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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.

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