Taste of London 2012 food safari dinner

Menu from a food safari to explore what Taste of London 2012 has to offer, including visits to The Beaufort Bar (The Savoy), The River Restaurant (The Savoy), Gordon Ramsay‘s Maze and Theo Randall at The Intercontinental, with wines matched by The Wine Tipster Neil Phillips:

The Beaufort Bar

Taste of Savoy

The River Restaurant, The Savoy

Slow cooked pork belly, prawn Carpaccio with citrus

Henri Martischang Pinot Gris 2010, Alsace, France


Braised beef featherblade, smoked onion puree, shimiji mushrooms and togarashi spice

Tannat Libero 2010, De Lucca, Uruguay

Theo Randall at The Intercontinental

Soft Chocolate cake with crema di mascarpone

Castello della Sala, Muffato della Sala 2009 Umbria, Italy




Après Ski at Le Café Anglais, Bayswater, Review

8 Porchester Gardens, London W2 4DB www.lecafeanglais.co.uk

Seafood platter at Le Café Anglais

Après ski is such a foreign concept, not least because I’ve never skied before; preferring, instead, to indulge in sun appreciation on the beach. Occasionally I think, wouldn’t it be great fun if I went skiing? Then upon closer examination would realise how wrong I was. Plodding along in the freezing cold and falling over a couple of times every now and then? No thanks, that sounds like the worst thing. Ever.

But if Wikipedia is to be believed, Après Ski is filled with joy, warmth and copious amounts of wine. Oh yeah, and the occasional raclette or something. Basically, a jolly good shin-dig.

Naturally, an invitation to get in on some Après Ski action at Le Café Anglais wasn’t to be rejected.

I first became aware of Le Café Anglais when I was interning at the FT Weekend Magazine, before I ever started writing about food. Rowley Leigh had, and still does, a weekly column in the weekend paper (now part of the magazine) of recipes which I devoured. It was one of those moments when you sort of thought, when I grow up, I want to be just like Rowley Leigh.

Charcuterie platter at Le Café Anglais

I’ve never had a bad time at Le Café Anglais either. The menu has always been unexpected and Rowley Leigh gliding somewhere between the kitchen, the pass and the room. And it was always the place for firsts too. First taste of dandelions, first try of Kumamoto oysters (now my favourites) and now my first experience of Après Ski, sans le ski of course.

True to the nature of Après Ski, the evening was rambunctious. Well a little bit tamer, perhaps. But raclette was consumed, charcuterie was lapped up, tarte tatin was dug in and wine was sunk. Rowley Leigh came, greeted, revealed that he liked to indulge in some light blog reading in his spare time before disappearing off into the kitchens. Left at the table were happy diners liberally sharing information.

Returning much later, Rowley Leigh whispers that Samantha Cameron’s dad was in the room. This man clearly had his eyes on the room. That was pretty exciting. But it was soon toppled when Gordon Ramsay walked in with Matthew Freud. Just another Thursday night in Bayswater? Well probably but certainly just another evening in Le Café Anglais.

Absolute Taste Masterclass at Harvey Nichols

Absolute Taste at Harvey Nichols, 109-125 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7RJ www.absolutetaste.com

Last week I was invited to try my hand at making a few “F1 quality” nibbles at Absolute Taste at Harvey Nichols. The F1 quality is not to blow my own horn of course but rather because Absolute Taste started out as a hospitality company catering to the VIP guests of Vodafone McLaren Mercedes around the world.

Founded in 1997, Absolute Taste was the brain-child of Ron Dennis and Lyndy Redding with an objective to create contemporary and delicious food that’s presented with style. The success of their venture was led by their growing reputation for stylishly good food and professional service.

Absolute Taste canapes

Since their launch, Absolute Taste have successfully branched out into other fields including Absolute Taste Inflight, Cafés by Absolute Taste, Gordon Ramsay by Absolute Taste and most recently Absolute Taste at Harvey Nichols which opened in May this year.

Our little cookery class was led by Executive Chef Will Gould and Head Chef Andy Ritchie and took place at the kitchens of Absolute Taste at Harvey Nichols. Located on the Fifth Floor and tucked away behind the Foodhall, this was the perfect little spot to make the mistakes not normally made in an Absolute Taste kitchen.

