Sunday, 2 September 2012

Stage at the Pass

Well here we are at the end of the summer (I hope not, got a week off coming up), work has started to pick up in numbers with people going back to the office and conference season stating again. The new ala carte menu and my new fixed price menu is going down well with numbers picking up in the evening in the restaurant and bar, which in turn keeps the bosses happy.

What else is new, well I have just spent 3 days working with Matt Gillan and his team at the Pass Restaurant, south lodge hotel. Yes its also the last place I wrote about on here so that goes to show you how highly I regarded that meal.

Arriving on my first day I meet the team and cracked on with some prep, the only real way to learn something is to get involved and get your hands dirty. I spent the first day with Donna and Caz on garnish, a great insight into the way Matt puts his plates together, full on flavors cooked a variety of ways using modern and traditional methods to create perfect results.

The second day was spent helping Ben on meat and fish, this day brought 6 kilos of langoustines to prep meaning I had shredded my hands come the end of that job but I also got to prep a goat for the first time as the guys changed the main course on one of matts tasting menus whilst I was there.

My final day I helped Charlie on pastry although with Charlie about during service you have to be quick or else he would plate everything whilst holding his own section down (a sight to behold, Charlie in full flow). First job we made the restaurants bread a small loaf per person but containing 4 separate balls of dough 2 white 2 brown all made from a starter that has been on the go for a while giving it a really nice but subtle sour taste.

In a nutshell I had an amazing 3 days with a great team of chefs, they were all very helpful and always happy to explain why or how they did something.

A special thanks to Matts sous chef Jonny whom I spent all 6 services at the pass, for his patience and for letting me help plate whenever possible.

For anyone who has not eaten at the Pass yet I suggest you get down there soon. That team is on fire and being lead by one of the most driven young chefs I have met, trust me the food really is worth the trip regardless of where your driving from.

So to end this post, a recipe from my new menu we serve this with hazelnuts, beetroot, sour cream and fennel.

Beetroot & vodka gravlax

1000g       salmon fillet (skin on)
600g         cooked beetroot (purred)
100ml       vodka
400g         sea salt
400g         sugar

Place salmon in a tray lined with cling film, rub the vodka into the fish.  Then mix together sugar and sea salt, spread evenly over the salmon and pour over the pureed beetroot.  Wrap tightly in cling film, leave in the fridge for at least 48 hours.  Take off the cling film out rinse off marinade, leave in fridge uncovered to dry for 2 hours, and then slice as needed.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Pass At South Lodge Hotel

The pass, what can I say about Matt Gillan cooking that has not already been said, probably nothing but he ho will give it a go.

Also to those that complain my post are always positive and I never have a bad meal, that’s simply not true I just choose not to blog these as who am I to judge others on what there are trying to do. I may comment to the restaurant on the day I am there but don’t feel posting a negative review helps anyone in the long run and just makes peoples lives more difficult. So I choose to eat in proven restaurants as with limited time off and funds to eat out I don’t really want to be disappointed, right rant out the way lets crack on with what was an exceptional lunch.

I choose to go for the gourmet experience that at £35 a head is superb value for money considering you are eating Michelin star food.Talking to matt about his Michelin star its was humbling to hear him talk about winning the star again this year not just retaining it which goes to show the frame of mind and the commitment in that kitchen. Matt also talks very highly of his executive chef Lewis Hamblet and the support he gets from him, I was lucky enough to meet Lewis during my meal and you can tell he is immensely proud of what his boys and girls are achieving not just at the pass but in the camellia restaurant and across the whole food and beverage team at South lodge hotel.

First up was some canapés, sorry matt if I get some of the descriptions wrong but I was distracted watching the kitchen in full flow whilst having the dishes explained to me, but I remember the truffle cream cheese fondly.

The bread arrived and something I had not seen before was bread loaves made with both white and brown bread with the loaf, very clever but more importantly very tasty.

