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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Meeting the Michelin Olly Rouse at Selfridges

Words & Photography by Florentyna Leow and Luiz Hara

Week 2 of Meet the Michelins – a Selfridges project featuring culinary stars from the Home Counties – saw Olly Rouse take the stage at The Corner Restaurant on Monday evening to whip up a dazzling 7-course menu. All of the Meet the Michelins experiences feature a tasting menu with optional wine flight, prices for each evening varying slightly. This week’s 7-course menu was priced at £75 with matching wines by Selfridges' head sommelier Dawn Davies for an additional £45 – decent value, especially considering the top-notch drinks accompanying the food.

Rouse is the head chef at The Avenue at Lainston House in Winchester. Describing himself as ‘extremely hands-on', he would emerge from the kitchen between courses to introduce each dish, chatting with the diners, all the while sending out tasty and meticulously plated dishes.

His eye for detail was evident in little flourishes such as the feather used in presenting the menu, the beautiful cast-iron teacups used for serving the house-fermented kombucha (yeast enzyme tea), and even the dry ice in the teapots of kombucha, which lent a lovely theatrical touch during service.

The onion cracker was a stellar example of his attention to detail – his take on pork crackling contained not a whiff of pork, but was instead made of dehydrated and deep-fried tapioca sheets infused with onion stock and liberally salted. Crunchy and utterly moreish, it went down a treat with the Selfridges' own Prosecco label, and was a highly promising start to the evening.

Selfridges sommelier Dawn Davies worked her magic again this evening – her choices were often bold and unusual, but generally spot on and occasionally even sublime. Her expertise particularly shone through with her choice of the Gaia Estate ‘Thalassitis’ Wild Ferment Assyrtiko for the first starter. Tasted alone, it was brash and almost too assertive for my taste, but acquired a beautiful roundness and minerality when sampled with the crab.

Our first starter and one of the highlights of the evening, the soft shell crab, was a gorgeous medley of textures and flavours. The crab was juicy and succulent within and satisfyingly crunchy without; with the mildly bitter grapefruit, tender artichoke and radish, rocket, tomato and pea salad, it came together as a dish greater than the sum of its parts. It was a tremendously enjoyable starter.

Herring, the second starter, was served alongside pickled purple carrots, roasted shallots and mooli, and blobs of apple-vanilla and parsley purée. The young German Kabinett Riesling (Oberhauser Leistenberg) chosen to accompany this starter, undercut the oily richness of the fish with much-needed freshness and acidity.

Our third and final starter featured a surf n’ turf combination of Pig & Prawn. The confit pork belly was a little dry and not fatty enough for my liking; the raw Sicilian prawns and smoky aubergine purée were, however, phenomenal. Together with the light, juicy chilled Portuguese red (Pardusco Vinho Verde Tinto), the prawn half of the equation shone.

Onwards to the two mains: Rouse’s take on roast chicken and lamb. The roast chicken was served with a medley of accompaniments including pine nut crumbs, smoked corn stuffing, a horseradish and lemon cream and red-wine pickled mooli; individually, they were novel and interesting but when tasted together, rather confusing. The Pinot Noir (Massale, Kooyong) accompanying the chicken, however, was deliciously fresh and juicy, with cherry notes – a testament to the talented Australian producers of the wine.

Similarly, the accompaniments for the lamb tasted nice individually, but puzzling altogether. The marinated tomatoes accompanying the lamb, for instance, were flavourful, but would have been much  better chilled. The gently robust Le Soula Rouge, however, was a good pair with the lamb.

Thankfully, Rouse’s menu ended on a splendid note with the puddings. ‘Lemon’ consisted of moist, dense and intensely lemony squares of cake with basil-infused white chocolate, honey jelly and lemon sorbet.

It went down a treat with a Japanese yuzu sake (Ume No Yado Yuzu Sake), an intensely citric liqueur which stood up perfectly to the vibrant lemon dessert.

‘Raw Jersey Dairy’ showcased locally made raw cream in an indulgent crème brulée, with strawberry tarragon consommé, sabayon biscuits, meringue and strawberry salad – art on a plate, and a masterpiece on the palate.

