Archive for the ‘Nouvelle Cuisine’ Category

Licking my lips, I alighted from the Heathrow Express at Paddington and made my way to the Southbank Centre to check out the Cheese and Wine Festival.

Having arrived late-afternoon (I had just flown in from Gib!) I had missed the ‘food theatre’ and even though there were not many people jostling around the food stalls it was still good to see the amount of different artisan cheeses on display; I tried a few mature cheeses that bit back!  There was other produce too: ice-cream, cider and ales.

IMG_2594Clutching a pint of cider I made my way around the food stalls (approx 20 in total) and stopped at a small Italian stall that didn’t look as if were attracting that many people.  Here I selected a ‘Cheeseburger’ wrapped in pancetta to eat on the spot.

This was wonderful – a hard goat’s cheese wrapped in pancetta and placed on a hot grill; cooked until the bacon was crispy and the cheese warmed through!

With a belly full of cheese and cider I then made my way to meet up with some friends who were looking forward to playing along with the theme of ‘Foodie Weekend.’

After several ales at different pubs including a really hoppy Ruby Red at the Jerusalem Tavern,

StJohn

Clerkenwell and some fruit of the vine at Vinoteca before dinner, we made our way to St John Restaurant and Grill.

Now this place is very unsuspecting from the façade as it looks like a butcher’s shop or even an industrial building.  However, you should not be fooled by this as a lonely Michelin star graces each dish that you eat.  A fantastic nose-to-tail eating experience with seasonal dishes such as Roasted Bone Marrow on toast, the understated Terrine (made with offal -superb!) and Braised veal with chickpeas.

If you ever get the chance to dine here do so.  I was left wanting more!

On Saturday after a quick walk through West Hampstead’s Farmer’s Market – again full of beautiful home grown, artisan produce, I made my way to Food at 52 where I attended a food course.

Food at 52

Food at 52 is like walking into a friend’s house and sitting in their lounge whilst you can smell the comforting scents of food wafting up from the kitchen.  As you meet your other ‘friends’ you start to get to know eachother’s reasons for being there.  Most of us had the experience bought as a birthday present or as a wedding gift but talking to John, they get lots of corporate clients.

Once in the kitchen, John and Jess provide coffee/tea and freshly made biscotti so that you can all introduce yourselves to eachother as this is a relaxed homely environment.

Working together we combined forces and produced a beautiful meal that we all sat down to at the end of the afternoon.

One of my favourite recipes that day was the Cauliflower Cake:

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At first I was slightly taken aback by this, as the idea of cauliflower, as anything other than in its veg form as part of the meat and 2 veg Sunday roast, left me thinking of water-logged cauliflower cheese that people always tell you tastes great but really is a bit blah!

But I was the only greedy person at the table to eat two slices!

The ritual of putting it together, even though seemed complicated, was actually quite simple as I managed to rustle this one up from memory at home the other night.

I’m not saying it looked identical to the one we made at foodat52 but otherwise it tasted just as good!!

After a great day’s cooking at Foodat52, my friends took me to Arbutus, Soho, London to have dinner.  May I just say that everything on this menu appealed to me!  From their melon and vodka martini, to their squid and mackerel burger with razor clams right to its Pied et Paquets (lambs tripe, shoulder and trotters!) everything was amazing!

I’m hoping my friends never leave London so that I can keep on notching up  Michelin Stars!

So with a bellyful of 2-Michelin-Stars-worth-of-food, a host of new recipes to try at home and an increased passion for food, I came back from my Foodie Weekend, a very full but happy man!

Already looking at another cookery course – who’s in?

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I can’t wait for Ian to either email me or send me a text message letting me know about the next food and wine matching event at El Capote.

Talking to Ian about the direction the events are now going in, he admitted that they are no longer food and wine matching evenings where the wine flows from beginning to end and the amount of food leaves you feeling stuffed.

El Capote is performing food theatre; Chef Lede assisted by Ian prep all the dishes infront of their diners.  Subsequently, quality and the way the food is being presented calls for greater finesse in the diner; dishes where quality not quantity is key.  Simply, the food is the focus of the evening.  The wine is there just to accompany the food.  And once again, Chef Lede created some amazing dishes to tantalise our taste-buds and minds.

