Spot of Lunch with some Celebs

I spent this weekend mainly relaxing and catching up with many old friends including some very old family friends who wanted to eat lunch at The Wolseley. I’ve walked past here numerous times, past the friendly doormen who tip their hat and always on the look out to welcome people into their luxurious restaurant. Located in the heart of Piccadilly and conveniently close to Green Park tube, it’s almost hard to imagine the opulence in an area now mainly overrun with tourists.

Service was impeccable throughout – even from the confusion around our booking where our family friends weren’t expecting me and my sister but the restaurant rearranged us quickly and amicably. Unfortunately this meant we ended up leaving the table next to British comedians, Dawn French and recent, ex-husband, Lenny Henry. Our dining colleagues also pointed out Salman Rushdie, author of the Satanic Verses and I’m sure I recognised a west end actress though I couldn’t put a name to her face.

Unfortunately for us, though respectable for the atmosphere and people, we weren’t allowed to take photos. Really lovely food from the delicious breadsticks to the decadent duck confit and enjoyable service all around.

Breakfast Problems Solved

As a consultant, you move around projects much more than you would if you worked for the same company. Living in London adds another dimension where going out during the week is more than normal and keeping a regular routine fairly difficult. As a result, it’s difficult to be sure that you eat a proper breakfast before heading out and, the end result, is normally doing the continental breakfast when I have my coffee, buying a Pain Aux Raisin, Pain Au Chocolat, or my (wickedly) favourite Croissants Aux Amandes (Almond Croissant).

My mission is to cut down the number of breakfast pastries, yet still have a decent meal thus, the acquisition of the Fresh Traveller.

Looking it up on the net, it was invested by very practical designer, Arjan Brekveld, and I managed to find a store in London stocking them (the very cool Do Shop). I’m hoping this lets me pack my breakfast for consumption when I get to work. My only tip for an enhancement would be to have some way to pack a spoon with it.

The Complete History of Food

Bompas and Parr are famous for putting on some spectacular events involving food and a number of other senses. It makes you think how great their own parties must be.

They’re latest venture titled, “The Complete History of Food” transformed the former Royal Agricultural Society building into a journey taking you back to medieval times stepping through a multi-course and multi-sensory trip. Entrance was timed, giving everyone a fairly intimate experience moving from floor to floor, room to room and enjoying the fun atmosphere. Below is the map decorated on the wall, describing the floor and the rooms contents.

At only £25 a ticket (subsidised mind you by a well known Cognac maker) I think it was pretty great value given plenty of spirit to walk out tipsy, some great food and an entertaining experience. We stepped inside a dark room, manned by a young gentlemen determined to diagnose our mood and there to prescribe something that fell within four different categories (a different sticker later denoting a different cocktail and finger food starter).

After a quick lighting of the various people in the room (including the very jovial picture of Bompas and Parr below), we moved to the next room (ladies taking off heels) only to find ourselves carefully balancing so not to fall into the man made moat contained in one the rooms. Stepping from plank to plank, we find ourselves transported to the interior of a ship hull moored in a pool of water (mind the eels apparently) where we are given a supplement to ease our moods – I was a phlegmatic last week thus needing a Choleric solution to help balance me out, thus starting with Cabbage, white wine, caper artichoke paired with a Courvoisier Exclusif Rose Water drink courtesy of Saf.

Next up, we ascended in an elevator that fit no more than four people, we emerge on the rooftop terrace to enjoy a deconstructed champagne, bubbles and fizz enjoyed separately courtesy of Lounge Bohemia.

We drank this accompanied by a wicked savoury foie gras equivalent of a ferrero rocher made by Alexis Gauthier of Michelin starred Gauthier Soho. What a wise move to get people to descend through the house as they pick up more food, and a lighter head.

Next up was the scratch and sniff meal, complete with a fully functioning seventies TV set whose glow radiated out towards the sofas. We inhaled aromas of minty peas, golden potatoes, pumpkin and roasted chicken as our fingernails did their magic. A strange, yet very appropriate activity.

