Saturday 30 November 2013

Taste of Christmas, London

Having missed out on Taste of London, an annual food festival held in London featuring some of the top restaurants and chefs in the capital including Michel Roux Jnr and Atul Kochhar we were eager to make it to Taste of Christmas, the festive variant.  This years event was held at Tabacco Dock in Wapping, this was a great historic site largely indoors with an uncovered area to accommodate the barbecue features and exhibitors.

The restaurant stands did not take cash and a virtual currency known as crowns was used, with 1 crown being the equivalent of £1.  The producer stands accepted a mixture of cash and crowns.  Having located a currency stand, we were soon armed with crowns and made our way to find some dishes to try.

Our first stop was Michelin starred Club Gascon were we sampled the truffle and foie gras burger.  As I was waiting for my dish a humorous exchange occured as another dish served by Club Gascon was duck and dog, a poor lady obviously misunderstood and was bewildered that dog would be served.  Despite the best efforts of staff to explain it was a play on words with a hot dog filled with duck the lady didn't seem to understand and wandered off.  The truffle and foie gras burger was priced at 8 crowns and was fulfilling with its rich creamy texture leaving us wanting more.  I subsequently visited Club Garcon which will soon feature on the site.

Another participating Michelin starred restaurant was Benares, headed up by chef Atul Kochhar.  The Electrolux taste theatre was adjacent to the stand and we caught chef performing a demonstration.  Later on he was seen manning the stand which attracted a large crowd.

Next up we sampled pork neck wheels from Beard to Tail, other dishes included bourbon ribs and pulled featherblade.

Ametsa with Arzak Instruction recently won its first star having opened this year.  It is a spin off of the 3 starred institution that is Arzak in San Sebasti├ín.  We tried the lamb shank rolls with fried grapes which turned out to be the most interesting thing on the plate. The guys at Arzak are well used to customers taking pictures and advised us on lighting and camera angles when they saw us using our iPhone to capture snaps!

As part of the Action Against Hunger sand, five top chefs including Dan Doherty from Duck and Waffle, Alyn Williams at The Wesbury, Jun Tunaka, Mark Hix and Martin Morales from Ceviche had devised dressings for oysters.  We were shocked to be served by Jun Tanaka himself and he even kindly took time out to have a photo with us. 

Sister restaurants Salt Yard and Opera Tavern served up spiced venison and beetroot pinchos and truffle mac and cheese.

A few restaurants we didn't get to try included Disco Bistro, Barbecoa, Cinnamon Club, Hixster and Truscott Arms.

Along with the restaurants there were hundreds of exhibitors selling a wide range of food and drink products.  From local producers to well known brands such as Cadburys and Yakult. Many were offering small samples and we must have tried hundreds of different things during our walk around the two floors of the venue hence not being able to sample more dishes!

Taste of Christmas was an enjoyable afternoon out and it wouldn't be Christmas without a tree even though if it was made out of beer bottles!

Monday 25 November 2013

Outlaw's at The Capital, London

Outlaws at The Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge opened at the start of the year and has already been awarded its first Michelin star.  Chef Nathan Outlaw holds two stars at his flagship restaurant in Rock, Cornwall, famous for his seafood cuisine.  Being lovers of fish we had high hopes for his London venture. 

After an eventful trip filled with tube delays and cancellations we arrived a little flustered.  We were soon seated and settled down with the menus and a snack of possibly the best fish cakes we've ever tasted.

We decided to order off the lunch set menu of 3 courses for £25 which was awarded the best value set lunch in the Good Food Guide 2014.  Mrs Nom however couldn't resist the a la carte starter of lobster risotto, orange, basil and lobster dressing and went for that instead of the set choices. The lobster to risotto ratio was near equal which was very welcome and the flavours were new to us but worked very well.  I struggled to get more than a small spoonful off Mrs Nom as she polished the lot off quite fast.

I decided on grey mullet, pickled red cabbage and horseradish yoghurt.  On paper there was a concern that the pickled red cabbage and horseradish would overpower the fish. However the dish was surprisingly light with well matched flavours and perfectly cooked mullet, flaking and moist.  We were offered cornish flatbread and a cheese and rosemary bread with our starters which went down well and they generously brought us another portion to mop up the lobster dressing.

For the main course I chose the plaice with leeks, potatoes and anchovy dressing. The presentation was very appetising, the plaice had a nice crust to with nicely cooked leeks. The subtle anchovy dressing bought it all together.

Mrs Nom had the hake, lettuce and warm tarture sauce.  Again the fish was expertly cooked, if I had my fish this well cooked every time I would be a very happy bunny.  This reminded me of a posh fish and chips with the capers in the sauce adding some tang. However the lettuce felt it bit mismatched on the plate in our opinion.

Originally we planned to share a dessert but Mrs Nom wanted both the banana sponge, sugared pistachios & coffee ice cream and lemon posset, pomegranate, gold raisins & figs. I wasn't expecting to be blown away but the desserts certainly delivered matching the standards of the other courses.  Mrs Nom was making mmmm noises as she was in dessert heaven. Simple sounding but executed well, the banana sponge was baked just right, the additive pistachios added crunch with the coffee ice cream being delightful and a great cooling contrast. The lemon posset with little meringues was tangy and delivered great citrus notes.

The service at Outlaw's at the Capital was efficient and as you would expect for a 1 Michelin star restaurant.  The clientele was a mix of casual hotel guests to the suited and booted and no one looked out of place.  We were given one extra surprise when we were presented with petit fours of mini treacle tarts and chocolate truffles with the bill.

At just over £60 including service and a drink each for the whole lunch it was extremely good value for the quality and little extras. This was after using the Grub Club card which gave us a 10% discount from the Outlaws website.  Judging by the quality of the set menu which sometimes can be a mixed bag, not the case here, we are eager to return to try the a la carte menu.  Maybe even a trip to Cornwall is on the cards to sample Nathan Outlaws flagship restaurant.

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