Cooking Dinner

Published on the Taste of London blog on 8th June 2012:

There’s little to say about Dinner that hasn’t already been said. Anything remaining from its launch last year has been well and truly covered in the stories surrounding its placing at number 9 in the recent World’s 50 Best Awards – making it the UK’s top restaurants by this measure.

We spoke to journalist, blogger and trainee chef Qin Xie, who has something new to add. She hasn’t just eaten at Dinner, but actually worked in the kitchen for a week. In her words…

After working 9am to 11pm for seven consecutive days, you get a pretty good idea of the whole operation as a stagiaire. Certainly by the end of the week, I was more than impressed.

It wasn’t everything that I expected. Like the kitchen; you’d expect it to be noisy but one comment from Head Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts and the noise is reduced to a bare minimum. The entire operation runs so smoothly that it’s not just the show kitchen that makes an entertaining viewing, rather, the whole thing is theatre. And everything from start to finish is done with finesse.

Behind the scenes, too, is deserving of praise. Fantastic team work aside, there’s support and nurture found everywhere. More senior chefs take the time to show and teach junior chefs. Enthusiastic and talented chefs are always given the opportunity to progress, whether internally or externally – even I was allowed to plate up and send out starters. And they really take the time to care too; every ailment is taken seriously be it a cut, a burn or simply slight dehydration.

But most of all I am impressed by the chefs. How they have so much passion for what they do. How they are so aware of what other chefs are doing and what the press is saying. How they have travelled the world to work in the kitchens of the best restaurants in the world before working at Dinner.

When the time came for me to leave, I was pretty sorry to go. I really felt like I was part of the team. And what a team to be part of. So it really is with my warmest congratulations to Ashley Palmer-Watts and his exemplary team of chefs for winning this year’s highest new entry at number 9. What is there left to do now but wait in eager anticipation for next year’s awards and see what else they can achieve?

June is not just Jubilee

Published on BespokeRSVP on 1st June 2012:

Getting caught up in Jubilee fever is inevitable, especially if you live in London. But as Londoners know, there is always something interesting to do in the big smoke. So here are five (food and drink) things you should do in June:

Sample some of the UK’s best produce. The restaurant at The Cadogan hotel has teamed up with some of the best known names in the food industry to bring you Great Taste at The Cadogan. The Great Taste Awards are organised by the Guild of Fine Food every year and is designed to pick out the best speciality food and drink. The current menu, designed by food writer Lucas Hollweg and celebrity chef Thomasina Miers alongside head chef Oliver Lesnik, will run until the end of June. Goat’s cheese and courgette flower, rabbit ravioli and loin and bakewell tart are just some of the things you will find on the menu.

Bask in sunshine on the Southbank. At long last, sun and wisps of summer has arrived. What could be better than soaking all those golden rays at the Propstore on the Southbank? Propstore is the National Theatre’s summer pop up, created using props from past productions, and will be running until the end of September. Street food will be served as well as beers, wines and cocktails. It could be the perfect location to sample Sipsmith’s latest gin, the limited edition Summer Cup – it has tea in it!

Go menu-less for cocktails. There’s no time like the present to visit Sanderson Hotel’s Purple Bar and Billiard Room for cocktails. And there are no cocktails quite like it either. That’s because they have dispensed with the menu. Instead, the staff create a cocktail just for you based on what you like and the mood you’re in. I can tell you the Qintini (Belvedere intense, St Germain, Granny Smith apple, rhubarb, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, glucose syrup, egg white) is quite something – fruity, complex and addictive. Some might say, a bit like me.

Eat around London in small bites. The bigger and better Taste of London returns to Regents Park again this year, from the 21st of June until 24th, with a more international theme. As well as demonstrations by British favourites like Jamie Oliver and Michel Roux Jr, superstars on the international culinary scene, David Chang and Wolfgang Puck, are also flying in. Slow cooked pork belly from The Savoy’s River Restaurant, braised beef feather blade by Maze, and Theo Randall’s chocolate cake are just a few of the things you can sample.

