Bringing a taste of Barcelona’s La Boqueria  market and local cooking to London – that was the aim of Streets of Spain, a combined food market and cultural event held at London’s Southbank over the first May bank holiday weekend. Sponsored by Spanish wine producers Campo Viejo, the event saw a (fairly small) selection of traders from La Boqueria set up their stalls at one end of the far larger Real Food Market that extended from Royal Festival Hall to the London Eye.

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As part of the event, renowned Spanish chef Angel Pascual presented a special tasting menu in a three night popup restaurant.

Until 2011 when it closed its doors, Pascual was at the helm of the michelin-starred Lluçanès Restaurant which he and partner Rosa Morera originally opened in Osana, Catalonia in 1991 but relocated to Barcelona in 2006. Once there, they also opened a second restaurant, Els Fogons serving affordable traditional tapas.

Now they run a catering business that also provides consultancy, cooking classes and demonstrations.

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In a space that looks like it was converted from parking or warehouse space (and is now regularly used for similar popup events organised by the Southbank Centre), we discovered a small bar and a tiny temporary kitchen on a raised platform over-looking an expansive dining area.

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Each evening was organised into two sittings – we were part of the first. Despite the tiny kitchen and 40 diners per sitting, dishes came out at perfect intervals in a clearly choreographed performance between chefs and waiters. As the waiters delivered dishes to each table, they were followed around by colleagues who introduced and poured matching wines for each course.

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Horse mackerel and guacamole with a bloody Mary sauce

Before the menu proper, came an amuse. In a martini glass was a small slice of horse mackerel that had been lightly salted and dried. Served over an intense smooth guacamole, topped with sweet sharp tomato sauce, it was a cross between cocktail and canape. The mackerel was as soft as sashimi. The Campo Viejo Cava Rose served with it was a touch sweeter than the white Cava Brut we tried later, but still crisp.

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Sopa cremosa de comenillas con huevo de cordoniz cocido a baja temperatura

The first course listed on the menu was “seasonal wild mushrooms stuffed with traditional Spanish black pudding, served with quail egg in a cream of mushroom sauce” and served with the Cava Brut.

The morel mushroom was superbly flavoured, as was the rich cream of mushroom soup but neither of us could detect any hint of black pudding within the stuffing. The dryer cava cut through the richness well and gave Pete a faint impression of lemon sherbet.

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Mil hojas de verduras i setas de temporada

The next course was translated on the menu as “a variety of layered season vegetables accompanied with a potato parmentier sauce  and drizzled with a flavoursome vegetable reduction”. The matched wine was Campo Viejo Tempranillo 2011. I always bristle a little when menus describe a dish as tasty, flavoursome or delicious – it always seems a little too presumptious to me. Still…

Although it looked pretty on the plate, the layering, with crisp pastry-like potato on top, made it difficult to eat without it splatting out across the plate. That aside, it was delicious, and noteworthy for how intensely Pascual made each vegetable sing of itself. Courgette was intensely courgette, aubergine intensely aubergine, and the same went for carrot and mushrooms. I thought the rosemary a touch strong but it balanced with the white sauce and oil which both, contrary to the expectations given by the menu, tasted of very little.

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Arroz de barca especiado un punto picante com gambas de la Ionja de la Barceloneta

With the prawn head standing to attention, I watched the next course of “smoked risotto cooked with prawns fresh from the Barceloneta market – served a little spicy for added kick” being served to the tables around us.

Staff were a little slow to serve the Campo Viejo Reserva 2007 but perhaps that was because they took more time to explain the choice to match a red wine to the fish dish. Brand ambassador and head sommelier Alfredo Del Rio, when he spoke to us later, was keen to make much of how bold and rare a choice it was to pair fish with red, but really it’s not quite as unusual as he implied. Still, with such strong flavours, it made good sense.

The flavour of the risotto was far more successful than the texture, which we found intensely chalky, almost gritty and let the dish down for us. On the other hand, the rice carried a strong taste of the sea, which worked well against the very sweet and soft prawn. I yearned for more actual seafood; Pete’s dish had a full prawn, albeit a small one but mine must have broken during the cooking and what remained was the size of a newborn’s thumb.

