karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
The Pass restaurant is in Sussex and a bit tricky to get to from Cambridge so when I read that Matt would do a "popup" at Cinnamon Kitchen (a few minutes from Liverpool St. station), it sounded like an easy way of sampling his food. After a train and tube journey that took 40 minutes longer than it should have, I arrived at the restaurant in time for the welcome drink (a rather nice Bellini). The meal itself was at the "tandoor bar" in the main restaurant, a long low open kitchen counter with comfortable chairs (not barstools) behind which the chefs worked and were also happy to answer questions and explain what they were doing.

Matt Gillan Lewis Hamblet Matt Gillan

When we arrived the chefs (Matt Gillan, head chef at The Pass, Lewis Hamblet, executive chef at South Lodge and Sarah Payne, junior sous chef) were busy assembling the starter. I ordered a glass each of the recommended wines and after a short introduction to the dish by Matt, the starter was served.

Curried gressingham duck breast, braised leg, blackened onions, pink grapefruit

There were two elements of duck in the dish (Curried gressingham duck breast, braised leg, blackened onions, pink grapefruit), hot slow cooked leg in a parcel and rolled up slices of dark pink breast at room temperature. This might sound slightliy odd but worked perfectly and the additional elements tied everything together adding texture and acidity. The wine, a Pinot Gris, worked well with the dish, even if you would expect a red with duck.

Roasted stone bass, spring onions, chick pea, watercress

The fish dish (Roasted stone bass, spring onions, chick pea, watercress) was next and freshly cooked directly in front of me as were the spring onions. You could see how much are and attention went into cooking the fish and the result was brilliant: Crispy skin and moist, flaky fish with excellent accompaniments.

Main: saddle of lamb, slow cooked belly, lamb fat gnocchi, lemon curd, mushroom

The main event was saddle of lamb, slow cooked belly (sitting underneath the slices of saddle), lamb fat gnocchi, lemon curd, mushroom. The meat had been cooked to medium in a waterbath and was then freshly seared and sliced. The belly had been cooked overnight and then pressed. The gnocchi and mushrooms were freshly fried as well. This dish is actually fighting with the lamb I had at Tuddenham Mill I had earlier this month. The basic idea was the same, a prime and a "cheap" cut of meat with interesting accompaniments but rather different in execution. I loved the contrast of the two cuts of meat, the juicy saddle and the soft and crispy belly (which wasn't greasy at all). The gnocchi were crispy on the outside, soft inside, the mushrooms had great flavour and the lemon curd (as weird as it sounds) tied everything together and provided the acidity that came from the yoghurt in Paul Foster's dish. Genius.

Dessert: vanilla and lime cream, mint gel, cucumber, mango, coconut sorbet

The dessert was vanilla and lime cream (inside the cylinder), mint gel, cucumber, mango, coconut sorbet. Lovely fresh, fruity and not too sweet flavours, some soft, some crunchy with the surprising element being the cucumber balls which had been steeped in a light stock syrup to give it some sweetness. Brilliant.

You can find more photos in this flickr set which will be expanded with a few more shots when I find the time over the next few days.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Last night I went to my local fine dining restaurant, Alimentum, for a dining event in aid of the charity Tommy's. Head chef Mark Poynton had the idea for the event after one of his chefs lost his baby boy who was born prematurely. The wonders of modern social networking meant a host of chefs from other restaurants, not just locally but from all over the country, were soon on board. In the end, eight courses, each cooked by a different head chef (with the help of all the others and some of their brigade, there were something like 20 chefs in the kitchen) were on offer. Needless to say, the food was stunning, each different, each unique and all cutting edge in terms of usage of ingredients and cooking methods.
Afterwards, there was an auction of such varied items as signed football shirts and a "food tour of Britain" to photographic prints and a set of Chroma knives, with all proceeds going to Tommy's.

The Food

One of the canapes

On arrival we were greeted by prosecco and a selection of Alimentum canapés: Salmon and horseradish cones (see photo), Salt cod Scotch egg, Salt and vinegar allumettes, Smoked eel, lemon and bacon bites and Beetroot and foie gras macarons. The last two were my favourites but all were lovely indeed. Only one photo, as it was a bit tricky juggling a glass, finger food and camera.

Amuse Bouche, James Knappet

The amuse bouche was by James Knappett (recently at Marcus Wareing, now at The Ledbury): Violina pumpkin soup, sorbe, king oyster, ceps, chestnuts, truffle rarebit. This was at the same time fresh from the light ingredients and strong from the mushrooms, an excellent combination. The pumpkin soup brought everything together.