Get totally 80s on the river. Chelsea’s 80′s club Maggie’s, is taking their disco, cocktails and a few rotating Rubik’s cube tables to the Henley Royal Regatta for the first time this year. The Maggie’s tent, positioned at the halfway line, will be open for the full five days from 27th June until 1st July. With tribute acts, fireworks displays and the well-heeled Chelsea set, Henley has probably never been more rocking.

Laurent-Perrier Tous Les Sens: A Preview

Published on BespokeRSVP on 25th May 2012:

Laurent Perrier Tous Les Sense at Massimo, The Corinthia, London

Flowers aren’t my thing. It’s all that pollen irritating my hayfever. And all that floral femininity making me feel like I have to be all girly. But flowers on a plate, it just makes me all weak at the knees with glee.

At the Laurent-Perrier Tous Les Sens Masterclass at Taste of London this year, it is all about the flowers. Not just to look at or to smell but also to eat. International florist Ercole Moroni leads the class and guides you through a specially created tasting menu of floral delights. As well as exploring the menu and learning about the different flowers on the plate and on the table, you also get to sample a small flight of Champagnes from Laurent-Perrier.

If the preview at Massimo, The Corinthia, is anything to go by, you will surely be in for a treat. We had dishes inspired by apple blossom, green shiso, wild garlic, courgette flower, jasmine blossom, and elderflower, just to name a few; and by inspired I mean it was on the plate. While we sipped the champagne and tried the food, Moroni talked about why each champagne was chosen to match the menu and how they relate to the flowers. By the end of the meal, even I was warming a little to the bouquet.

Laurent Perrier Tous Les Sense at Massimo, The Corinthia, London

The Tous Les Sens Masterclass menu at Taste of London is slightly different though and has been put together especially for the event by specialist caterers, Urban Caprice. Canapé portions of starter, main and dessert will be paired with Ultra Brut, Grand Siècle and Curvée Rosé respectively, from Champagne Laurent-Perrier.

The starter will be Mottra Osetra caviar, apparently the world’s only truly sustainable caviar, on white toast. The caviar is sustainable and ethical because the sturgeons are massaged to release the roe rather than cut open while still alive. The main course is a Champagne infused risotto with asparagus. And finally the dessert is a white chocolate and strawberry sphere with strawberry mousse, macerated strawberries, rose jelly and crystalised rose petals.

The Perfect G&T

Published on the Taste of London blog on 18th May 2012:

As we inch into summer, the weather begins to perk up and the countdown to Taste of London begins, there’s only one thing that we can think of other than summer food: summer drink.

Here journalist, trainee chef and stagiaire at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal enthuses over a drink first enjoyed at one of Heston’s other venues, The Hinds Head.

There’s nothing more refreshing than a cool glass of G&T at the height of summer, but the simple drink is not always treated with the respect it deserves. A G&T is not just a G&T. Each gin has different characteristics, as does each tonic. Then there’s the garnishes to contend with. Preferences will vary from person to person, but finding a harmonious blend is like striking gold.

To my taste, The Hinds Head has one of the best combinations sorted. They do a fabulous G&T with my favourite gin – Gin Mare (pronounced mar-ray) – and perk it up with a floral tonic and some unusual garnishes.

Even on gloomy rain-filled Sundays, a taste of its heady blend of citrus and herbal aromatics takes me back to the roasting summers day when I first discovered it at the Hinds Head bar.

Here’s a guide to that ‘perfect’ G&T. It’s just a guide because, as with everything, it should be done to taste…

Key parts:
a tall glass
ice cubes
wedge of orange
sprig of rosemary
25ml Gin Mare
Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic to top up

Fill your tall glass with lots of ice, bigger cubes will melt more slowly. Throw in your wedge of orange and sprig of rosemary. Pour over Gin Mare and top up with Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic as desired. Enjoy.