Friday, 25 November 2011

one word ROGANIC

Ok, so what to write about Roganic that has not already been written by people with far more talent for this than me! Well, all I can do is try and show you what I was served by an incredible front of house team that exude the same passion for their jobs as the guys downstairs at the stove (not always the case). Jon Cannon and Sandia Chang are doing a brilliant job of interacting with guest and sharing the vision of the whole team from Simon Rogan all the way down.
I started with some great breads and whipped butter set on a seaside pebble.
breadbutter stone with butter
This is followed by a canapé but I must apologise as I can’t remember what it was exactly but all you need to know is that it is very good and the start of something very special.
1st course canape
My first proper course was Pig and Lincolnshire eel, sea purslane, black mustard and pickled corn- only one thing to say “wicked”. I love pork and I love eel so to have them together as a fried crunchy cube, with one of my favourite vegetables corn, was a perfect first course. Sandia Chang had suggested that I have a beer with my first couple of course and I was served very good pale ale which if I remember rightly was called “Camden Pale Ale” it was a great match and very refreshing.
2nd course, pork & smoked eel, sweetcorn puree, mustard seed & sea pursalne (2)camden town pale ale
Next up was Millet Pudding with grains, burnt pear and Devon blue- this shows head Chef Ben Spalding’s skills by taking something as plain as millet and turning into a lovely base for this dish that is almost risotto like, the addition of a little piece of bone marrow was superb. Bone marrow truly is butter from the gods!
3rd course, millet, burnt pear, bone marrow & parsley oil (1)
After this I had Cured and smoked Dorset char, Watts farm peppers and crab apple- arriving at the table with a glass cloche over the plate filled with smoked this dish again was very clean in flavour and had a lovely texture.
4th course, smoked & cured cornish char (1)
During this meal I had two absolute standout dishes, meaning I would have done pretty much anything for just one more bite to enjoy, the first one of these dishes came next. Golden cauliflower, sour cream, raisin, Grilled lettuce and yarrow- those that know me might be surprised that a dish containing no meat, fish or shellfish is one of my favourites from the meal but all I am going to say is go and try it yourself I promise you will understand and finally get how good cauliflower can be. Is that enough praise, I’m not sure it is because this dish was truly great!
5th course, golden cauliflower, rasian puree, sour cream & bbq little gem (1)
The second of my stand out dishes arrived next, King Richard baked in clay and rosemary, autumn truffle and shallot jam. So, king Richard is a leek variety and when the dish of clay came to the table on a platter looking like someone’s just dug it up. You get an idea that this is going to be a bit special but when the plate came up from the kitchen with your leek resting on shallot jam surrounded by a few pine nuts and truffle sauce, you smile you honestly can’t help it, then either Jon or Sandia come over and shave truffle all over the top heaven on a plate.
6th course, clay baked leek, autunm truffle & shallot jam  (3)6th course, clay baked leek, autunm truffle & shallot jam  (1)
After the two amazing dishes I had just had, you could be thinking can it carry on and for me, it did! The next to hit the table was-royal kidneys cooked in chicken fat, peas, goats curd & clam juice, now this dish didn’t send me into food heaven as the last two did but it’s still a great tasting dish using some clever ideas to elevate the humble potato to a dish worthy of this restaurant.
7th course, royal kidneys cooked in chicken fat, peas, goats curd & clam juice (1)
Fish was the next port of call and a dish I had seen Ben had tweeted earlier in the week and was hoping I would get as dab is a very underrated and underused fish. Dab baked in fennel salt, sea beet, parsley root and sweet cicely, perfectly cooked fish with great little accents of flavour that didn’t over power or take over the dish, shrimp and Brussels sprout give it a freshness and textural difference on the plate.
8th course,Dab baked in fennel salt, parsley roots, shrimps, sprouts, sea beet & sweet cicely (1)
As it is game season my next course was Yorkshire pheasant, pumpkin, muesli and buckthorn plantain, normally not a fan of pheasant but it had been cooked to absolute perfection, it was moist and seasoned to the point but no further. The garnish for the pheasant was lovely, pumpkin and buckthorn adds texture and flavour to the plate without interfering with the pheasant leaving it standing proud.
9th course, pheasant, pumpkin balls (2)
My palate cleanser- Ginger beer, just not as you expect it. The ginger beer was served as a granite as all else it was very good, lightly spicy but cleansing.
10th course, ginger beer granite (2)
First of the dessert courses was Warm salted chocolate, William pear, chestnuts and Atsina, now I love salt so a salted chocolate dessert is right up my street, most people don’t know but salt actually improves the flavour of chocolate. The difference here is that the warm salted chocolate is a mousse and is added tableside from an isi canister meaning it is very very light and the sorbet is as smooth as possible.
11th course, green apple sorbet, warm chocolate mousse,  (2)
This was followed by my favourite dessert Bilberries, dried caramel, natural yoghurt and iced lemon thyme. Clean and beautifully presented I was running the spoon round my bowl to get every last drop out of that bowl.
12th course, bilberries, dried caramel,natural yogurt & ice lemon thyme  (1)
Last main dish Warm spiced bread, salted almonds, buckthorn curd, smoked clotted cream, this is the signature dessert at Roganic I believe and is worth that title, it’s like the best piece of bread and butter pudding you have ever had and the buckthorn curd is very clever and adds real depth to the dish.
13th course, warm spiced bread, buckthorn curd & salted almonds (1)
Finishing the meal was a small shot of milkshake, a cookie & a perfect little cupcake. Wicked way to finish the meal makes a change from chocolates or pate de fruit that everyone else seems to do. I also enjoyed two very nice glasses of wine, one white which was a Riesling and a red which I can’t remember where it came from (sorry).
14th course, milkshake15th course, cupcake, mint (1)
This is quite simply one of the best restaurants around at the moment and as I told the staff on the day every bit as good as the meal I recently had at Michael wignall @ the laytmer Pennyhill Park and we all know how good he is.
The future is certainly very bright for the three key players at Roganic- Ben Spalding head chef is without doubt on of the brightest young chefs at the stove in this country right now, his passion and skill come though in every dish that leaves his kitchen.
Jon Cannon has a way that makes you feel instantly comfortable around him and that means you meal pass by without you really noticing the time.
Finally Sandia Chang whose grace moving around the restaurant shows the level she has worked at in the past and she has transferred all of that experience over to this latest project.
Remember live to eat don’t eat to live