No Szechuan button to cleanse palates this time nor copious amounts of Prosecco to make everyone incredibly happy to be there!

3 Maki Sushi El Capote

IMG_2525Armed with breadsticks and chopsticks we were presented to the first dish of the evening. 3 maki sushi rolls in the style of El Capote.

Ian explained to us that they needed to be eaten in a specific order:

1) Hurta a la roteña wrapped in nori, 2) Apple confit with foie wrapped in jamón de bellotas to be eaten with salty breadsticks, 3) Sobrasada de caballa served with honey.  Everyone had their favourite but the one that I enjoyed the most was the third one.  The spicy nature of the sobrasada drizzled with sweet honey, that was almost augmented by the saltiness of the breadsticks of the previous maki roll, was very well put together.  Wrapped in pastry for crunch and topped with pine nuts.  Leaving a slightly warm and spicy sensation in the mouth.

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Minestrone de verduras, chicharrones y una bombón de queso payoyo

A very light, clear broth with cubed vegetables.  The addition of the chicharrones ‘pork scratchings’ added a necessary saltiness to the dish as well as providing another dimension of texture and flavour.  However, it was the Payoyo cheese flavour bomb that made this dish so beautiful.  Looking like a mini buffalo mozzarella floating in the middle of the minestrone, the artisan queso payoyo was rich and flavoursome as it exploded in my mouth.  Some diners broke the cheese into their broth whereas I ate it whole!  The dish was beautifully presented with micro-flowers decorating the cheese and the dish.

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Salmonetes hasta las espinas!

Now this dish had me intrigued from the minute that Ian sent me the menu.  This was literally a deconstructed red mullet served on a beautiful herb and lime risotto.  The magic of this dish for me was in the execution.  Whilst we were dining on the Minestrone soup, Chef Lede proceeded to cook the herb and lime risotto.

Like something that Top Cat might consider fine dining, the mullet was served in three ways.  Salmonete tempura which was crispy on the outside and soft and flaky in the middle served with a pear mayo.  A cured fillet of red mullet which had been marinated in soy, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar was served with its roe.  The salty, fishy roe cutting through the marinade.  Finally, the deep fried fish bones which whilst initially frightening disintegrated in the mouth with every bite.  I found it funny that whilst we were all willing to eat the entire spine no-one wanted to eat the tail!  This hurdle was quickly overcome.  The herb and lime risotto was creamy yet nutty.  Its lime tang helping to cut through the richness of the dish.  Flavours and textures balanced and complimentary.

Top Cat would have been impressed – I know I was!

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Rib-eye steak, marinated in miso and honey, served on a white chickpea puree with olives of goat’s cheese and Perdro Ximenez sherry

Chef Lede plated up each houmous swirl looking identical to the next.  He then delicately lay 3 slices of marinated, rare rib eye steak on top of the puree.  There was an earthy sweetness to the dish so far..  This was off set by the olives of goat’s cheese.  The ‘olives’ marinated in perdro ximenez sherry added a tang to the dish.  The miso in the marinade seasoned the steak.  The steak cut with a single slice and disintegrated with every bite – beautiful.

IMG_2557Avocado and Lime Mousse

What a simple but amazing combination.  The avocado providing a great base to carry this dessert.  The lime, as well as keeping the avocado vivid green, providing a citrus tang that could not have been achieved with any other citrus fruit.  Served over pineapple, but actually this could have been served over other fruits too.  One diner at the table mentioned that they felt the addition of fennel added a subtle aniseed flavour that they could taste coming through, whilst another made the comment that they did not normally like avocado but the combination of the avocado and lime over pineapple was delicious.

There are times when you want to eat loads, down an OK bottle of wine and waddle to your car and feel that you’d had a great meal.  The reality is that when dining out we should be thinking about quality not necessarily quantity.  As far as Gibraltar is concerned, only El Capote is raising the bar and thinking about food in this way .

I urge you to book yourself in for the next one.

Please leave a reply.

IMG_2474If I were to tell you that I ate delicate flowers, thai basil and soy air at El Capote you’d probably mistake me (and El Capote) for eco-hemp-hippies.  And I too thought that I’d left my best tie-dyed muslin t-shirt at home when I read things like ‘aire de soya‘ on the menu!