Pizza made by Qin Xie

First up was pizza making with Andy. I must admit, I’ve made a few pizzas in my time but never with so much autonomy in a professional kitchen. Andy quickly put one together and then pretty much left us to our rustic creativity. Mozzarella balls, olives, parma ham, and chorizo all went on to my hand rolled and slightly square pizza base. In fact, my entire pizza was a little “square” with its not very rustic attempt at perfection. Rest assured though, my pizza moving skills are far below par so the result is still fairly rustic. Three minutes in the amazing pizza oven and we had dinner part one. Topped with a sprinkling of rocket leaves and a drizzle of truffle oil, my pizza was looking good and tasting even better.

Group making rice paper rolls

After a quick munch it was on to the rice paper rolls with Will. He led us through the ingredients like yellow fin tuna and of course the rice paper itself. Putting whole mint leaves along with the basil into the paper rolls helped to protect the soaked rice paper from tearing. It was then topped with the sushi grade tuna, cucumber, carrots and avocado and rolled as tightly as possible to create the rice paper rolls. The wasabi was optional but the result was very sushi like. So much so in fact, it’s sometimes served as a substitute for sushi for those who don’t like the taste of seaweed. Well I quite like sushi but these were also rather good. The mint leaves were a very unusual addition and definitely gave the whole thing a much more refreshing mouth-feel.

So what did I learn from my experience? When making pizza, don’t try to be neat – the rustic pizza will prevail. And though my efforts weren’t quite F1 quality, they did taste wonderful.

Absolute Taste at Harvey Nichols is now open on the fifth floor for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and nibbles from 9am-7pm on Monday to Saturday, and 12-6pm on Sundays.

(First seen on Foodepedia)

‘Gourmet food for a fiver’ by Jason Atherton

Gourmet food for a fiver by Jason AthertonWhen you’re looking through a book titled Gourmet Food for a Fiver, you find yourself going through a spectrum of thoughts.

To start, there is scepticism. Given the current economic climate, food on a budget isn’t exactly a novel concept. The whole phrase ‘current economic climate’ is probably exhausted by now. Besides, Ready Steady Cook has been running £5 ingredient bags for years. But gourmet food on a budget?

As this is Jason Atherton’s book, it is believable and unbelievable at the same time. Jason Atherton has worked at a string of notable restaurants including La Tante Claire, Chez Nico and Restaurant Marco Pierre White. Until recently, he was executive chef at London’s Maze, a Michelin starred member of Gordon Ramsay Holdings. His first restaurant, Pollen Street Social, is due to open shortly in January 2011 and is hotly anticipated by the foodie crowd. Knowing all this about the author, there are no doubts over the gourmet aspect of the food. Instead, you’re left with intrigue. How does Michelin star quality marry up with budget?

The book is split into two main sections, savoury and sweet. The savoury section contains both starters and mains, some of which are interchangeable. The sweet section is of course only desserts. All the recipes have the ingredients, the method and a little note on the recipe on one page. On the page opposite is the beautifully photographed dish with the plating instructions. Most of the recipes are scaled for four people with the odd pie and tart being divisible by more. Atherton promises that any two course meal from this book can be made for under £5 per person, whether it be a starter and a main or a main and dessert.

I’m a main and dessert sort of person so I flip through to find something I’d want to eat. After a quick browse in my local Sainsbury’s and then a few taps on the calculator, I’ve found myself a budget meal for four. For the main I chose lamb steaks with pomegranate, avocado and Arabic bread (£12.35) and for dessert it was banana cake with lemongrass and ginger custard (£4.61). The ingredients I picked were mid-range, nothing basic and nothing overtly extravagant. For four people, this comes to just £4.24 per person. It definitely falls within the budget. That said, certain ingredients were discounted because they were considered “essential to the home larder and are mostly used in small quantities”. Well some, like white wine vinegar for example, were part of Atherton’s store cupboard but not my own.

Culinary skills aside, the food was in fairly small portions so it’s just as well that there are two courses. But the instructions were easy enough and there were no unusual techniques involved.

Looking through the rest of the book, it’s impossible not to notice the number of fish recipes. Atherton is clearly a fan of seafood and dessert. What is particularly nice, though, is that most of the ingredients were accessible and things that I might buy anyway. Overall, this collection of recipes presented an interesting mix of ingredients, creating some unusual pairings. It’s definitely something to reference for inspiration.