Friday, 21 October 2011

End of Summer, Here Comes The Cold Bit

So after my last 8 or so post being about meals I have had out people has been giving me grief about not talking about “my life at the stove” so this post is a catch up from the last few months at work. Summer has come to an end and we are starting to get the cold weather, so time to get the braises, Confit and roast dishes out but as we have not started our winter menu yet a few dishes from the summer/autumn menu. 

The food we serve is very simple but cooked fresh and made with care, I am very proud of the boys I work with and the food we produce in our little kitchen all things considered when you take restaurant, bar, breakfast & functions our small team do good things.

First dish is a simple tomato & mozzarella salad made slightly different by using heritage tomatoes, I know you chefs reading this won’t be impressed by that but there are lots of folks out there that have never tasted a decent tomato, we had some beautiful  flavoured tomatoes this summer and this is what we chose to do with them.

Another starter we used this summer was a little play on the classic prawn cocktail; we kept the Marie rose but used crayfish instead of prawns and got rid of ice berg for more tasty salad selection. Again not a very taxing dish but one that went down well with our guests.

One for the colder weather was a crisp pigs head & fried duck egg, made by cooking the whole pigs head slowly in ham stock till it was just falling off the bone and meltingly tender, then shredding it, forming into a roulade, chilling overnight so it sets hard, slicing 2cm thick and bread crumbing. To serve we just gentle fried it on the stove till golden and gave it 4 minutes in the oven, topped with a rich duck egg and a few watercress shoots
It’s a perfect starter of light lunch on a cold day.

A lot of our guest have been choosing fish as of late and we have in braced that by trying to come up with more interesting dishes for them to chose from and use fish that is not on every other menu the local area, having been sent some beautiful coley I really didn’t want to do too much with it and keep the flavours clear so we served it on spinach, wild mushrooms & chorizo just to give that little heat that you need on a cold night.

Another fish dish was cod, streak bacon & sweetcorn ragout. Good hearty flavours but balanced with the sweetness from the corn and the Smokey/saltiness from the bacon, I really enjoyed cooking this and would smile every time it was ordered as it made up for the mountains of fish and chips we serve each week in our bar.

Fish again I know but on the current menu we have a red mullet, roasted red pepper, roasted tomato and tapenade plate. It’s a taste of the summer and we are trying to prolong it just a little longer as this dish is going really well especially with the ladies who seem to enjoy a lighter meal but still with plenty of flavour.

