So far, they managed to raise £60,000 (tickets and auction) with most likely more to come.
At £150 a ticket, this wasn't exactly cheap but where can you get a 9-course dinner with matching wines with each course cooked by a group of top chefs? Nowhere. You'd pay at least that much for a normal tasting menu at a high class restaurant in London and then you'd get only one chef. As I was looking for a birthday treat to myself, this was perfect and I wasn't disappointed.
At the reception at the rather splendid venue of 1 Moorgate Place there was kiwi champagne (which I actually liked!) and canapees: cured salmon/cucumber "fruit pastilles" (sweet/savoury, very fresh), port and Spenwood pencil (also nice) and the highlight, Pork crackling toffee apple (basically a ball of apple coated in a crunchy but not too sweet crumb, fantastic). No photos of these because the reception was cramped and it would have been a bit awkward. I'll pass on links to the official photos when they're out.
Then into the main hall with large, round tables, seating 9 people each. On my table were a group of Irish people (who all knew Dave Ahern) and a couple from Essex. Was quite a friendly table.
(click on the photo for the flickr page with the full title of the dish or check the menu link on the website linked above)
When we arrived, the pre-starter was already on the table:
a great variety of beetroot, the little parcels were stuffed with cream cheese. A nice little amuse bouche.
This starter was actually quite big. The scotch egg had a perfectly runny egg in the middle while the meat was perfectly cooked. Stunning skills involved there. The pie was really rich with strong game and truffle flavours. One of my favourites of the evening (and the first time I had something with truffles). The white wine that was served with it was perfect as it cut right through that richness.
This was, surprisingly, a cold dish (although the salsa should have been a giveaway). Again, wonderful flavours and textures.
Then I was on home turf: Mark Poynton's slow cooked lamb (the one robinbloke had last Monday). The meat was soft as anything and the accompaniments were a perfect match. Another overall favourite.
Then a bit of molecular gastronomy as pre-dessert:
Eggs that weren't eggs with soldiers that weren't soldiers and a little bit of smoke. A bit of a gimmick, really, as the flavours weren't really interesting or strong. Top marks for presentation, though. (there are a few more pics on flickr)
Nommy chocolate cake and outstanding ice cream. The burnt orange syrup was fantastic and this was the first choc/orange combination I liked.
I'm sad to say that the cheese was a bit disappointing. With the exception of the goats cheese pannacotta (remarkable, I could have eaten the whole bowl), it hadn't been well kept and some bits could have been riper. I guess this was due to the speed the event had been set up. A nice variety, though, and I'd love to try the others in proper condition.
Finally there were petit fours (which I didn't take a photo of, I don't know why!), excellent macarons and that salted dulce de leche truffle was fantastic! Excellent end to a fine meal.
Wine list (many thanks to Ed Francis from The Engineer)
NV Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvee
(Delegats Wine Estate)
2008 Framingham Estate Classic Riesling
(Les Caves des Pyrene)
2009 Trinity Hill Viognier
(Enotria World Wine)
2009 Dog Point Sauvignon blanc
(Fields, Morris and Verdin)
2008 Vintage Hawksburn Pinot Noir
2008 Spy Valley Gewurztraminer
NV Lindauer Special Reserve
2008 Vintage Ata Rangi Chardonnay
There was also entertainment in the form of a Maori dance group who performed a variety of dances and songs, very interesting and also amusing.
Throughout the evening the auction was held and raised a huge amount of money, with most lots going for well over a grand, some for multiples. I held my own for a while on the bid on the tasting menu for four with wines at Alimentum but it got too rich for me quite quickly. I think it went for 750 or 800 at the end.
By the time I had finished the petit fours, it was already well past 11 so I said good-bye and made my way back to Kings Cross where my train was already waiting. I was finally home at about 1:40.
It was a stunning evening and a great success for a worthwhile cause. Would go again in a heartbeat. Being in the presence of so many high class chefs, who all seemed to be really nice people and not as stuck up as you'd expect them to be, was fantastic.
I'm glad I'd taken the 50mm f1.4 because the light was very dim so I still had to set the D700 to ISO3200 for the food shots. Therefore, the DOF is a bit too shallow but I have to live with that. I hope Richard Budd had a proper setup somewhere.
ETA: Richard Budd's superb photos are here (mostly food and chefs/kitchen and performers) and even more photos by Philippa Edge here.