This was followed by an amuse bouche of white onion veloute Garnished with lovely little garlic chips and hiding all sorts of textural element’s underneath. The veloute was creamy and rich without being overpowering.

The first course of the menu proper – pressed rabbit leg, aubergine puree & gingerbread parfait, hot crisp bread rabbit leg, cool but sweet aubergine and a liver parfait packed with flavor, the gingerbread crumb adding a nice spice note to the dish.

Up next was the stand out dish of lunch for me – roasted sea bass, spring onions chickpeas & watercress. Perfectly seasoned and cooked sea bass, a film of onion jelly encapsulating the fish, a powerful watercress puree that almost acted as a palate cleanser and then chick peas chopped down adding a bite and some light spice to the dish, as I said STAND OUT DISH worth the trip just to eat this.

Meat course next- rump of beef, poached rhubarb, Jerusalem artichoke, hispi & golden beetroot, not really expecting anything else but never the less again perfect cooking of the beef meant that this under used cut was sweet and tender whilst fully flavored. The garnish worked really well with the rhubarb giving a nice acidic note to help cut the richness, silky smooth Jerusalem artichoke puree and hispi cabbage cooked melting tender but still retaining freshness is a skill in its self.

First of the dessert course was –lime jelly, mango & coconut sorbet, a real palate cleanser but the coconut sorbet with enough sweetness to stand up to the sharper flavors of mango and lime.

Final course – apple parfait, caramel, apple sorbet & crumble, classic flavors but giving a new lease of life, spent about 30 seconds trying to work out where the caramel was then broke into the parfait and found it encased in the middle, stunning dessert because its something your palate recognizes from somewhere in your past but in a completely new style.

Of course you have to have a coffee and sample the petite fours and these too where top notch, the service team do a great job at explaining the restaurant and who is working where so you get a real feel for the place and how proud everyone involved is.

I will defiantly be going back, hopefully first to do a stage and see it from the other side but also as a customer as in my opinion this is easily the best restaurant in Sussex 

Remember live to eat don't eat to live

Friday, 24 February 2012

Drakes Restaurant, A Fine Lunch in Ripley

So time for another blog post and yes again it’s about a meal out, now I have been to Steve Drakes restaurant once before but that was 5 years ago before the refit and it was a very good meal in fact my wife still talks about the seabass dish see had. I choose Drakes as I was taking a friend and his two brothers out and they had booked petersham nursery the day before and I wanted to show them a different style.

Steve’s food was never heavy but he has refined and in my opinion relaxed the amount he puts on the plate, which creates a light, unfussy but above all incredibly tasty plates of food. The dining room has had a makeover and is all on one level now and is much lighter than before, it’s a very nice place to sit enjoy great food and good company. Ok on to the food then we went for the  surprise six course flavour journey menu which for £45 at lunch is fantastic value, so if I have got any of these descriptions wrong Steve I’m sorry.

We started with venison scratching, home cured venison. Light, crunchy and thoughly delightful first bite and its shows the way Steve thinks about food, playful yet very clever.

Next up was red mullet, pearl barley risotto, mushroom soil & charred spring onion. The fish was cooked to absolute perfection and two of the group I ate with that day declared this their favourite dish.

 Quail, foie gras, rhubarb & broccoli. My favourite dish of the meal, beautiful quail and full flavoured rhubarb done a couple of ways with a little roasted foie gras a death row dish if ever I need one. To go with this we were served a sweetcorn soup, packed full of flavour.

 Turbot, beetroot & grilled fennel, two little pieces of turbot that had been fused together to create a thicker piece easier to cook and nicer to eat, three different beetroots candy, golden and garden beet together with grilled fennel.

 Bitter sweet beef, bacon powder, carrot puree, duck fat carrot & blood orange. Our main course the beef had been marinade and slow cooked this produced beef that was fork tender and packed full of flavour, the carrot cooked in duck fat had a wonderful meaty taste and the blood orange helped clean the palate.