Overall, dinner was a delightful experience. While Rouse’s approach to meats was to my taste rather conservative, he is clearly a talented chef who is willing to experiment, and who can work wonders with seafood and produce from the garden. The Avenue in Winchester should be well worth the trek out of London!

Come and Meet the Michelins at Selfridges - Olly Rouse

With two more Meet the Michelins evenings – all Mondays – left on the 28 July and 18 August (although the 18 August event, with Chef Michael Wignall, is currently sold out), don’t miss this opportunity to try some of the best cooking in England at Selfridges. For more information or to book, visit their website here.

Monday, 14 July 2014

A Bastille Day Celebration - Parisian Flare in the Heart of Pall Mall

Name: Boulestin

Where: 5 St James Street, London SW1A 1EF

Cost: Bastille Day Menu for 3 courses is offered at £37.50. The Prix Fixe Theatre menus are also available at £19.50 and £24.50 for 2 and 3 courses respectively, and also for Saturday lunch. From the à la carte menu, hors d'oeuvres range from £9 to £17.50, fish dishes are from £19.50 to £27.50, and meat dishes range from £23.50 to £29.50. Desserts cost from £7.50 to £9.50, with French cheeses including a selection of 4 for £16.75.  

About: Marcel Boulestin (1878-1943) was a French chef and restaurateur, who opened his eponymous restaurant in 1927 in Southampton Street, Covent Garden. He was also the world's first TV chef, appearing in 1937 on the BBC. After his death, the restaurant continued under various managements until it closed in 1994.

In September 2013, restaurateur Joel Kissin (co-founder and managing director of Conran Restaurants, now known as D&D London) opened Boulestin in St James as a 60-seat restaurant with a private dining room, an outside courtyard and the bistro Café Marcel. It specialises in the sort of classic French cuisine Marcel Boulestin popularised in the UK, led by Head Chef Andrew Woodford (ex The Wolseley, Colbert and Rules).

The restaurant is at the southern end of St James Street, next door to Berry Bros & Rudd's Wine & Spirits Shop. With a black and white tiled floor, starched white linen tablecloths and green leather chairs, set in a dining room flooded with natural light from the skylight, it's an elegant spot for lunch or dinner. It is only a stone's throw from Fortnum & Mason, Burlington Arcade and the luxury shopping area of Bond Street.

What We Ate: We started with the Jambon Persille, a terrine of ham hock and parsley, this is a specialty of Dijon in Burgundy of which Boulestin’s was a fine example.

We also had a magnificent Octopus Salad which included samphire, tomatoes, potatoes, olives, capers and lemon, this was a delicious dish reflecting the Mediterranean coastline of France, with a generous serving of tender octopus and fragrant olive oil.

For mains, we had one of the restaurant’s signature dishes - Tete de Veau - calves head, tongue and brains, with carrots, potatoes and celery. The Tete de Veau took me straight back to my Cordon Bleu days – classic French cooking at its best. A highly complex dish to assemble and cook (best left to the professionals), Boulestin's appeared effortlessly put together with tender calves’ head meat accompanied by a delicate but intensely flavored broth.

Dr G opted for the Roast Rabbit, served with mustard sauce. The rabbit was attractively presented with Girolle mushrooms, the saddle cooked in a balotine in a water-bath, perfumed with tarragon then wrapped in carrot slivers, and served with a fine mustard sauce, gherkins, capers and parsley. It was tremendous, and a reminder of just how fine a meat rabbit can be when expertly cooked.

Before dessert, we opted for the platter of 4 French cheeses, all from nearby Paxton & Whitfield (£16.75). This included Brillat Savarin, Beaufort, Foure D' Ambert and Mothais-Sur-Feuille. The cheeses were of excellent quality, and perfectly ripe.

For dessert, we had the cinnamon doughnuts and a fruit tart. This was a French tart of crème pâtissière, blackberry, strawberry, raspberry and blueberry, with a perfectly crisp and crumbly short crust pastry base.

The doughnuts were light and airy, with a delicious coating of cinnamon and sugar.

What We Drank: Impressively, the house Champagne is the "R" de Ruinart Brut, available for £14.75 by the glass, or £70 per bottle.  Wines have a strong French influence, but there are also options from the rest of Europe, Australia, South Africa and the Americas. They are priced from £19.50 for whites, £20 for reds (both from Pieno Sud, Sicily, a Trebbiano and Sangiovese respectively).