We did cook some meat too and pork belly, butternut squash, pickled red onion & black vinegar caramel sold the best. We braised the belly for 18 hours chilled-pressed it the roast portions to order. The 18 hour belly technique was given to me by Mr Steve Bennett aka @chefbennett01 on twitter well worth a follow if you into that social media shenanigans.

Remember live to eat don’t eat to live

Friday, 12 August 2011

A Nice Little Break

Hello so it’s been a while since I have posted but life has been very hectic, I married the most amazing women in the world and have been working my ass off trying to push the standards of food at work. I have finally found a commis chef willing to work hard and keep his head together during the madness so hopefully I’m only one piece away from a great little team the only problem is the one piece I’m missing is a sous chef which is a massive part of a four man team.

 So to keep my brain from frying I had a few days off to visit the in-laws in Lowestoft not the nicest town in the country but the break was really needed, whilst in Lowestoft I found a little gem of a restaurant called “The Third crossing” it is in a place called haven marina and is a seafood and steak grill. The place was warm and welcoming on a not very nice night and the food was excellent simple but very well prepared and very tasty. I would recommend this little place for anyone in the area.

So little holiday break over I headed back to surrey but halfway there I realised that a short detour and I could take the wife for lunch at “The Anchor” in hullbridge, Essex, for those of you that follow me on twitter the anchor is run by Daniel Watkins who is @anchorhbridge on there, so we turn up just as lunch is starting but Daniel is kind enough to come out and say hello. We take our seats in the restaurant and the first course is served to us,

Flame grilled mackerel, cucumber gel & seashore salad.

Beautiful to look at and does not disappoint in the mouth, we are told by our waitress that chef has been out and foraged the seashore salad items himself a nice touch on a very tasty plate of food.

Next up was one of the day’s specials
Smoked eel & beetroot

I absolutely love smoked eel and beetroot is a favourite of mine also so this dish was bound to delight. I was not disappointed the eel was of superb quality and four different beetroots and different preparations

For our main we had another of the day’s specials

Suckling pig, apple puree, creamed potatoes & koffman cabbage
A very generous hunk of well cooked suckling pig with crisp skin and melting fat sat atop silky apple puree and buttery creamed potatoes very good indeed, the cabbage with carrots and little lardons of pancetta running though was a great garnish to the dish and the jus served separately gave you the chance to add just the amount you wanted.

To finish the meal Daniel sent us a little selection of sweet bites.


A great way to finish our little break and again thank you to Daniel for a wonderful lunch, he really is producing really fantastic food worth the trip.

Remember live to eat don’t eat to live

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Michael Wignall, The Laytmer At Pennyhill Park

Well this week I had the pleasure of going to Michael wignall at the laytmer, pennyhill park hotel. The rest of this post will show what I consider to be one of, if not the finest meal that I have eaten. Arriving at pennyhill you realise how beautiful the grounds and hotel. On entering the hotel you are meet by smiling staff eager to help you however they can, now working in the business we all know that staff are told to smile allot but here they honestly looked happy to be there and no fake smiles plastered on people’s faces.

The laytmer restaurant is a lovely place to dine with views over the garden and comfortable seating (not always the case in good restaurants). Bruno and his team in front of house make you feel welcome then comes the good stuff, given the menus which had the lunch menu and the lunch tasting menu on it I struggled with which to go for but being on my own ended up having the lunch menu a steal at £34 for 3 courses. I asked the sommelier to pick a glass for me to go with my main; water arrived closely followed by canapés. This is the second meal in row for me where canapés have been served but here they where light, highly seasoned and the homemade taramasalta was incredible served with little bread sticks and parsnip crisps. The other two canapés where a composition of wild mushroom and truffle, chicken liver mousse in bric pastry so crisp but the livers silky smooth.

Then bread arrived which in its bespoke holder looked lovely and a nice portion of butter on a little cube was another nice little touch.

After the fun of the canapés I moved on to the amuse bouche which was
Marinated Cornish mackerel, slow cooked octopus, gazphaco, pressed grilled cucumber, fennel fern and olive. Fresh, vibrant and as clean as you can get the flavours popped in my mouth as I ate.This was served with a seaweed broth very strong in flavour but       complimenting the dish well , I love mackerel and was   a little disappointed I had not ordered this a my starter after eating it.

But next up was my starter and I went for
Elmwood farm chicken poached in aromatic stock, smoked eel mousseline feuille de bick, chicken skin crisp, horseradish emulsion. When this arrived all worries about not ordering the mackerel went away, beautiful to look at, full of different textures and the richness of the smoked eel round the whole plate of really nicely.