Braddock White, Ben Spalding

The starter was by Roganic's Ben Spalding: Braddock White (egg), pickled roots, ox eye daisy, salt beef. This was similar to the egg dish I had during my first visit at Roganic and a typical example of Ben's style, having all the contrasts you want in a dish: warm and cold, soft and crunchy and beautifully harmonising flavours. It's hard to describe, you have to try it yourself.

Salmon, Paul Foster

Next up, the fish course by Paul Foster from Tuddenham Mill: Organic salmon, mussel soup, pink grapefruit and sea vegetables. A nice slab of gently cured salmon with a quite intense mussel sauce was a great combination but the surprise was the grapefruit. Its bitterness complimented the other ingredients really well while the sea vegetables added crunch. As it's not far away, a visit to the Mill is definitely in order. Incidentally, Lyndon Barrett-Scott, the Mill's general manager helped out in front of house last night.

Langoustine and Joselito ham, Alimentum

Home (surf and) turf now with an Alimentum dish: Roast langoustine, Joselito gran reserve ham, black olive and cauliflower. That seafood and pork go well together was proven by a visit to Alimentum earlier this year and this one was stunning, too. As with the dishes before, a bit of bread was needed to mop up the last bit of flavour from the plate.

Venison, Russell Bateman

The main course by Russell Bateman (Colette's at The Grove): Venison, chervil root, leek, Stilton and pear. This was probably the best piece of venison loin I've had (better than my own, for sure, although that wasn't shabby at all), cooked to the point evenly (sous vide, most likely) with great flavours, with perfectly matched accompaniments. Chervil root was new to me and took the place of the starch, quite similar in texture to a soft roast potato and neutral in taste, i.e. not like chervil leaves. Considering it was part of an 8 course menu, the portion was very generous indeed.

Cheese, Will Holland

Slowing down a bit, it was Will Holland's (La Bécasse) cheese course: Ragstone goat's cheese mousse, pain d'epice, beetroot and fig, liquorice jelly, bramble vinaigrette. As you can see, this wasn't just a couple of wedges of cheese on a plate, this was a proper, intricately put together dish (and one that would work equally well as a starter). Goat's cheese and beetroot are obviously a classic combination but this was something else with the added fruity and crunchy elements.

Fennel brulee, Matt Gillan

The pre-dessert was provided by Matt Gillan (The Pass): Fennel(!) brûleé, raspberry sorbet, lemon curd, raspberry and fennel salad. Yes, indeed, a combination of sweet dessert and rather savoury vegetable and it worked. Nice tangy raspberry sorbet and lemon curd were excellent additions.

Tiramisu (Midsummer House)

For dessert, a work of art by Daniel Clifford (Midsummer House) and Michelle Gillott (former Midsummer House pastry chef who's now running her own business): Simply titled "Tiramisu", this obviously wasn't just layered biscuit fingers, mascarpone, cocoa and coffee but the same ideas in a completely different format, delicately put together with wonderfully contrasting textures. Like me, everybody else on my table was desperately scraping their plate with their spoons to get every last bit of chocolate off. Wonderful.

Almost three hours later, we were well and truly stuffed and the chefs came out to get their just applause:
Mark Poynton, Lawrence Yates, Alimentum Matt Gillan, The Pass; Will Holland, La Becasse Will Holland; James Knappett (now at The Ledbury); Paul Foster Paul Foster, Tuddenham Mill; Russell Batemann, Colette's at the Grove Sommelier Kyle Simmons on the right Daniel Clifford, Midsummer House


The Auction


After mingling and chatting with the chefs in the bar, the second main event of the night kicked off: the auction in aid of Tommy's. There were a number of items on offer: signed football and rugby memorabilia, an iPad 2, a set of Chroma knives, a Cuba print by Jean-Luc Benazet, and a "Food Tour of Britain", dinners and overnight stays at various restaurants around the UK, including a foraging course with Matt Follas (Masterchef Champion 2009) at the Wild Garlic. This was slightly annoying for me as I'd hoped to get my hands on one or two of those but as they were sold as one lot, it was too rich for me (it went for £1,600 IIRC) so I came away with Jean-Luc's print and a signed Tony Christie tshirt+checked shirt combo.
Edit: The total came to a whopping £7150. Well done to everyone involved.

So, an excellent evening with stunning food with all proceeds going to a worthy cause. Events can hardly get better than this.
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February 2013

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