Our choices on the evening were guided by the friendly and knowledgeable sommelier Alessandro Talento, we couldn’t have been in better hands. We kicked off with an Americano (£12), a cocktail made from sweet vermouth, Campari and a splash of soda.

The vermouth was a Cocchi from Torin, a magnificent sweet, boutique vermouth made from the moscato grape, unlike the big brand vermouths usually made from Trebbiano.  The Americano was a superbly refreshing, and appetite stimulating start to the evening.

With the starters, we had an Albariño 2012 from L&L, Rias Baixas (£42).  With vibrant peach and tropical fruit characteristics and balancing acidity, this was a very good partner to both the ham and the octopus.

To enjoy with the veal and rabbit, we had a glass of Saint Aubin 1er Cru Derriere la Tour 2011, from Domain Jean Claude Bachelet (£59.50).  This was a classic example of pinot noir, with elegant redcurrant and raspberry fruit, light tannins, and great complexity and length.

With the cheese, although we were considering the selection of fine Ports on offer, Alessandro recommended a glass of fine aged Colombian rum - La Hechicera. Aged in sherry casks, it had none of the sweetness or caramel flavours that we usually associate with rum, but instead had nutty and dried fruit flavours, rather like an Armagnac. This was an unusual suggestion to partner our cheese platter, but it worked really well, balancing out the rich (let's be honest, fat) French cheese with a clean but complex spirit.

With the doughnuts, we had a couple of “After Dinner” cocktails. These included a glass of La Pommier, with fresh apple, vodka and eau de vie. With the fruit tart, we had a Sauternes de Luxe cocktail, made from fresh orange, home-made vanilla syrup, bourbon whiskey and Sauternes. Both expertly made and excellent pairing to our puddings.

To finish, we had a small tasting of two Italian artisan amaretto spirits and a fine drink created by Alessandro himself to demonstrate some of the flavours of his loved Italy – with Amaretto, Frangelico, sugar, ginger and cloves. A very fine end to our meal.

Likes: Great cooking, friendly service and a fantastic bar headed by Alessandro Talento.

Dislikes: None.

Verdict: Boulestin serves classic French cooking in an elegant setting in Pall Mall, and from the 14th July 2014 for one week, the Bastille Day menu priced at £37.50 will feature a selection of great dishes from the restaurant's repertoire. Highly recommended.

Friday, 11 July 2014

A Glorious Journey Through The Pass at Selfridges

Words & Photography by Greg Klerkx and Luiz Hara

We all know that the UK is a global epicentre of culinary excellence; we, or many of we, probably assume most of that excellence is based in London. Over the coming weeks, Selfridges is challenging that notion in a rather elegant and special way: by bringing five Michelin-starred chefs – all based in the Home Counties – into our fair capital for an evening of culinary wonderfulness.

Meet the Michelins is part of an eight-week Selfridges foodie blitz called Meet the Makers, which features an array of pioneers working at the frontiers of culinary excellence (many of which are currently the subject of Selfridges always-inventive window displays.) There is truly something for every kind of foodie, whether your thing is bespoke gin or the emerging art of bug eating.

Meet the Michelins offers a particularly unique opportunity for diners to experience excellence that might otherwise seem too far-flung to engage with. Then again, if every Meet the Michelins experience is as stunning as the kick-off evening devised by Chef Matt Gillan, food lovers should soon be flocking to the Home Counties in droves.

Gillan is head chef at The Pass, based at the South Lodge Hotel in West Sussex, which under Gillan’s leadership earned its first Michelin star in 2011. He describes his approach to cooking as playful and, perhaps unusually, highly collaborative: during our Meet the Michelins evening, both Gillan and members of his team were front of house engaging with the diners and describing dishes.

All of the Meet the Michelins experiences feature a tasting menu with optional wine flight, prices for each evening varying slightly. Our evening’s 10-course menu was priced at £75 with matching wine for an additional £45. Considering the quality of food, drink and service, this was very good value.

The menu moved from rustic to sophisticated to playful and back again. We began with a dish called Scratching/bacon/parsley, a generous twist of crispy scratching topped with reduced bacon and apple compote that was relaxed and delicious, particularly with a cool glass of Truffler Cider.