Thinking that my main was on its way next I was looking forward to my wine that was to match it but instead I was sent a intermediate course of
Poached & roast foie gras, iberico ham, spiced brioche wafer, camomile panacotta & elderflower emulsion. I’m not usually a lover of foie gras but here it matched up with the freshness of the camomile perfectly and having the spiced brioche wafers added texture that normal lacks with roasted foie.

Now ready for my main course and the sommelier bought over the wine match that he had picked, it was a Penny’s hill red dot Shiraz vioginer. This was to match the lamb dish,
Swale dale lamb, crisp tongues, braised belly, roast chicory, morels & garden peas. Perfectly cooked lamb loin, rolled braised breast soft and sticky, crisp tongue and well what chef doesn’t enjoy the first fresh morels they have each year and peas that had been popped out of there pods and skins bright green amongst earthy browns and blushed lamb.

 The wine complimented the lamb dish very nicely and is something I would order if I saw it on a menu.

Starting to get a little full by know the dessert menu arrives and again spoilt for choice but plump for the wild strawberries parfait as I have not had wild strawberries for year, bur first a pre dessert of marinated cherries with an array of garnish which  for the life of my i can not remember.

 the parfait was rolled in dehydrated strawberries (I think) which gave another texture to the dish along with a flurry of strawberry flavoured garnishes which bought the dish together as one.

The espresso was of a very high standard again something of an afterthought in other places and the petite fours plate was full to busting of different items, the peanut chocolate truffle was my favourite.

And that concludes my lunch needless to say I will be going back to try the full tasting menu at a date in the not so distant future, hopefully with some company to share this great experience.

So thank you to Michael, Bruno and there staff for a wonderful experience and thank you for Danny Pecorelli for his time during my meal also was a pleasure to meet you.

Remember live to eat don’t eat to live

Friday, 8 April 2011

Le Gavroche

Le Gavroche!

 Right how to start this post; well I have wanted to go to le gavroche since I started in a kitchen a little under 13 years ago. Being a trainee chef at the time I never had the money to go to the smoke and eat in a restaurant of that calibre. Then as you get older and earn abit more money it was the forward thinking restaurants like Tom Atkins and The Greenhouse where the ones I went to. So when one of my friends phoned and asked if I wanted to go to le gavroche for his birthday dinner there was no way I was going to turn that down, so we meet in London and go to shepherds market for a couple of pre dinner drinks then jump in a cab to upper brook street. When you enter you are greeted by a friendly hostess who takes you bag or coat, gents are still required to where a jacket at the table so unfortunately the jacket has to stay on but never mind I can deal with that for a few hours. You are ushered downstairs to a low light but inviting dining room, where a team of highly trained, polished waiting staff greet you, seat you and set menus in front of you. It is then you remember why you couldn’t afford to go when you where an apprentice, the prices are high but as you will read absolutely worth every penny. Then the bread arrived a choice of three types, baguette, granary and sour dough, I started with the sour dough but you are offered bread a lot here and the two types of butter were constantly topped up thought the meal. We were served our canapés on little silver tray, silver features a lot at le gavroche the first bites were very simple but tasty and nice to get something to nibble on whilst reading the menu.

 Canapés seem to have died a death in most places probably because it was done quite badly by most places and whenever a top restaurant does something that a lot of other places nowhere near the level the original is at start copying the idea, the most recent version of this is “The Noma effect” which I believe in the wrong hands is going to make people ill as chefs with no really knowledge or prior experience go wandering around they local parks picking things they not sure about, I’ve just bought Miles Iwings “The forager Handbook” and have been reading some of it every day but still won’t be going out picking till I find someone with more experience to go with just to be safe. For our amuse bouche we had salt cod brandade served as a little breaded ball and an artichoke soup, delicate flavours but very well.

 For my starter I had roasted bone marrow & air dried ham salad, I love bone marrow so this course was a no brainer for me. Crisp, sweet and plump bits of bone marrow served in a split bone with slices of air dried ham and micro herb salad. 

My two dinner companions had the duck and foie gras pancake and veal belly with crispy egg both had them eating in near silence which normally indicates a great dish. For my main I course the assiette of pork consisting of pork loin on the bone, belly and bath chap served with Tartiflette,

 my friend also had this and his lady enjoyed one of the days specials of roasted rump of lamb, asparagus and wild garlic jus again beautifully presented after being carved tableside.