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Texturas y temperaturas de ave cerdo y ternera con verduras del tiempo a la brasa

The meat course was “a selection of duck, pork and beef with grilled seasonal vegetables” served with Gran Reserva 2005 and was a very mixed course for me.

I loved the simplicity of the presentation, and on first glance the pork looked particularly good. Sadly, when I moved to eat it, I discovered that nearly the entire piece was bone and cartilage and there was just a thin sliver of meat and a soft and unpleasantly chewy skin. Luckily, the beef, incredibly tender and well flavoured, and the duck, like a slice of fall-apart sausage made from confit of duck, were super.

Better still were the vegetables (and fruit); it’s my abiding impression that this is where Pascual truly shines. A single slice of apple was at the same time yieldingly soft yet with the thinnest layer of crispness around its exterior. A slice of artichoke had great intensity of flavour but none of the unpleasant fibres that can sometimes lessen the pleasure. A small cube of potato was beautifully cooked and delicious.

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Bombon de chocolate, sonoro, explosive y tonificante

Described on the menu as “a rich chocolate ingot served with peppermint and an explosive surprise” this disappointed in part because of the damp squib when it came to the surprise element. The popping candy in both our chocolates was so meagre as to give only the merest hint of a snap; certainly a far cry from anything explosive as promised.

Served with the same Cava Rose as the amuse bouche, the best element on the plate was the peppermint foam which was thicker and a touch less ephemeral than the usual fine dining foams are wont to be. The orange jelly was ok too, perhaps blood orange or pink grapegruit. I didn’t feel any of the three elements worked together very well and found the dessert disappointing.

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During the meal, I visited the open kitchen to watch the chefs at work. Angel Pascual was joined by a respected chef from La Boqueria – I was told that she runs a casual restaurant within the market area, serving dishes based on produce sold at the family stall. I’m afraid, I didn’t make a note of her name.

We were also able to chat further to Alfredo Del Rio, who generously invited us to sample some additional Campo Viejo wines which had not been included in the menu. The first was Dominio, which he explained was the premium wine made by the brand, made from grapes grown on just 5 parcels out of the 800 parcels of land that make up the vineyard. Aged in only new French oak barrels for 11 months, it’s young but rich for its age. Pete described it as smooth yet gloriously, lip-puckeringly tannic with tart fresh black fruit. The second was Graciano, not sold in its own right but one of the blends that makes up about 5% of the Gran Reserva served with the meat course. It’s an indigenous varietal, not one that we’d heard of before, and had strong black and blue berry flavours, a dark colour and strong tannin.

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With coffee after the meal, the menu was priced at £65 a head, including the matching wines.

Although we didn’t love every aspect of each dish, we enjoyed the meal thoroughly, not least because of Pascual’s mastery of making vegetables sing and his tendency to let the flavours of the ingredients talk for themselves.

 

Kavey Eats were guests of Campo Viejo.

 

Dave aka Cork Gourmet Guy is a friend of mine and he’s also a bloody good chef. So when he announced his Burger Breakout popup, it went straight into the diary.

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It was hosted at 06 St Chad’s Place, a stunning space that was once a train repair shed and has been transformed by the architectural group that own it. It was a great venue from the customer point of view but I know that very limited kitchen space and, more importantly, cold storage, made it difficult for Dave and his kitchen helpers.

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Dave had designed 5 burgers, all priced at £11 including a side portion of chips. Deep fried pickles, burger slaw and extra chips could also be ordered.

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Perhaps a little overexcited by the arrival of summer, after so many months of rain, I ordered an entire (enormous) pitcher of Pimm’s for myself. Various beers were available at the bar, and the normal range of other stuff.

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Pete and I shared two burgers, the first of which was named The Bambi Bought It. Served in Dave’s choice of sourdough bun (for stability), this was a juicy Cornish venison patty with beetroot pickle, Cornish brie and Dave’s rather special quince & chocolate BBQ sauce. The sauce was thick, like Marmite, or perhaps closer to tar, and very intense, but worked superbly against the sweet sharp pickle and creamy cheese. The chips were a little over salted for me, but still excellent.

