annex East

Jimmy’s Supper Club, run by Jimmy Garcia of The Wild Food Kitchen, will be hosting specially curated nights of feasting and entertainment from 20th July to mid August. Held at Annex East, a brand new 1800ft arts warehouse space situated less than 100 meters from the Olympic site in the heart of Stratford, the supper clubs are designed to showcase the best of British. Expect evenings of Dodgeball & Dinner, Sunday brunch, wine tasting, Film & Feast screenings, live music and DJ’s, fine art exhibitions and gallery shows and a custom designed cocktail bar. More details can be found here and tickets can be booked here.

Corrigan’s Wine Saturdays

Starting on the 21st July, Corrigan’s of Mayfair will be hosting wine matching lunches once a month with specially selected themes. The first lunch’s theme will be “The wines of Greece” to celebrate the Olympics’ journey from Athens to London. No matter the theme though, there will always be Champagne and canapés on arrival, four courses with matched wines, coffee and petit fours. More details can be found on the Corrigan’s website. To make a reservation for the Corrigan’s Wine Lunches, call 020 7499 9943 or email reservations@corrigansmayfair.com.

Danish IMAGINATION

July begins with the second MAD symposium at Noma, the best restaurant in the world but, in London, it ends with IMAGINATION. From 27th July to 12th August, St Katharine Docks will be taken over by all things Danish from art and design to music and entertainment. And of course, there will be Danish food and drink stalls serving up a taste of Denmark. Details are yet to be finalised but Visit Denmark has all of the latest details.

London Calling: Where to eat during the Olympics

Published in The Tomato Magazine March/April 2012 Issue number 146:

Going to the Olympics this summer? Got your hotel resos? Check. Event tickets? Check. Dinner reservations? Gahhhh!

To prevent the convenient but boring prospect of falling into the nearest Prêt a Manger or the perfectly dreadful idea of a burger at Wimpy, we asked two London food journalists to give us the goods on their fave spots. From Dinner, Heston Blumenthal’s London outpost, to vegan eatery Counter Café close by the stadium, journalists David Constable and Qin Xie offer their takes on where, and what, to eat to guarantee you a full-on London experience.

There has never been a better time to visit London, home to some of the world’s best restaurants and bars, as well as host of the 2012 Olympic Games. This year, the city’s culinary landscape, bolstered by a whole score of new openings, is as international as its visitors — from the Russian Mari Vanna to the Peruvian Lima and Ceviche, there’s bound to be something for everyone.

Visitors don’t have far to go either. Right outside the main Olympic Stadium is the recently opened Westfield Shopping Centre, offering a small cluster of eateries. The likes of Franco Manca, Pho and Comptoir Libanais, all part of small chains, wave the flag for good food at accessible prices. For something more unique in London, visitors should head west on the Central Line.

Stop briefly at Bethnal Green to sample Nuno Mendes’ creative fare at Viajante and Corner Room. Mendes, previously of El Bulli, never fails to plate up interesting flavour combinations. Close by is Shoreditch, more easily accessed via Old Street Station, the area of London where some of the trendiest bars paint a unique map of cool. Callooh Callay and Nightjar are some of the East End’s favourites.

A constellation of gems can be found around Soho, where eating and drinking integrate seamlessly. Oxford Circus is your portal to this gastronome’s paradise. This is where you will discover Italian wine bar and restaurant Dego with its unusual Champagne and Franciacorta list. If wine is really your thing, do stop by Terroirs near Charing Cross for some of the most interesting natural wines around.

Proceed further south to discover NOPI, the restaurant that’s a unique Yotam Ottolenghi blend of Mediterranean, Middle-eastern and Asian cuisines, where the restrooms are as much a talking point as the food. Nearby is Hix, the bar and restaurant that feeds London with some of the meatiest feasts and the most potent cocktails.

Just to the east of NOPI is where you’ll find Polpo, part of Russell Norman’s mini-empire of small plate eateries. Always busy, this bacaro offers Venetian décor matched to Italian cichetti and Aperol Spritzes. And across the road from Polpo is Bob Bob Ricard, described by some as a “pleasure palace,” where sumptuous delights await in the form of champagne and caviar. But, interestingly, it’s often celebrated for having the most accessible wine list in London with some of the lowest mark up rates.

Further east still is Yauatcha, known for dim sum, tea and faultless Michelin meals at a fraction of the price you might expect.

Speaking of Michelin, The Ledbury, St John and Hibiscus are all worthy of that detour and all are named in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Equally, Roganic, a two-year pop up by Michelin-starred Simon Rogan, and Dinner, Heston Blumenthal’s London outpost, also require your attention. But make sure you’ve left enough room and time for a reservation at Rules, London’s oldest restaurant, before you leave.