The Scratching was followed by a lovely dish titled Beetroot/egg/lime – when oh when will this trend for linguistically Spartan menus end? – in which the creamy saltiness of a perfectly judged egg yolk played nicely with a zingy lime reduction and earthy beetroot tartar.

This dish in particular demonstrated the skill and boldness of Selfridges sommelier Dawn Davies, who paired it with a thick, almost tinny Intellego Elementis (£26.99, Selfridges), a so-called ‘orange’ wine due to the practice of leaving it long on the grape skins to produce a ringing minerality and unusual colour. Alone, the Elementis was something of a puzzle; with the Beetroot dish, it became an essential part of a small, lovely symphony.

From here the menu shifted into its fish-meat phase, mostly with success.  Langoustine/pea/mint was a favourite dish of the evening, the langoustine tender and moist and the pea and mint balancing perfectly.

Pork belly/goat’s cheese/pear (which also featured roasted hazelnuts and slightly spiced puffed rice) would have benefitted either from more pear compote or, perhaps, a light jus: it was just that bit dry, though it worked well with Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt Goldtropfchen Riesling Kabinett (£20.99, Selfridges.).

The Halibut/celeriac/honey course saw my halibut slightly overdone, but happily this was offset by the rich celeriac puree and passion fruit honey, splendidly complemented by an unusual German Pinot Noir (F Becker, Estate Spatburgunder) that retained the expected Pinot spice but was lighter, softer, and juicier.

The evening’s final savoury was Corn fed chicken/Jerusalem artichoke/madeira, which was gorgeous, moist and balanced. It paired beautifully with one of the evening’s nicest wines, a Vins d’Orrance ‘Cuvee Anais’ Chardonnay, oak-rich yet relaxed with distinct notes of apple and vanilla. Gorgeous.

Cote hill blue/apricot/pumpkin seed functioned nicely as a combination cheese course and palate cleanser: paired with a glass of Camden Wit Beer (£2.80, Selfridges) with its strong notes of lemon and bergamot, the result was calm and convivial, a gentle and pleasant trot towards the finishing line.

Lemon/oats/honeycomb – zesty and refreshing – led the way to an indulgent finish: Chocolate/caramel/peanut, the latter being in ice cream form and the whole tasting not unlike an decadent, elegantly deconstructed Snicker’s bar, in the best possible way. An accompanying glass of Yalumba Museum Reserve Muscat was so dark, nutty and treacly that it sailed very close to Porto, but kept its balance in concert with the rich malt syrup dressing the Chocolate.

There are four more Meet the Michelins evenings, all Mondays: 14, 21, 28 July and 18 August (note: the 18 August event, with Chef Michael Wignall, is currently sold out.) For more information or to book, visit their website here.

The Corner Restaurant is a light and airy dining environment, and the whole experience is a delightful and, in truth, good value treat: a culinary holiday, without needing to board a plane or fight the motorway hoards.

Friday, 4 July 2014

The London Foodie "Meets the Michelins" at Selfridges

I am thrilled to announce that The London Foodie has teamed up with Selfridges, my favourite London department store, to report on a series of fantastic dinners named "Meet the Michelins" taking place at The Corner Restaurant & Champagne Bar at Selfridges Oxford Street.

I will be taking over Selfridges' social media via Instagram and Twitter for all Meet the Michelins Dinners in July and August 2014, so expect plenty of mouthwatering foodporn in the next few weeks. I will also be reporting via The London Foodie's own social media accounts (Twitter: @thelondonfoodie / Instagram: @thelondonfoodie) as well as a full weekly low-down of every dinner on this site.

The dinners are unique opportunities to sample inspiring signature dishes, from the Home Counties' most talented and creative chefs, that you wouldn't find anywhere else in London.

Starting at £75, these unique ticketed evenings will entitle diners to between 5 and 10 courses and an optional Wine Flight (from £35), carefully selected by Selfridge’s Head Sommelier. Dinners are on every Monday in July and also on the 18th August 2014, and start at 6:30pm for dinner at 7pm.