 Next up the desserts now I chose and chocolate dessert with dark chocolate mousse, chocolate ice cream and puffed rice great little pudding and a nice sweet way to finish the meal.

 Ben had cheese well he shared the cheese with me and had half my chocolate too, the cheeseboard at le gavroche is something to behold as well at least 25 cheese on the board and we were asked to pick 6 sample served with celery, onion chutney and crisp walnut bread, for her dessert jo decided to have the gavroche assiette of desserts to many desserts on this to say but the rum baba was so soaked in rum you probably shouldn’t drive after eating it.

 Finally we are served petit fours of coated walnuts and nougat again beautiful but so stuffed by this point I couldn’t have anything else. After all this we were asked if we would like a tour of the kitchen which we accepted of course, then the manager came over and told us it would be 15 minutes as the kitchen were still serving mains at this point which was no problem for us but he bought us over a little drop to while away the time. 

Kitchen tour done, chefs meet and thanked it was time to settle up and be on our merry way, as I said earlier le gavroche is not cheap but is worth every single penny you will hand over. As I have not mentioned it yet the sommelier is very chilled out and is really great with her time and picked the wines for our courses perfectly.

Remember live to eat don’t eat to live

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Kai We Care

Right as anyone on twitter will know Monday 4th april was the date of kaiwecare which was in short a fundraising event for the earthquake fund for Christchurch, new Zealand. It saw 9 course with matching wines being served by a team of over 40 chefs and 40 front of house staff. The 9 courses where assigned to a team of 2 or 3 lead chefs with the rest of us assigned to one of there teams.

the menu for the event was 

Selection of artisanal breads (potato, seeded, spelt) from the Isle of Skye Baking Company with British butter 

Pre starter:
‘Beetroot’ Simon Hulstone
Tasting of beetroot textures with elderflower curd.

‘Pork and truffle’ Dominic Chapman; Adam Gray
Rare breed pork ‘Scotch egg’, warm tartare sauce, pea shoots.
English quail and summer truffle pie with buttered kohlrabi 
‘Fish’ Russell Brown; Adrian Oliver; Kieran Smith
Saffron-poached tiger prawns with piquillo pepper salsa, sherry reduction, olive oil foam 

Main Course:
‘Lamb’ Mark Poynton; Russell Bateman
Slow cooked NZ lamb, broccoli puree, smoked garlic, Olde Yorke cheese, almonds, wild garlic jus 

‘Eggs and Soldiers’ Alex Wood; Ben Goldsmith; Darren Goodwin
Coconut white, carrot yolk, carrot juice toast 

‘Chocolate orange’ Matt Tomkinson; Mark Lloyd; Tom Kneale
Dark chocolate delice, lavender ice cream, burnt orange syrup 

Marcus Bean, Johnny Mountain
Goats cheese pannacotta & artisan cheeses; Bournes Cheshire, Stichelton, Cenarth brie. Served with quince jelly, spiced apple chutney, cheese tuilles, oatcakes, fruit crisps. 
(no cheese photo, sorry)
Petit Fours & macaroons
 Luke Mackay; Edd Kimber
Pistachio macaroons with saffron butter cream; Rosewater and raspberry macaroons; Rhubarb and hibiscus fruit pastille; Salted Dulce de Leche milk chocolate truffle

I was assigned to Mark Poyton of Alimentum restaurant in Cambridge & Russell Bateman of Collette’s at the grove, Hertfordshire with us was Alyn Williams who is opening his own restaurant in the Westbury hotel, Mayfair later this year and Matthew Adams who will explain his love of food and all things here

Mark and Russell had been given the main course for the event using New Zealand lamb, they decided to do
Slow cooked NZ lamb, broccoli puree, smoked garlic, Olde Yorke cheese, almonds, wild garlic jus

A great day was had by all involved and was a great place to put faces to alot of the guys and girls i follow on twitter, many beverages where consumed in the bar after and lots of tales and banter from all the chefs involved. It ended up being a really great day and raised about 60k for the charity which is nothing to be sneezed at. The event was well covered by mark at the staff canteen and the girls from the caterer so im sure lots more photos and items are going to be forth coming, the photos i have used on this post are from and all credit for them goes to him.

Right time to get ready for London and le gavroche tonight, so another restaurant review post will be on here shortly. Thanks for taking the time to read this as the event took a hell of a lot of organising but a big well done for all the people who gave their time up to work at the kaiwecare dinner great to meet you all.

Remember live to eat don’t eat to live