This brought us to the bouncy castle, made up as the interior of someone’s stomach before walking through the corridor of
mushrooms (I assure you, of which, we had not ingested any of the hallucinogenic kind) before joining some other people in the middle of an iguanodon to enjoy one of the best confit duck dishes I’ve had for some time. I’m definitely going to have to check the makers of this, Bistrotheque.

Puy lentils, beetroot and a black champagne sauce combined with a really strong alcoholic punch, I was glad for this heavier dish to help combat some of the alcohol. Below is a picture of the really strong punch.

The great thing about this part is that we didn’t seem rushed to eat our meal, so we sat their conversing with a nice New Zealand couple who’d come along for the evening as well.

Golden arrows directed us towards the dessert room where a Gingerbread version of London’s very own gherkin greeted us as did a spinning monument of jelly.

The jelly served aboard an impressive spinning tower of what looked like sugar art, but ended up as decorated porcelain. Still impressive looking.

Though the jelly was a predictable and welcome finishing touch, it still did plenty to put a close to the evening. The spinning beauties being served included iris jelly, candied orange some berries and very tasty whale vomit (Ambergris Posset). A surprise feast for everyone.

Tickets for their events are limited and done so for good reason with every experience and taste to be savoured, unlikely to be reproduced. I appreciated and really enjoyed the experience walking through the Complete History of Food.

Ice Cream Science @ The Dana Centre

A couple of weeks back, I went to my first Dana Centre event titled, “Ice Cream Science”. This place has been on my list of things to do for a while, since they usually hold at least one evening per month an “Adults Late” – no, nothing like that – rather, just the ability for adults to enjoy the science museum late after work on evening without the hassle of lots of kids running around. I immediately signed up for this evening session when I saw it was going to be on one of my favourite foods, ice cream!

On the evening, they had food scientist, Chris Clarke, author of The Science of Ice Cream talk about what makes ice cream so popular as well as the way it’s changed over the years. He gave a very scientific analysis, with some great visualisations around what makes ice cream, well, ice cream and how to go about making it (it’s not just the ingredients but it’s the process that matters).

To contrast the scientific approach, the Dana Centre also invited Christian Oddono of Oddono’s who, being Italian, took the more artisanal approach to describing his passion for Italian ice creams, gelati. It was great to have the differences compared and really liked Oddono’s tagline for, “Life is too short to eat bad ice cream.” Oh so true.

Even with a fairly average meal (pizza slice & salad), an enjoyable part of the evening was the interactive, tasting part, where they brought six different flavoured ice creams to try. Oh so wise for them to put the more experimental flavours up front. This one, pictured below, for instance was a salmon-flavoured ice cream. Despite the strange, savoury flavour, this was definitely the least offensive of the savoury flavoured ice creams, and if you imagine something like a salmon mousse, just slightly more solid and chilled, this as pretty much that. Definitely a good introduction to what could be (not really what should be) done with ice cream flavours.

The next venture took us to a mustard seed ice cream. This reminds me of some wasabi flavoured ice cream I’ve had before, although much more subtle in flavour but more noticeable in texture with the mustard seeds peppered throughout. This one seemed to attract quite a number of fans in the audience.

The worst of the bunch, was the next, very, very experimental flavoured ice cream – banana, garlic and parmesan. Of the six, this is the only one that I had to put down and not finish, even being the very small serve. I think the combination, without the ice cream, is strange enough. I’ve had banana and cheese, and garlic and cheese, but not quite all three at the same time. As an ice cream, it was made even more weird because none of the flavours seemed to dominate but not really taste well as a trio either.

The next, one of my favourites of the evening was the chilli and chocolate ice cream. Chilli and chocolate are well known partners, and as an ice cream, made even more interesting. The first lick brings the rich chocolate flavours, combined with a refreshing cold sensation, only to be quickly followed by the warm, tickling chilli sensation. Something I’ll definitely try one day.