To book a place at one of these exclusive evenings, call The Corner Restaurant and Champagne Bar on 0207 318 3898 or book online (here). Online booking fees apply.

Monday 7 July 2014
Matt Gillan - 1 Michelin Star
Head Chef, Matt Gillan at The Pass, South Lodge
Dinner menu: £75 (dinner plus wine flight: £120)

Monday 14 July 2014
Olly Rouse – 1 Michelin Star
Head Chef, The Avenue, Lainston House
Dinner menu: £75 (dinner plus wine flight: £120)

Monday 21 July 2014
Richard Davies – 1 Michelin Star
Executive Chef, The Bybrook, The Manor House
Dinner menu: £75 (dinner plus wine flight: £110)

Monday 28 July 2014
Conor Toomey
Head Chef, The Restaurant at Storrs Hall
Dinner menu: £75 (dinner plus wine flight: £110)

Monday 18 August 2014
Michael Wignall – 2 Michelin Stars
Head Chef, Michael Wignall at The Latymer
Dinner menu: £95 (dinner plus wine flight: £140)

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Peruvian-Nikkei Cuisine at Chotto Matte London

Where: 11–13 Frith Street, Soho, London, W1D 4RB, http://www.chotto-matte.com

Cost: There are three 9-course Nikkei sharing menus, priced at £40, £50 and £60 per person. A pre-theatre 3-course menu is also available at £25 including a glass of Prosecco. Average spend from the a la carte menu is around £40 per person for food only.

About: Chotto Matte, opened by Kurt Zdesar (the man who brought Nobu to the UK), is one the first London restaurants serving the still relatively unknown Peruvian-Nikkei cuisine. Born from the Japanese diaspora living in Peru, Peruvian-Nikkei cooking is much more than just a trendy fad – it was born out of necessity in the early 20th century as most Japanese immigrants lacked the necessary ingredients to cook their home fare. Instead, they resorted to using the fantastic produce of Peru, from Pacific fish and seafood to the high altitude vegetables of the Andes, and the fruit of the Amazon. Today, Peruvian-Nikkei cuisine is very much part of the mainstream diet in Peru, with dishes like Tiradito and Maki Acevichado being just as popular as ceviche or causa.

I love bringing Brazilian-Nikkei dishes and flavours into my Japanese Supper Club menus and have been observing with interest the emergence of Nikkei cuisine in Europe – Chotto Matte, Sushi Samba (reviewed here) and UNI in London as well as the fabulous Pakta in Barcelona, opened by Ferran Adriá. At Peruvian restaurant Coya (reviewed here), I was surprised to see a large number of Peruvian Nikkei dishes on their menu.  Recently, Mitsuharu Tsumura of Maido, the Peruvian-Nikkei restaurant in Lima which is number 11th in the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants of Latin America, was hosted by Virgilio Martinez of Lima, the only Michelin-starred Peruvian restaurant in London (reviewed here).

Opened in September 2013, Chotto Matte’s menus and kitchen are under executive chef Jordan Sclare (former head chef at Aqua Kyoto and Nobu) and head chef Michael Paul. Chotto Matte is a large, beautiful restaurant and bar set over three floors.

On the ground floor, there is live music for much of the day as well as a vast, UV-illuminated mural created by Tokyo-based graffiti artist Houxo Que.

If the sun is shining, and you are lucky enough (as we were) to get one of their coveted outside tables, it is a fantastic place to while the hours away, sipping Pisco Sours, munching on some freshly made sushi and most importantly - people watching!

What We Ate: The kitchen has a number of stations, including a sushi and ceviche bar as well as a Japanese Robata grill area serving barbecued dishes. There is also a bar menu of small eats (tostaditas) with a variety of toppings for those who fancy a few snacks with a drink.

We started with some delicious and wonderfully blistered Padron peppers with sweet den miso and sea salt (£4.50). Den in their menu refers to dengaku miso, a paste made from miso, sake, mirin and sugar commonly used for grilled aubergines (nasu dengaku), one of the favourites in my Japanese Supper Club.

We also had a cone of cassava and sweet potato crisps, with an accompanying yellow tomato salsa and guacamole (£3.25).