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Our second burger was The Whiskey Beast. (Dave used Jim Beam, I think, so yes, whiskey with an “e”. Plus he’s Irish, so you know, fair play!) This one, also in the sourdough bun, contained a dry aged Cornish beef patty, smoked bacon, Cornish blue cheese and Dave’s whiskey mustard. Perfectly cooked beef, a good balance of condiments and that sweet sharp kicker of mustard sauce, with just the faintest hint of whiskey, this was also a bloody good burger!

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The burger slaw didn’t work for me – too much mustard and not enough crunch. But the deep fried deli pickle in dill batter more than made up for it, served piping hot, these were intensely juicy and sharp with the lovely crisp coating of batter. I’d have preferred smaller pieces, to get slightly more batter to pickle, but they were superb as was.

 

Meat and fish were provided by Cornish Grill, suppliers of Cornish produce to London restaurants. They’ve also hosted a series of popups themselves over the last few months.

 

To keep up to date with further Burger Breakout dates, follow Dave on twitter or subscribe to his blog.

Jun 202012
 

A few weeks ago, I won dinner for two at the Bukhara popup. Much like it’s real home in Delhi, the popup version was located within a posh hotel, this time in Knightsbridge.

Head chef Manjit Gill came over to London to oversee the popup himself and three special tandoori oven were installed for the occasion.

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On arrival in the room itself, I was a little disappointed. Despite the enormous velour-covered green elephant outside the entrance and the namaste greeting on arrival, the “restaurant” still looked very much like the conference room it usually is. It was also so dark I could hardly see the menu, even though the sun was still gloriously high in the sky outside. We asked for the curtain behind our table to be opened a little, which improved things no end.

To my surprise, most of the other tables were empty, and even by the time we left, over half of them were still without diners. Apparently, although the tickets sold out quickly, the organisers were disappointed by a high number of no shows, though given that no payment was taken on booking, this isn’t a huge surprise. A shame, given that there were many people who expressed interest in attending but weren’t able to nab a reservation.

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I was very excited to try the food, as I’ve long since wanted to visit the original in New Delhi, where several family members live. Somehow, I’ve never been, in all my visits to India.

Two set menus were available, a meat and seafood one priced at £79 per person and a vegetarian one at £59.

First, we were served with enormous juicy jumbo prawns and malai chicken, both cooked in the tandoor. These came with a bowl of thick tasty raita, a plate of assorted breads and a bowl each of rich, ghee-laden dal. The prawns and chicken were not only full of flavour but also wonderfully succulent, always a tricky balance to achieve in a tandoor and the sign of an experienced tandoor chef.

Later we were served a dish with a pile of pulled tandoori lamb and unusual stuffed potatoes, formed to resemble marrow bones, it seemed to me. I liked the cumin-heavy spicing on the lamb but found the meat much too dry. The potato oddities were pleasant, if unusual. We were offered more breads and daal, if we wanted – I thought that a nice touch, though given the pricing, generosity was definitely on the cards.

Lastly, though we were already full, was a dessert of gulab jamon and phirni – fried sponge dumplings soaked in sweet syrup and ground rice pudding infused with cardamom. Both were excellent, particularly because the kitchen resisted the temptation to make them as tooth-achingly sweet as usual.

We finished with masala chai.

Full and happy, we waddled out, patting Nimbu the elephant goodbye (yes, I named him) as we went.

It was a wonderful meal, but the organisation seemed lacklustre as did the decoration of the conference venue location. Certainly there was press coverage, but much of it was published some days into the short two week stint, making me wonder whether the entire exercise was more about Bukhara being able to say they hosted a London popup than about really showcasing the best of Indian cooking to a receptive audience.

Perhaps Bukhara are considering opening a permanent London outpost and were dipping their toes in the water?

 
Brunch

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One fine and sunny Saturday morning, earlier this month, I made my way to London Fields to enjoy a very fine brunch organised by Jordans Cereals and laid on by the lovely Uyen of the Fernandez & Leluu supper club.

