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Monday, 22 October 2012

Scone in sixty seconds…


Words by Felicity Spector

There can’t be many better ways to spend a Saturday afternoon: a gloriously bohemian venue, some of the country’s best chefs whipping up a range of specially created cakes and scones - and all to raise money for Action against Hunger.


Image by Lisa Barber

Top marks, then to the inaugural session of The Scone Club, sponsored by the bespoke tea company Lalani & Co, in the space currently occupied by the Pret a Diner pop up at the Royal Academy’s Burlington Social Club. It was all part of the London Restaurant Festival, which was filling London with all sorts of exciting and eclectic events earlier this month.

Image by Lisa Barber

The seats were packed in around a large square bar, with a space in the middle where a group of chefs were busy doing clever things with confectioners’ sugar and icing trays of buns. We negotiated our way through the subdued lighting and snagged some seats at the back, nearest the cakes: always best to be near the cakes, in my experience.

Image by Lisa Barber

Nadeem Lalani showed us a ‘Tea Library’ with a brief selection of rare, seasonal teas, and then presented us with a small individual pot of First Flush Gopaldhara Garden Darjeeling, together with a little timer to ensure we let it brew for long enough as we waited for our scone fest. It was beautiful, light and fragrant, and incredibly fresh. And all the better for being drunk out of a glass.

Image by Lisa Barber

The food menu couldn’t have sounded more promising, from an array of chefs with 5 Michelin stars between them: there were a couple of savoury options, a brace of cakes, and an intriguing fruit soup concoction from Nobu’s executive pastry chef Regis Cursan.

Image by Lisa Barber


In fact Regis himself was stationed right opposite us, down in the kitchen area, and soon sorted us out with a large slate full of baked goodies to share.

We tried a savoury pinwheel scone stuffed with roasted onion and herbs, from Marcus Waering and Oliver Wilson at the Gilbert Scott, but my favourite was Richard Corrigan and Chris McGowan’s pumpkin and cobnut scone, pale green with pumpkin seed oil, filled with goats cheese and a thick layer of pumpkin chutney.

Image by Lisa Barber

From there we segued easily into the cakes: Anna Hansen, from the Modern Pantry, urging us to take a couple of her delicious pistachio and pandan cakes, while my friend also made short work of a lemon drizzle from Le Manoir. Ravinder Bhogal, best known as Cook in Boots, offered a huge tray of rose scented mini scones with raspberry jam, and some bite sized peanut butter and jam madeleines.

Image by Lisa Barber

You might think any normal person would have been full at this stage - but try resisting Regis Cursan’s interpretation of ‘cake’: an apricot soup, tart and refreshing, with a huge pile of amazingly buttery, melt in the mouth peanut butter cookie pieces - I didn’t have the beer ice-cream which went with it, as I’m teetotal, but everyone around me seemed to be wolfing it down.

Image by Lisa Barber

It would clearly have been rude not to try the special fruit brioche buns, or ’manchets’, from Jeremy Lee which apparently aren’t normally allowed out of Quo Vadis. All I can say is that it was worth the effort. One of my favourites of the afternoon. I did admit defeat at the chocolate scone-brioche from Alexis Gaultier, although I sneaked it home for later. You’d have done the same.

All of this amazing spread managed to raise £2,000 for charity, a fantastic achievement by the boys from Lalani & Co, the chefs who took part, and everyone who pitched in to help.

Image by Lisa Barber

Hopefully this will just be the first Scone Club of many. Personally, I’m thinking of taking out a life membership, if they’ll have me. Hope no-one finds out I sneaked that chocolate brioche home in my handbag.

Words by Felicity Spector
Felicity Spector has worked at Channel 4 News for 23 years and is currently chief writer. She has a bunch of fancy Masters degrees from Oxford and Harvard and writes about US politics. She is also passionate about food and has judged the Great Taste Awards for 5 years, helping to champion the country's best small producers. She is especially passionate about desserts. Cheesecake and brownies a particular specialty.

 Images by Lisa Barber
If you would like to see more of Lisa's fantastic photography, visit her website here.

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