31 Jan 2012

karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Mat Follas, head chef at The Wild Garlic in Dorset (and Masterchef 2009 champion) held a one-off "pop-up" restaurant at Ben's Canteen in London (part of the Canteen's guest chef nights).
As The Wild Garlic is a bit out of the way for me currently (there are no trains to Beaminster), this was the perfect opportunity to taste Mat's cooking so when I read about it, I signed up immediately.
I got there early to chat to Dave Ahern, head chef at Ben's Canteen and try one of his famous Breakfast Scotch Eggs (and it really is stunning, you can taste all the elements). Mat joined us and asked me if I would take some photos in the kitchen as well and of course I jumped at the opportunity. However, let's first look at the menu:

It started with a bowl of "Pesto Popcorn", which was nice and one of the few times I enjoyed a savoury popcorn:

Pesto Popcorn


The starter was Smoked Queenie Scallops, served in their shell. These were only morsels but the taste was superb, the smoky flavour enhancing the sweetness of the scallops. I could easily have had a dozen of those.

Starter: Smoked Queenie Scallops


Now the first meat course: Confit Duck Leg with orange and tarragon. The meat was perfectly cooked and so soft it fell apart. You could pull out the bones cleanly. Surprisingly, the orange sauce worked well for me and really loved the dish.

Confit Duck Leg


Another small course was next but by no means small in terms of flavour. A delightfully and strongly flavoured mushroom velouté that tasted like a pound of good mushrooms compressed into an espresso paper cup. Wow. When I was in the kitchen, I'd smelled this soup as it came out of the Thermomix and that already blew me away.

Mushroom Veloute


Then the main: 12 hour triple cooked pork belly, served in slices off the rolled piece with sweet potato and miso puree and pickled vegetables. Another slow cooked dish that let the simple but very flavoursome meat shine. The puree was an excellent substitute for gravy.

Main: Triple Cooked Pork Belly


The next course was a palate cleanser in the shape of a ball of beetroot (yes, you read that right) sorbet, served on a little china spoon. It sounds bizarre but it worked really well. This was hard to photograph on the table so here's a shot from the kitchen:

Palte cleanser: Beetroot Sorbet


Then, there was only dessert to go but what a stunner that was: Lavender panna cotta with berry compote, salt and pepper ice cream and crumbles of honeycomb. Each part was lovely on its own but a bit of everything on the spoon made my tastebuds dance, a perfect balance of flavours.

Dessert: Lavender Panacotta


This was a fantastic meal. Simple, rustic dishes which high quality ingredients were the stars of the meal. If this is the food Mat Follas and his team are cooking every day at The Wild Garlic, its customers are in for a treat and from what I hear that is indeed the case. Go there now! :)
More photos after the cut.

A few more on flickr.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Quite a few friends and foodies I follow on twitter have raved about José Pizarro's authentic Spanish cooking. Last year, he first opened a traditional tapas bar in Bermondsey St., London and a few months later Pizarro, a sit down restaurant with a starter/main/dessert style menu. This is the one I visited. I'd heard they were popular lunch spots so I arrived early at 12 o'clock and was the first customer but the place soon filled up nicely. As I wanted to take a few photos, I picked a window seat (regular chairs facing a bar parallel to the window, ideal when you're on your own to watch the world go by or when you want good daylight). Next time I'll most likely pick a seat with a view of the open kitchen.
For starter, I had a portion of croquetas and a small plate of Jamón Ibérico, the most flavoursome cured ham I've ever tasted. Such deep flavour, with the fat melting on your tongue. No wonder this stuff is so expensive. I forgot to mention that a full plate of Jamón is £20 but I only wanted a taste and they were happy to provide the small plate you see here (for £7.50) so excellent customer service.

Jamon Iberico


For main I had sea bass with roasted winter vegetables and salsa verde. Crispily fried skin, flaking flesh with excellent accompaniments.

Sea bass, root veg, salsa verde


For dessert, I didn't have to think about what to choose: Crema Catalan, the Spanish version of Crème Brûlée. Lovely soft custard cream, crunchy caramel on top (which was almost a bit too well done but I liked the contrast of the bitterness with the sweet cream).

Crema Catalana


Next time I'm in the area I hope to gather a few friends to José and share some tapas.

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