The brunch was to introduce a group of us to the latest product from Jordans Cereals, their Creations Range. As well as trying the two new cereals, we were also treated to a huge selection of goodies from the most incredible lobster salad (with a genius passion fruit, lime and honey dressing) to home-made bacon and cheese pastry whirls, quiches and muffins and more, not to mention the tea, coffee, juices and prosecco – yes, prosecco in the morning! Oh and some fabulous panna cotta to finish…

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Conservation Grade

16 months ago I met some of the Jordans Cereal team, including one of the founders, Bill Jordan.

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I had lots and lots of fun using some of their Country Crisp cereal in a cake recipe, learning about how the product was developed and making up my own perfect combination of ingredients to take home in a box with my face on it!

I was particularly happy to learn, from Bill, that all the cereal used in Jordans Cereals is grown to Conservation Grade (by more than 50 farmers around Britain). What this means is that the farmers are paid a premium for their produce in return for creating nature-friendly habitats on 10% of their farmed land, thereby encouraging biodiversity – they plant wildflowers, clover and other plants to provide pollen, nectar and food for insects and birds, provide grassland habitat that will shelter spiders, beetles and small mammals and support wildlife by retaining hedges, ditches, old barns, ponds and woodland. As a very keen wildlife enthusiast and amateur wildlife photographer, wildlife and habitat conservation is a cause I’m passionate about, so this initiative is something that makes me very happy indeed. You can learn more at the Conservation Grade website.

Creations

Like their other products, the Creation range is made from Conservation Grade oats and all the other ingredients used also adhere to high environmental standards, with no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or GMOs.

Whereas the original granola range is super crunchy (which I really love) and the Country Crisp range gives a much lighter, puffier crunch (which I like, but not as much as the original granola), the new Creations cereals are soft and chewy. The oats are toasted lightly, sweetened a little with honey, combined with a little oil (to soften and preserve without the aid of artificial preserving agents) and then just a small number of ingredients such as cranberries, apples, cinnamon are added.

Ruth Fergyson, Head of New Product Development, explained that some of their potential customers find some of their cereals, those with lots of added fruits and nuts, often have an ingredient they don’t like and which puts them off. With the simpler combinations in Creations, Jordans are offering something to those consumers. The range is also designed to appeal to those who want a softer cereal than the typical hard granolas.

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The two flavours in the range so far are Juicy Cranberry & Golden Honey and Baked Apple & a Hint of Cinnamon. Of the two, I prefer the cranberry one, which surprises me as I am not usually a cranberry fan, but these are soft and sweet with just a hint of sharp that contrasts with the honey.

Getting Inventive

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Between the cereal and Uyen’s enormous feast, Rachel Kerr, Jordans’ Head of Brand Communications, invited us to try our hand at coming up with the next Creations flavour combinations using lots of ingredients provided in bowls along the table as inspiration to kick start our imaginations.

Challenge

With a beautiful green KitchenAid Artisan stand mixer offered as a prize for the winner, I quickly got my thinking cap on to see if I might be the one to suggest that perfect combination of textures and flavours for the next Creations… something that would appeal to the development team at Jordans and, most importantly, to their consumers.

I came up with a few ideas… my first one was figs with vanilla (plus the honey mixed in with the oats), a combination I think would be particularly nice to eat with natural yoghurt… I then wondered whether one could combine natural yoghurt into the cereal itself, much like those yoghurt covered nuts and dried fruit one can buy from health shops.

The next combination that jumped out at me was sticky dates with chewy toffee, a duo which works so well in sticky toffee puddings…

Ever sweet toothed, I also wondered whether a mocha combination would be pounced on by breakfast cereal eaters, or left on the shelf as being too indulgent for the morning… it would depend if they were coffee and pain au chocolat kind of people! As a big fan of mocha drinks and of coffee chocolate, I know I’d enjoy it!