The next one, honey and lavender was definitely a rich and fragrant ice cream although the honey was almost sickly overwhelming. I still really enjoyed this once, for the flowery flavours and the sweetness easily tolerable in its mini-cone flavour.

The final ice cream of the evening was a green tea ice cream dotted with chocolate pieces. Unlike many of the green tea ice creams I’ve had in the past, this one didn’t seem to be as gritty as many of the ones I’ve had previously. The flavour is definitely not as strong as many of the previous ice creams of the evening but you could taste, and see the richness of the green tea leaves.

I look forward to a few more evenings at the Dana Centre. I certainly had a lot of fun and ideas for ice cream. My next inspiration will be to try some sort of Pimms flavoured ice cream before the summer is out.

Jellymongers at The Experimental Food Society

Last Thursday, on a very nice day ending with glorious sunshine, I found myself surrounded by other foodies at the Intercontinental’s Cookbook Cafe, for the inaugural event of The Experimental Food Society. I can’t even remember how I found out about it, but I bought a ticket as soon as I saw my calendar free. The first event, invited the famous and enthusiastic Jellymongers, Bompss and Parr (a very British duo in name and person) talk about their passion for food.

The duo told rapturous stories about how they first dove into Jelly, with several ventures into dining and atmosphere experiences that make me think they would host some of the best parties. I missed their Alcoholic Adventures; I look forward to their Complete History of Food event. It won’t be the first time these groups collaborated.

For its first event, the Experimental Food Society did well and I’m pretty sure all the participants enjoyed themselves with a £5 ticket giving us the entertaining dialogue and show, a glass of wine or champagne (that flowed freely after the formalities, not that it stopped a few people before the actual event) and scrumptious finger food provided by the Intercontinental. Their only improvements include ensuring everyone could see the projector screen, or to ensure everyone had a place to sit as I noticed several people hovering in the aisles. Not bad for a first.

Of course, Bompas and Parr did a few demos involving jelly and, being well prepared, we all got a small plate to wobble at our leisure, mine a deliciously light Absinthe and Lime.

Overall a fine place to spend an evening and I look forward to the next event.

Goose Island in London

One of my favourite beers whilst in Chicago were the Goose Island brewskies, particularly the Summertime beers. I’ve been searching for a place that sold them for sometime in London, with my first encounter at Fulham’s White Horse pub.

Fortunately Borough Market helped me find another source of these wonderful beers. I stopped by the beer stall nearest to Brindisa and The Ginger Pig, which had a huge selection of beers from around the world. As I walked up to the counter to ask the assistant about Goose Island beers, the wide assortment of six packs sitting under the counter caught my eyes. Success! They only sell it here on weekends although it’s always available in their pub, The Rake just minutes away. The six packs vary between £10-£12.

Dinner @ Home

Last year, when I caught up with Gerrod and Kristy at Sitaaray, I promised to invite them around for dinner sometime this year. Last night was the first night that worked out for all of us, so they trooped to the other side of town to join a friend, Darci, and my flatmate, Tom, in our digs in Clerkenwell. Not surprisingly, everyone got tripped up by normal weekend tube maintenance work but everyone made it eventually. Here’s some of what I managed to get around to serving:

Some nibbles in the form of Baked Zucchini Chips

Accompanied by some home made kaiser rolls and butter

I never got a chance to take a picture of our appetiser, which was a truffle, mushroom and sundried tomato orzo with rocket. This was then followed up by the main course, a duo of pies – a Steak and ale for the omnivores and a mushroom and stilton pie for the vegetarians followed up with all the trimmings.

We finished the evening off with a Seasonal Pear Crumble served with a homemade Pear and Honey Sorbet with a matching dessert wine.

It’s always great catching up with everyone and preparing a filling meal to be enjoyed by all.