But I could not have been more wrong.

Delicate, subtle dishes – executed with finesse but packed with flavour and exciting on the eye.

When writing about El Capote I tend to write about both the food and wine.  On this occasion, however, I am only going to focus on the food as this was the point of the evening.  And with seven dishes that we were treated to, I am only going to write about those that created the biggest impression at my table.

As Ian stood in the threshold to El Capote we were made to wait outside; each of us eagerly anticipating promised wonders.  Peeking around him we could see the converted interior with its black and white table cloths, wine and sherry glasses on tables.  Classy.

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Heeding previous comments, upon arrival we were given a glass of Prossecco and asked to take our seats where there were banana crisps and cashew nuts for us to nibble on whilst we waited.

If they had not been advertised as banana crisps I would have assumed they were ordinary potato crisps.  They were sliced thin and very crispy and salty.  The cashew nuts coated in a spicy Japanese seasoning called Shichimi Togarashi which were incredibly moreish.

Whilst we ploughed our way through these snacks Ian explained to us the vision he was trying to create at El Capote with the help from Chef Lede.

Inspired by Chef Ferran Adrià, Head Chef at El Bulli, they created a ‘nouvelle cuisine’ menu where ingredients were transformed and textures, temperatures or forms were modified.  This approach to cooking being one where deconstructed, a dish would preserve its essence but its appearance would be radically different from the original.  Nothing is what it seems.

“You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland”

IMG_2427Our first step into this culinary experience was to cleanse our palates.  And in the style of the evening – a lemon sorbet would have been too mundane – we were handed a green bud to chew.  Nothing unusual about a bud, I hear you say, but this was no ordinary bud.  It was a Szechuan button.

Like something out of The Matrix, we were coaxed into putting this green, inoffensive bud into our mouths.  At first,  a very grassy taste which is then followed by a tingling and numbing sensation which I can only describe as having a 9V battery on your tongue.  Then salivation, and, finally a fresh, clean finish.  The bubbles of Prossecco felt like mini explosions on my tongue.

Cappuccino of Foie with Port and Parmesan Foam

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With tingling mouths no one knew what to expect next as the espresso cups were set down infront of each each of us.

Guided by Ian to take a bold scoop we plunged our spoons into the billowy parmesan foam making sure to scrape from the bottom and were rewarded by a delicate and dreamy foie mousse.  The parmesan foam, another of Adrià’s culinary innovations where the main ingredient is mixed in a syphon bottle with N2O cartridges and compressed, was subtle and complemented the foie deliciously.  But scraping the bottom ensured that we got a nuance of sweet port, reminiscent of caramelised onions, that finished the dish off beautifully.  Absolutely sublime and my favourite dish if the evening.

El Huerto de Lede

huertoA picture on a plate.

A solitary potato growing in soil with asparagus and flowers growing out of the soil.  The only thing this dish needed was Spring’s blue sky and sunshine!

Let me deconstruct this dish so that you can fully appreciate the talent and artistry of Chef Lede.

Beneath the soil is a potato puree.  The soil is actually created from a mushroom rubble.  At first I thought that this was freeze dried however I am not sure about this.

The young asparagus and flowers can be seen growing around the potato.

But the surprise was that as you cut into the potato it was stuffed with ox tail in its own jous!  At our table we all agreed that we felt that this dish could have done with either a sprinkling of salt over the top of the potato or greater seasoning in the puree as it was quite bland, especially after the strong flavours and excitement of previous dishes.

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Merluza wrapped in Aonori, served with red curry, almejas de Carril, olive oil caviar and topped with aire de soya

This was another visual treat as well as a beautifully flavoured dish.  The hake, meaty in texture was well supported by the red curry.  Its flavour was just there and even the wimpiest of spice eaters could have managed this very delicate balance of flavours.  The soya air and the olive oil caviar which having researched this was another of Chef Adrià’s innovations, giving the dish texture.

Both Ian and Chef Lede should be congratulated on what was a truly special night.  We were not just fed but each dish was so precise in its execution and the high standard remained consistent throughout.  It was an experience not just dinner.

Chef Ferran Adrià would be very proud of what has been achieved at El Capote, Gibraltar.

I am already excited about the next one.