A Little Crisp Bread Sarnie: cold roast English rose veal, tonnato sauce, shoestring fries, anchovies, oregano & boiled egg
I confess I had never eaten vitello tonnato before this; somehow, the marriage of tuna and cold veal seemed a rather unappealing one. I get it now; delicate rose veal, egg, creamy tuna sauce, the tang of anchovies - and here, the contrasting textures of crisp and yielding. There was a lot going on in just a couple of bites and the balance was impressive.
Spiced & pickled cauliflower, caraway yoghurt, coriander & mint
A brief aside: by the time the meal was about two courses in, we were chatting with the two couples at our end of the table like old friends. Food, particularly on sharing platters, will do that - along with the undeniable fact that people who like both good food and helping others are likely to be fabulous company. (As indeed they were - thanks again for the banter, feedback and of course the champagne!). I mention this because I put everyone in 'our group' on the spot and asked them to pick their top two or three dishes at the end of the evening.
After much agonising we all narrowed them down (there wasn't a single dish that wasn't somebody's favourite) and this dish was a top contender. The contrast of the warm cauliflower with gentle curry spices and the little cold, sharp, pickled florets was lovely, with the dressing complementing both. I would happily eat a big plate of this as a vegetarian main - and if it is on the menu when I go to the Drapers Arms in its normal guise, I fully intend to.
Pickled potato, clam, smoked mussels, caviar & Sichuan oil
Shibui is Kaizen House's first restaurant concept, due to open Jan/Feb 2018. I went to a pop-up preview of Shibui at Carousel (see my blog from early this year) and can't wait for the permanent venue. This was a characteristically elegant and thoughtful dish with carefully balanced powerful flavours, accomplished and delicious.
Foie gras custard doughnut
Another contender for dish of the evening, this had it all; beautifully cooked golden doughnut, the most delicate foie gras centre, sweet glaze and what we originally thought was a sprinkling of blitzed salty popcorn but turned out to be the lightest possible pork crackling bits that just melted in your mouth. This was intriguing, technically brilliant and an absolute winner.
Diver caught scallop, BBQ peach, roast chicken
The roast chicken element of the dish was provided by wafers of crispy chicken skin, giving lovely textural and flavour contrast to the sweetness of the scallops The stand-out aspect, though, was the barbecued peaches, which were absolutely delicious and had everybody talking about how we could steal the idea.
Cod, mussel & saffron broth, fennel & ginger
This very beautiful broth arrived in a huge dish (that's a serving spoon & fork, for perspective) with an entire side of cod underneath the mussels and peppery edible nasturtiums. It was temple food at its finest - summery, light, yet full of flavour. We had to force ourselves not to finish it, as we were only just halfway through the meal; I really hope I can track this recipe down, as I would love to serve this for a summer lunch with friends.
Mutton faggot, farro, mutton ham & rosehip jelly
We were given a tiny gap before the meat dishes came out, for which we were all grateful. A whoop from the other table heralded these beauties; hefty mutton faggots, topped with a delicious salty mutton ham, served on a bed of farro and greens, like an Irish stew on crack. Intensely meaty and rich, these were accompanied by a little jar of light rosehip jelly to cut through. We were all flagging a little and couldn't do these justice; next year I'm sneaking in a load of Tupperware for leftovers. Give me an autumnal walk in the park, an open fire and a plate of these and I would be sorted.
Phetchaburi guinea fowl jungle curry
Traditional Thai jungle curry is made with wild meats and packs a punch spice-wise as it doesn't have the coconut milk element to tone it down. This was a classic version, fresh and fiery - a little too much for some of the guests but we found ourselves going back repeatedly for yet another tiny forkful. I love my spice (and lived abroad for a while, so have trained my tastebuds) so was a real fan of this one. I'm heading to Kiln very soon to try out some more of Ben's dishes.
Pear tarte tatin with miso & muscavado ice cream
A certain member of the group (yes Clemence, I'm looking at you!) had been pacing herself throughout the entire evening for this and it didn't disappoint. The tarte tatin was perfect: crispy, chewy, caramelised pastry and pears with just the right amount of give, served with an umami-sweet ice cream, this was wonderful.
Honey kouign amann & Stichelton
Yes, I admit it, I was kind of expecting Neil Rankin to have done a meat course, so this was a surprise. Unfortunately I have an intolerance to honey and so couldn't try this, which was pretty torturous given the reactions of those who could - basically, borderline When Harry Met Sally. I'm assuming it was pretty damn good. I feel a rematch at Temper is required!
All I can add is my heartfelt thanks to him, Neil Rankin and the other amazing chefs here for organising such a wonderful event; if you're looking for a definition of 'win-win' I think you've found it.
Yours, feasting and feeding others,
London Girl About Town xx