When we first saw Paul Ainsworth on television, it was clear he possessed star qualities, not least, great culinary skill, a huge personality and a winning smile. When we then met him, having made the journey to Padstow, Cornwall, especially to eat at his restaurant, Number 6, we came away even more impressed, Paul was yet more fantastic in real life than on TV and we said in the post of that visit
that Number 6 was in our top ten restaurant visits of 2011.
In our view, Paul represents everything that is best about the UK restaurant industry. He did the hard yards and learned his trade under Ramsay at Hospital Road (back when Gordon actually cooked there), he then did his own thing with Number 6 in the not so obvious location of Padstow and made it a national success, but more than anything else perhaps, he cares. He cares about his customers and food of course, that's a given, but he also cares passionately about his staff (who all clearly adore him) and he cares about his suppliers, not only as suppliers, but as people.
For our part, after 2011, we had not intended to do more of our Chef Dinners, but having become involved with The Manna Society
, a day centre for the homeless, at the start of 2012, we knew that our dinners were the best way to raise much needed funds for them. As soon as we had decided to again host them, top of our list of chefs we wanted to cook was Paul Ainsworth; we were beyond thrilled when Paul said yes. With busy diaries, the dinner ultimately got bumped into 2013 but what a fabulous way to start the year.
Chef Paul Ainsworth
Head Chef John Walton
Alongside our support of the Manna Society, a charity local to us, Paul chose a charity local to him, RNLI Padstow
, clearly, a hugely meaningful charity for a chef who lives in a fishing port where generations of families risk their lives daily to put food on our plates. But in a gesture that shows just who Paul Ainsworth is, despite all the complexities and organisation needed to transport his kitchen from Padstow to London to make the meal here a success, he found time to think about and bring up with him 50 Cornish pasties that were delivered to the Manna Society that same day. The pasties were from Chough Bakery
, who can be found quayside in Padstow, and these were some of the best Cornish pasties we have ever seen. I know where I'm heading next time I'm in Padstow...
A special mention is needed too for four organisations that have helped make all the dinners happen over the past year. Those companies that have so generously stood behind our dinners are: exceptional cutlery from Robert Welch
, beautiful plates from Goodfellows
, and two essential chef/kitchen aids: Pacojet from ChefTools
and Thermomix from UK Thermomix
. Without their support, these dinners would not be what they are.
Also helping us raise money for the charities are the restaurants who have donated tables for the auction prizes. This time round we generously received help from Koffmann's
steak house, Charlotte's Bistro
in Cheltenham, The Ship
Wandsworth and The Elephant
the table, everybody busy
When chefs come to our house, there is no brief, they are free to do what ever they want to do, how to use that freedom however is more often than not a vexing problem. Paul decided to make the food that night the story of his own culinary journey and described it thus:
a day probably doesn't go by when i am not asked, "where does the inspiration and thought come from when you create a dish?" our menu will take you through this ever evolving process of creativity. ten dishes that tell...
We start with some canapes that includes ever popular crispy chicken skin and cod's roe, confit Red Duke potatoes with chorizo and chive, and a mini pain au pudding. There's butter too, wrapped in truffle, and a generous bread basket. Following that, the menu starts in earnest.
A beach scene is lovingly recreated twelve times over with Cornwall's own golden sand. Some pebbles, fisherman's netting and seaweed, and Padstow is lovingly recreated round the table for as Paul says 'across the rocky beach in Porthilly are the most amazing oysters'. Deep fried and sitting on fennel and apple with a slice of salami on top, this is a dish that visitors to Cornwall, many whom might never have eaten an oyster before, can more easily approach. There's freshness and acidity from the salad, fatty umami from the salami and the wonderful crisp coated oyster that all comes together in a few bites of brilliance.
Next we have a particularly meaningful dish from Paul, dating from 2003, it is what he describes as 'my first real dish'. Aged just 21, Paul created this dish for his chef at the time, and it was Paul says, the first time he really understood how the food and flavours worked; the chef approved and the dish made it to the menu. It stands the test of time well and combines pigeon (breast, confit legs and parfait) with beetroot, endive, orange and nasturtium. Beautifully done, exquisite pigeon and again, some acidity with the orange to constantly refresh the palate so the dish wows with every mouthful.