But in the end, I chose to think about the adage that “what grows together goes together” and tested my favourite suggestion for a new Creations flavour:

What Grows Together Goes Together
Kavey’s Apricot & Pistachio Creation

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Pistachios are what are referred to as “culinary nuts” – not actually nuts, botanically speaking, but classified as such by our culinary usage. They likely originated in Western Asia/ the Middle East, and the region remains the main producer of pistachios today, with Iran growing more than any other nation. Their shells remind me of cupped hands, clasping the nut in a tight grasp. Cracking them open one after the other, to reveal their pretty purple-red skins and the pale green flesh inside, is part of what makes eating them so enjoyable. Pistachios taste a little like almonds, but with a softer texture and more subtle yet distinct flavour.

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Apricots are also thought to have originated in Western Asia, most likely in Armenia, though they’ve been cultivated so long, this is not altogether certain. These days, the largest producers are Turkey, Iran and Italy. Part of the prunus genus, which also includes plums, cherries, peaches and almonds, the soft amber-coloured fruits are a lovely balance of sweet and tart. Surprisingly, for a lover of fresh fruit, I adore dried apricots even more than fresh ones, particularly the meltingly soft, dark brown ones with their subtle caramel flavour and sweetness.

Interestingly, apricot kernels are widely used too – often so sweet they are substituted for almonds, and forming a key ingredient in amaretto liqueurs. Perhaps, edible apricot kernels might also be mixed into the cereal as well, for a little added crunch?

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Trying out my combination

Of course, I couldn’t propose my creation without testing it first, so I improvised. Using the cereal from my box of Juicy Cranberry & Golden Honey Creations, I discarded the cranberries (to be eaten later!) and mixed it with the Turkish apricots and Iranian pistachios I purchased especially.

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I thought the combination worked wonderfully well, both visually and in terms of taste and texture.

A lovely thought to leave you with:

The Turkish have an idiom “bundan iyisi Şam’da kayısı” the meaning of which is “it doesn’t get any better than this“. The literal translation, “the only thing better than this is an apricot in Damascus” tells you all you need to know – for something that is the very best it can be is a delicious apricot from Damascus!

 

Do you know Meemalee’s Kitchen? If not, why not? It’s one of the most entertaining food blogs I read. Go and subscribe immediately! It’s written by a dear friend of mine who describes herself as a “food fraggle” and is currently writing a Burmese cookbook.

Recently she did a Burmese Pop Up Restaurant at Mat FollasThe Wild Garlic in Beaminster, Dorset.

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Pete and I went to show our support. And also because I’m a greedy cow and fancied some of her delicious Burmese cooking.

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Meems in the kitchen

Pete and I shared a table with Mattmoo, his wife Jacqui, Nick and his Mrs Emma. Starters and dessert were served individually. Mains were served family style.

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The menu

I completely forgot to take pictures of the slightly sweet and juicy christophene fritters (also known as cheyote), the deliciously crunchy matpe bean fritters (also known as urad or black gram dal) and the wonderfully smoky charred tomato salsa.

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A photo of the matpe bean fritters from Mimi’s trial run night

We didn’t see much of Meems as she was hard at work in the kitchen, preparing the food for a full restaurant of hungry and eager diners. The atmosphere was buzzing with lots of loud chatter and laughter and many positive comments and exclamations about the food.

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Meems peeking out from the kitchen

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Wood-ear mushroom and bean-thread vermicelli soup

Next came the soup, prettily presented with it’s quail egg garnish and with a kick of heat to the back of the throat. The textures of the unfamiliar mushrooms and vermicelli noodles made this a very interesting dish.

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Green bean salad, century egg salad and fish ball salad

From left to right on the plate were green bean salad, century egg salad and fish ball salad. The green beans were mixed with a crunchy peanut sauce. The century egg was dark green and sulphurous but balanced by sweet tomato, onions, herbs and a Burmese dressing. The fish balls were combined with noodles, leaves and crunchy fried curls. Again, lots of new and unfamiliar flavour and texture combinations.

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Nick, Jacqui and Matt; cinnamon chicken curry

Mains of cinnamon chicken, mogok pork curry and tomato and coriander prawns were served family style along with a simple side dish of straw and oyster mushrooms with baby spinach, a Burmese coleslaw of shallots, onions and cabbage and a shrimp relish. And rice, onto which Mat’s team popped a flower and sprinkled a few micro herbs, the only sign of Mat’s signature styling during the evening.

