Borago: cutting edge cuisine in Santiago, Chile

Published on Matching Food & Wine on 4th March 2015:


Rodolfo Guzman, the young chief at the pass, was out foraging in the Atacama Desert to the north of Chile when I arrived for supper. The sizeable team, chaperoned by the even younger sous chef, Shannon Martincic, who I had mistaken for a stagiaire, was running on its own steam and to a good rhythm.


From what I gather, Guzman was with a group of international journalists. Entertaining scribes seems part and parcel of culinary stardom these days though Guzman hasn’t shirked his kitchen duties – assurances were given that the chef had foraged for the restaurant that morning before jetting off.


Read more at Matching Food & Wine

Gillray’s Steakhouse and Bar

Published on Bon Vivant on 21st August 2012:

How do you do a steakhouse differently? Well if you’re at Gillray’s, you start the dinner with a cheese laden Yorkshire pudding and a serving of horseradish sauce.

“A Yorkshire pudding? How strange” you might think. And yes, to a certain extent, it is. But it’s also terribly well made, amusingly different and very English. After all, the inspiration behind Gillray’s is the English caricaturist James Gillray.

Housed in the London Marriott County Hall, Gillray’s boasts views of the Thames, Houses of Parliament and the London Eye. Head chef, Gareth Bowen, is said to have worked at Michelin-starred restaurants all over the world before landing at Gillray’s at the beginning of this year.

So what might you find at this very English establishment? Well the menu is certainly peppered with English ingredients – Brixham diver king scallops, Forman’s London cure smoked salmon, Devonshire crab cakes and Surrey duck egg salad – all very quaint.

Half a dozen Cornish oysters, baked with cheddar and spinach, is probably what you should go for though: plump, creamy and delicious. But don’t stop to count the calories before moving on to the main course – steak.

You can, of course, choose from a selection of cuts, including bone-in or bone-out, and a special ‘ladies’ cut’ fillet. The meat is Yorkshire Hereford cattle from the Duke of Devonshire’s Bolton Abbey Estate, 35 day dry aged. Then you can have it cooked to anywhere between blue and well done, according to the very scientific measurement of temperature; so says the cooking chart on the menu anyway. The steak is very well cooked but not as gamey as you might expect for something which has been aged for so long.

The steak comes with tomatoes, mushroom and a sauce of your choosing. There’s no Béarnaise – that wouldn’t be very English – but there is tarragon butter, which is very much the same and just as good. If you require something more, the truffle and parmesan chips offer a pungent earthly delight, which are seriously good.

The wine list is rather small though, and if you were looking to spend a small fortune on wine, you probably won’t succeed. Instead, go for a very good mid-range Pinot Noir from Robert Mondavi, which is light but intensely fruity and a good contender against the steaks.

If they insist and you are so inclined, do go for a cheese course. The entirely English selection consists of variations on blue, brie, goats’ and cheddar, all served with chutney, apple and croûtes.

Classic desserts like sticky toffee pudding are on the menu but the keenly selected choice of ice creams and sorbets are just delicate enough to finish a heavy meal. The elderflower and champagne, in particular, is the epitome of summer.

The Rookery, Clapham

Published in Scout London Magazine June 19 – 25 2012 Issue number 6:

The Rookery, Clapham in Scout London

With a seriously busy bar and the feel of a converted pub, The Rookery doesn’t immediately seem like somewhere to eat. Packed to the nines until at least 9pm, there’s quite a commotion to contend with in order to get fed, but provided bumping elbows with your neighbours and talking over the hubbub is something you’re comfortable with, there’s some serious cooking to be found on the neatly condensed menu. Cornish smoked mackerel, Dexter beef and Gloucester Old Spot pork paired simply with asparagus, broad beans and fennel shout loudly about being British and seasonal but quietly get on with their job on the plate. A patriotic cheeseboard is about as showy as it gets and having devoured it you’ll be convinced of this modest venue’s potential. In light of this, the fact that by far the biggest menu is the drinks list is slightly disappointing.

Apsleys – Like a Dream

Published on BespokeRSVP on 20th March 2012:

Scallops and asparagus at Apsley's, The Lanesborough Hotel

The Lanesborough Hotel is one of those sharp imposing buildings that, if you were a tourist, you would almost be too afraid to enter. Its markings are so understated that, in the most part, it’s only identifiable by the lines of Rolls Royce that pull up outside. But this five star hotel houses Heinz Beck’s first restaurant outside of Italy, the Michelin starred Apsleys.

Heinz Beck has been the Executive Chef of La Pergola since 1994, the only three Michelin starred establishment in Rome, as well as the recipient of numerous prestigious awards. It wouldn’t be amiss to say that he was one of the most revered chefs in Europe.

You might think that with a three Michelin starred restaurant to look after, Apsleys would be neglected; but you would be wrong. In fact, Beck travels to Apsleys once a month to cook in the kitchens so that he knows all the food produced is of the same high standards. Perhaps that is why Apsleys gained its first Michelin star just five months after it opened in 2009.

It was with great pleasure, therefore, when Charlotte and I dined at Apsleys.

Duck tortelli with black truffle at Apsley's, The Lanesborough Hotel

The evening started with a round of champagne and the bubbles clearly went to my head when I made the terrible mistake of not following my heart where food was concerned. While my scallops and asparagus satisfied the health angel perched on my shoulder, it didn’t quite hit the spot the way that Charlotte’s foie gras terrine with smoked apple and amaretti did. I guess I was not quite ready to stop the winter indulgence to embrace that taste of spring. An additional veal terrine croquette appeased me a little, but the next three courses did so much better.