 Roasted figs, goats cheese sorbet; this was explained to us as the transitional dish to cross from savoury to sweet. Roasted figs are very nice but the goats cheese sorbet was mind blowing, this dish got talked about for the rest of the day.

 Parsnip parfait, sorrel ice, blackberries & natural yogurt foam, dessert and not what I was expecting at all but again brilliantly executed, clean parsnip flavour, tasty blackberries & fresh sorrel ice.

To go with lunch we ordered a bottle of sauvignon Blanc form New Zealand and a melbec from Argentina, both good value and very tasty.

Remember live to eat don’t eat to live

Thursday, 26 January 2012


So here we are in 2012, what has this year got in store for us? Who knows more challenging times but hopefully happier times, this time last year my head was filled with all the stuff I had to do for my wedding. No wedding this year thankfully but still lots to look forward to and lots of planning, have spent the last week trying to get our new ala carte and bar menus at work looking right, balanced and appetising then of course the fun of menu costing but that is all done now so just waiting for the green light to get it in and crack on. Looking forward to spring and all the foodie bounty that it brings, spring always make going to work more fun and gets the creative thoughts flowing stronger (well for me anyway).

 As a little treat after Christmas I had lunch at Plateau. Plateau is a D&D restaurant in canary wharf, head chef Allan pickett is a properly talented guy and served us some beautiful food, the service here was excellent too and sitting looking out big windows down onto the ice rink it made for a really pleasant way to spend a few hours.

We started the meal with a glass of bubbles, always nice; the first course to serve to us at the table was a small bowl of chicken consommé- strong, clean and very aromatic it was a lovely little first taste to set us up for what was to follow.

As I was dining with a friend we were served to different dishes at some courses and of course as you do we ate half the swapped.
Up next where poached sea scallops, vermouth cream, now I love scallops and was not disappointed in this dish. Great strong taste of the sea.

Salt baked beetroot with hand rolled goats cheese, red vein sorrel, beetroot and goats cheese is a great pairing and he it was very well done.

Hot foie gras, Savoy cabbage and poached Yorkshire rhubarb, ginger breadcrumb, now I enjoy foie gras and this dish was one of the best hot preparations of foie gras that I have had. My dining partner has still not shut up about this and it really was the stand out dish for him.

My standout dish arrived next- Cassoulet of cod with piquillo peppers and chorizo. Full of flavour and robust because of the piquillo and chorizo but you could still taste the cod (cheeks) though it all layers of flavour.

As we were having cheeks in one dish Allan sent out- Daube of beef, ginger infused carrots, creamed potatoes made with cheek again, great full flavour meat and the best creamed potatoes I have had in a restaurant ever.

This was the point in the meal when the person I was eating with that day (it was chicken chef to those of you who know him) asked how much more was coming, honestly I didn’t know and at this point was having too much fun to worry.

Stone bass, Cavelo Nero cabbage with clams and saffron veloute arrived next flanked by Goosnargh duck, braised endive, port cooked radish, coriander cress. Two well executed dishes that followed the cheek dishes nicely, the bass and duck both seasoned and cooked perfectly, lovely little clams with the bass and nicely braised endive still with a little bite and good flavour

Our final savoury course was a lovely plate of cheese with thinly sliced bread, crisp bread.

Dessert up next we had two dishes again, Lemon posset, kalamansi jelly and crush this was very refreshing but I found the jelly a little to sour, the posset underneath was heavenly though.

My favourite of the two was Crème brulee, bitter cherry sorbet, beautiful flavour, beautiful texture and a great cherry sorbet on top, what more could you ask for.

Finally coffee and petit fours and another chat with Allan, who had been good enough to show us around the restaurant and kitchen before we sat for lunch.

So a quick thank you to Allan pickett and his team for a great meal. Hope to see you again soon.

 Remember live to eat don’t eat to live