The cinnamon chicken was my favourite. Beautifully tender with deft and subtle spicing, it’s aromatic flavours reminded me strongly of a cinnamon chicken curry my mum cooks which has influences from either Persia or Afghanistan.

Everything was very well received, not just by our table but by the entire restaurant. We could see people digging in all around us, though the sittings were staggered to make it a little easier for the kitchen team to cope.

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Coconut sorbet, tapioca milk and brioche

We finished with a dessert of coconut sorbet, tapioca milk and brioche which was another unfamiliar combination of textures and tastes. I rather liked it and was particularly intrigued by the way the sweetness of the coconut sorbet brought out the sourness of the brioche rather than the sweetness I normally associate with it.

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Well-deserved applause; meeting her fans

After the meal, Mat brought Meems out to introduce her to the diners and she made a short speech before thunderous applause. The shy, exhausted but delighted Chef Meems then met and greeted some of the first (but hopefully not the last) people to put down their cash for her cooking.

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Left to right: Emma, Nick, Jacqui (obscured), Matt, Meems, Kavey, Pete

We had an absolutely wonderful evening and it’s clear that the other diners felt exactly the same.

Well done, Meems – a fantastic achievement and the first of many. I can’t wait for your next pop up, not to mention your Burmese cookery book in which I hope you will share the recipes above.

 

When I first heard about Pierre Koffmann’s pop-up restaurant I was very excited! Koffmann is a living legend and, as part of the London Restaurant Festival, he is running a restaurant on the roof of Selfridges. Having never dined at La Tante Claire, I was really keen not to miss out.

Unfortunately, the festival week coincides squarely with a long-arranged overseas trip and I could only attend a single date of those initially on offer. (The pop-up has now been extended to the end of October, and it seems extremely likely it will be extended further).

Imagine my delight when I secured a lunch reservation for 2 on the first day of opening. And then an entire month of anticipation and salivation which culminated in my glorious meal today.

As Pete wasn’t able to come with me, I offered a fellow food-lover friend, Jennifer of Chocolate Ecstasy Tours, the second place and we met, giddy with expectation and hunger, outside the famous department store.

With a noon booking, we were amongst the first to arrive, and it took us a few moments to find the dedicated lift up to the roof restaurant. The doors opened to a winter grotto scene with a beautiful white light sculpture and corridor leading through to a reception area, then up into the large marquee.


stepping out of the dedicated lift

If you’re feeling nervous about the marquee element, fret no further. This is a marquee in name and shape only; solidly built, beautifully decorated and with not a breeze of cold October air, it’s warm and cosy and elegant.

The dining space is charming. Tables are generously spaced out and elegantly dressed. The windows let in lots of light. From the apex of the high marquee ceiling hang quirky antler chandeliers, like those in The Bull & Last pub in Highgate. And along the length of the inside wall hang black top and bowler hats, some converted to lightshades. A fun space with a nice balance between traditional and innovative.


the airy dining area

Initially seated by the huge windows, with views over London, we quickly switched to a table against the opposite wall; much cooler than the window seat and still with terrific views. Menus handed out, we got down to the important business of choosing and placed our orders.

Budget-conscious, I opted for tap water, which was courteously provided. Jen also had a glass of white wine from a wine list with a surprising number of very reasonably priced options.

The bread basket offered freshly baked (and still warm), mini baguette, plain white or tomato. While we were enjoying this, the amuse bouche arrived.


amuse bouche

Langoustine bisque with potato foam was absolutely packed with flavour. The foam was quite surprising, providing a really clear potato taste without the usual heavy texture. A lovely start and both Jen and I mopped up every last drop with our bread; sod couth, who needs couth?!


lobster cocktail

 

My starter Cocktail of Scottish Lobster and Avocado with a Lemon Jelly was served in a martini glass and looked spectacular. And wow, it tasted fantastic too. As well as generous, perfectly cooked chunks of lobster and fresh avocado, I found little pieces of sharp lemon jelly, a light crispy salad and tiny cubes of apple, all pulled together with a light dressing. The avocado mousse on top was also a tasty addition. I savoured every single mouthful!


leeks and langoustine

Jen’s starter of Pressed Leeks and Langoustines with a Truffle Vinaigrette was also striking and satisfyingly generous, too. It was simple, yet beautifully executed with a lovely flavour in the langoustine sauce. It seemed less exciting than mine on first glance but was actually very delicious.