When it came to Primi, there were no arguments – it had to be the tortelli with duck and black truffle. There are probably two ingredients that I dream of in my sleep, foie gras and truffle. It was too late for the foie gras but the truffle was certainly not going to escape. Its delicate earthy notes melted onto my palate all too soon.

Fillet beef with red wine at Apsley's, The Lanesborough Hotel

The Secondi came in the form of fillet beef cooked in red wine and Segovia suckling pig, essentially a texture of pork. Impressive flavours again but also the fact that a lot of thought has clearly been put into the nutrition of the dish. Instead of having a side of greens, the vegetables are fancifully displayed on the plate with the meat. If you dined here five days a week, you would probably still maintain your appetite, health and figure, I imagine. Well, if you didn’t indulge from their fine cheese trolley that is. I certainly would not say no to the offer of trying.

Chocolate soufflé with vanilla tahiti and raspberry at Apsley's, The Lanesborough Hotel

But that’s just wishful thinking, inspiring my dessert choice: Dream – an amalgamation of chocolate, dehydrated fruit, ices, glitter and all things nice. The alternative was a chocolate soufflé with vanilla Tahiti; rich, warm and chocolatey.

I know I have not made a mention of the wines but that’s because of the complexity of the wine situation. Apsleys’ enomatic system means that there is quite a selection available by the glass. While I am happy to explore my wines, especially the whites with a big dosage of minerality, Charlotte is a little less inclined. But kudos to our sommelier who expertly matched wines to our food and took into consideration my request for interesting pours. The Italian selection featured 2009 Cantina Terlano ‘Quarz’ Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 Franz Haas Pinot Nero, 2009 Tosca d’Amlerita Chardonnay, 2009 Pio Cesare barbera, 2006 Castello del Terriccio ‘Tassinaia’, 2008 Tenyta Sette Ponti “Orma”, 2008 Brigaldora Recioto della Valpolicella classico and Franz Haas Moscato Rosa 2009. The Moscato Rosa was a particularly considered choice given that, in the most part, dessert wines tend to be, in my mind anyway, white or fortified. This heady red matched my dessert, well, like a dream.

At the end of the meal, with the petit fours and coffee, came Heinz Beck himself – a shy man who was much happier in the kitchen and talking about food than himself. But after four impressive courses, plus a few extras, we were happily in awe.

Blakes Restaurant: A dessert worth conquering, or being conquered by!

Published on BespokeRSVP on 10th February 2012:

When you have a chef who’s been with the same restaurant for over 20 years cooking for you, you know that their relationship with the establishment has been a good one. And that good relationship certainly translates across to the food – the sort that you might find in the restaurant at Blakes Hotel. But don’t imagine for a second that the food has stagnated in those 20 odd years, they haven’t. The menu reflected Executive Chef Neville Campbell’s recent tour of China as well as no doubt countless other expeditions to the Far East.

Indeed the oriental influences can be seen throughout the menu as well as the rest of the hotel, which is perhaps why it works so well. As you enter the hotel, you’re immediately greeted by the floral spice of some perfume which subtly permeates the air. It’s so delicate and yet robust at the same time, transporting you to somewhere exotic. Soon, you find yourself quite intoxicated as you make your way downstairs to the restaurant where you will be greeted by their efficient but not over-zealous staff.

The dim lighting and staggered alcoves mean that you always have a sense of privacy, which is definitely a good thing, especially if you’re planning to tackle the dessert that I did, alone. But much more on that later.

First, let’s start with… well, the starter. True to character, Charlotte ordered in the Champagne for the wait which really was no time at all. Hunger had me all over the pate de Foie Gras, which, I know, I know, is not the most ethical thing in hot debate but it just tastes so damn good. Charlotte finds herself tucking into the potently aromatic salt and peppered softshell crabs, lured by memories of her own travels to the Orient.

Charlotte then travelled further down the pepper theme with a peppercorn steak for her main, served perfectly pink. I switched from French to Chinese with an aromatic duck which was rare enough to bring out the gamey flavours but done enough to suit the spice. The red meats called for a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino Tenute Silvio Nardi 2004 whose robust fruit coped well with the spice of the red meats. Its medium body also did well with the truffled mash, which was simply divine. Even Charlotte abandoned her healthy spinach to indulge in my choice of side.

Having been sumptuously fed up to this point, Charlotte and I decide to take a much needed break to enjoy the rest of our wine before attempting to make room for dessert. To be perfectly honest, in my case, that exercise was completely pointless.

When I ordered the caramel soufflé, I was told that it was a very big dessert. “How big could it be?” I thought, “I’m the sort of girl who eats two desserts after all”. Knowing this already, Charlotte informed our waitress that wouldn’t be a problem at all. Of course when it arrived, my jaw dropped as close to the floor as is hygienically possible. Charlotte’s chocolate fondant with vanilla and pistachio was in a word, dwarfed.  Around four times the size of your average dessert, this soufflé was gaining on the height of the wine glasses. Two tuile straws inserted into its centre allowed copious amounts of warm caramel to be poured inside as well as already drizzled on the outside. I was almost embarrassed to be tackling something so American in portion size but I was determined not to be conquered.

Glasses of Château d’Yquem Premier Cru Classé ’95 accompanied both our desserts but was certainly not sweet enough for my caramel soufflé. I pandered after the Royal Tokaji, Aszu Essencia ’93 while staggering through my dessert. Half way through though, I decided to give up. As fabulously pleasing to the palate as it was, it didn’t seem right some how to be indulging in this entire beast of a dessert myself. Later, I discover that a group of four had tried to tackle the same dessert earlier and hadn’t made as much of a dent as me. That fact made me strangely proud – guess my tooth is truly sweet.

The only way to finish a meal so indulgent was to enjoy a cocktail or two at the bar, which, like true sabrites, we did.