To follow, we had two Nikkei dishes which were for me the highlight of the meal. First came a Nikkei sashimi of yellowtail with cherry tomatoes, jalapeño chillies, black salt, yuzu juice, crispy purple potato and truffle oil (£9.95). This was a magnificent dish.

Next we had the seabass ceviche - seabass sashimi, with sweet potato, Peruvian crispy corn, coriander, lemon juice and chive oil (£7.25). This was delicious, with intense chlorophyll colour from the chive oil, and a satisfying crunchy texture from the cancha crispy corn.

To accompany these fish dishes, we had the Paperthin Vegetable Salad - beetroot, daikon and butternut squash cut very thinly and teased into rolls, served with broccoli, quinoa, physalis fruit and lime, and red onion (£4.95). This dish was very refreshing, and I really enjoyed the richly flavoured vegetables, although I thought the sauce was a little sharp and would have been improved by a touch of sweetness.

The next course was grilled octopus, marinated in rice wine vinegar, from the Robata grill, with yuzu and smoked purple potato purée, and antecucho sauce (£9.95). This was utterly delicious - wonderfully tender octopus with a smoked flavour from the grill, and also from the antecucho marinade which is made from smoked dried aji panca.

To accompany it, we had Yuca Frita  - cassava chips with smoked aji panca dipping sauce (£3.25). The cassava was nice and crisp on the outside, but a little too firmly textured inside for my liking.

We also had  Ensalada Peruana -quinoa salad with aji amarillo sauce, pomegranate, coriander and Peruvian crispy cancha corn (£3.25), which was delicious with a combination of sweet and crunchy elements, and heat from the aji.

Alongside this, we had Mazorca de Maiz - a dish of Peruvian corn with chilli butter and coriander (£4.25). This was a more refined version of a dish we ate often in Peru – the corn was soft and a little sweet, and given a lovely lift by the chilli and fresh herbs.

We then had the Pollo Peruana - grilled chicken with crispy cancha corn, onion, coriander and edible flowers (£11.75). This was a well-made dish, with toasted crunchy skin, succulent tender flesh, and perfect seasoning.

We also had a selection of blowtorched sushi - tuna with yuzu butter, salmon with black garlic butter, turbot with antecucho butter, and aubergine with dengaku miso sauce and white sesame seeds (£10.50). I was very impressed by the sushi - the rice in particular was well made and fresh, as was the choice topping for the Nigiri sushi and the richly flavoured, savoury butters.

For dessert, we had the chicha morada brûlée - pineapple in chicha morada (black corn) syrup, with vanilla ice cream and coriander. This was like a very good pineapple crumble dish from school days, with the Peruvian twist being the intense purple colour and savour from the black corn, which is ubiquitous in Peru.

To finish, we had the Trio Nikkei - white chocolate foam, miso mousse, lime and lemon sorbet, and taro. This was a very refined combination dessert, beautifully presented. The miso mousse was reminiscent of dulce de leche, with a refreshing lemon and lime sorbet, and a good texture from the crumble. This dessert was clever, well-conceived, and a good ending to the meal.

What We Drank: Cocktails are priced between £8 and £10.50, Champagnes start at £49 per bottle.  Entry level whites are £23, and include an organic Torrontes from Michel Torino, and an Argentinian Viognier from Casa Montes. Reds start at £23, including a Peter Lehmann Art Series Shiraz, and an Argentine Malbec, Dona Paula.

We had a couple of very well made Pisco Sours (£8.50), and a glass of Organic Torrontes, Michel Torino Cuma 2013 (£23 per bottle). With the chicken, we had a glass of Argentine Chardonnay from Pulenta Estate VIII 2012 (£29 per bottle).  For dessert, we had a Mio Sparkling Sake - a 5% alcohol wine, this was refreshing, off-dry with gentle stone fruit flavours (£13 for a 300 ml bottle).

Likes: Great service, cool setting and some mean Pisco sours. The highlight dishes for me were the Nikkei sashimi of yellowtail and the seabass ceviche. Desserts are spectacularly good.

Dislikes: None

Verdict: Chotto Matte is a great place to discover Peruvian-Nikkei cuisine in the heart of London. A facet of Peruvian-Japanese cooking still relatively unknown in the UK, it is rapidly gaining momentum thanks to places like Chotto Matte. Highly recommended.

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