(Luckily, Jen is of the same mind as I am – that tasting each other’s dishes is an absolute necessity so we both sampled each other’s choices!)


wild seabass

Jen’s Pavè of Wild Seabass with an Artichoke Barigoule was a beautiful piece of fish. Again, the portion was generous and the fish was nicely cooked. With it were some very tasty potatoes – we asked about them and one of the staff headed off to check with the kitchen, and returned to tell us that they hadn’t been sure until the last minute whether they’d be able to get this variety, called corne de gatte and grown in France, but were very pleased they did – google shows me these are simply pink fir apple potatoes. Slow-cooked garlic and tiny onions/ shallots were beautifully sweet, carrots fresh and light. The artichoke, I wasn’t as keen on, but Jen enjoyed it.


a Koffmann signature dish – pig’s trotter

I was quite nervous about Pig’s Trotter stuffed with Veal Sweetbreads and Morel Mushrooms. I’ve enjoyed sweetbreads before but never eaten trotter and had no idea whether I’d like it. But it’s a dish so strongly associated with Koffmann that I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to try it. Luckily, I liked it! Not a dish for the diet-conscious, the sweetbreads and mushrooms were wrapped in the thick, gelatinous fat of the trotter. I had expected some crispness to the skin but instead it was more like slow-braised pork belly fat. Unctuous and silky. It was served with an extremely good mash, two beautiful, paper-thin bacon wheels and a thick, savoury sauce.

By this point we were both feeling quite full but of course, we ploughed on and ordered desserts!


apple pie

Jen chose the Gascon Apple Pie. Wow, what a fabulous dessert! Thin, strong crunchy pastry sheets formed a thick base beneath the apple and then a protective lid of wildly folding flaps, above. Beneath the apple, they formed into a thick, chewy, crispy, caramel-infused layer of heaven! The apples were soft but with just enough firmness to retain their shape. And the caramel sauce was marvellous. Whilst we were eating, an elegant lady who we think is perhaps Pierre’s partner/wife, Claire, came over to tell us about the very special flour used for the croustade pastry and also how, on a recent holiday, Pierre had eaten this dessert every single day! We could understand why!


Pistachio soufflé

I went for the Pistachio Soufflé with Pistachio Ice Cream and was not disappointed. Whilst the ice cream was nothing to write home about, the soufflé was a revelation and the second really fabulous dessert souffle I’ve had in the last few weeks. Beautifully risen, dusted with chocolate and icing sugar, fluffy inside, with a smooth and creamy pistachio taste it was just magnificent. I didn’t really have room to finish it but I did anyway!



petits fours

We wondered at this point whether we’d soon be rushed on, as the two hour turnaround time had been stressed to me both on making the reservation and when they called to re-confirm yesterday. Service had been very warm and friendly, but a little haphazard and it was already gone two o’clock, the time we should have left. But there were other tables free and we went ahead and ordered mint tea. To our surprise, no petit fours were served with it, though Jen knew from her contacts that some had been made, so we asked and a plate was quickly bought out to us. William Curley chocolates, a little lemon and raspberry tart, some nougat, a sesame crisp, a pate de fruit and a miniature loaf cake infused, we think, with rum – this was a generous plate. Can you believe, I was so full I could not even eat my share, though I did try everything!

By half past two we flagged down one of the ladies who seemed to be in charge – I think it may have been the same Dawn who managed early reservations – and asked whether it might be possible to have a copy of the menu each, signed by Pierre and by Eric Chavot, working with him in the kitchen. This was very kindly arranged and we were as pleased as punch with our lovely mementos.

What a truly wonderful experience! I know many of my food-loving friends are visiting over the next couple of weeks; I hope you have as lovely a meal as we did!

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