Lobster... Cornwall... delighted it's on the menu, the best of south west. We would have been a little disappointed had it not been there and supporting (as he should) the home team, Paul is honest enough to say that he didn't "get" lobster till he ate Cornish lobster. For many people, this might have been the dish of the night. So much going on here, with the claw poking out of the lobster bisque foam, itself sitting on a lobster risotto where stunning chunks of lobster tail are invigorated with grapefruit dice. This is everything that is great about lobster in a bowl, and everybody here just wanted more, more, more. Stunning cooking. I could eat this every day of the week and be so so happy.
Cornwall, land & sea, or "when in Rome". Fans of GBM will have seen Paul's Colosseum back in 2012, and to the delight of everyone round the table, he reinvented it for the dinner. On top, it is confit duck leg and confit gizzards together with poached rhubarb. But as the dish that keeps giving, remove the top of the Colosseum and below, there's a duck consomme with chilli rings, glass noodles, mackerel, scallop, cucumber balls, radish and herb garnish. No surprise that top and bottom are loaded with flavour while to look down the table and see a dozen colosseums is quite a sight; this is guaranteed to put a smile on everyone's face, except that everyone was already smiling anyhow.
Cornwall, land and sea part 1
Cornwall, land and sea, part 2
Things are a little simpler with the next course, for the cod is of such a quality that letting it shine is, for good reason, Paul's preference here. Some chargrilled cauliflower, some curry oil, a little romanesco, and another triumph for south west ingredients.
What preceded the main course was hushed in secrecy ahead of the event, and even we had to leave the room when Alex was preparing this segment earlier in the day: on instruction ahead of the main, our guests gathered around the television for a very special video clip. Everyone was handed a glass of red wine, the delectable Ridge Vineyards 1995 Monte Bello
, and that wine, and its pairing to Paul's food, was then introduced to the room by Ridge themselves, filmed on site at the vineyard in California. The video is absolutely brilliant, and presenter Christopher definitely an on screen superstar, simply click below to watch it. Our thanks to Christopher Watkins and Amy Monroe at Ridge Vineyards
for taking the time and trouble, we will always now have a soft spot in our hearts, and cellar, for you and you lovely wine.
The main course itself was a beautiful fillet of beef, aged 35 days on the carcass and a further 6 off. This is served alongside smoked marrow and caviar with a crisp potato ring. Elegant and (relatively) simple, Paul notes 'when thinking of the garnish it had to be very clean and simple as the beef is the star'. It certainly was, though very interesting to pair some caviar with it.
The strawberry and bubble gum pre-dessert got everyone talking. A real nostalgia dessert, Refresher sweets and popping candy together with a strawberry sorbet that danced with joy in the mouth, this little bowl punched well above its weight.
strawberry & bubblegum
Bread & Butter pudding, a timeless British classic for sure, but also a dish more recently associated with Gary Rhodes. While we hear less of Gary on these shores currently, Paul has no hesitation paying tribute to him and this dish, titled 'literally my bread and butter' is an acknowledgement of Gary's influence in Paul's career. As Paul himself says, 'all the chefs I have worked with have played a huge part in my learning process but Gary Rhodes for me will always be the most special'. This was sublime and highlights that amazing cooking skill with even the simplest of ingredients can produce breathtaking results.
And if that weren't enough, The Harbour Brewing Company
provided a very special chocolate & vanilla stout to pair with the pudding... in a 3 litre bottle, complete with special label (pictured below). We love beers here at CC headquarters and we are honoured that the Harbour Brewing Company created something so special for us and our guests.
bread & butter
Sadly I missed a picture of the next dessert, Pineapple & Yoghurt, a dish that was inspired by Paul's schoolboy lunchbox days when his mum would put a Ski yoghurt inside and Paul would always hope that it was pineapple! Excellently timed and so refreshing, especially clever after a glass of chocolate & vanilla stout, it led us perfectly into the final dessert: more chocolate!
This was another GBM inspired dish with the gold covered chocolate torte revealing its secret when a hot caramac sauce is poured into the centre: the gold disc (Olympic gold medal) just melts away giving you a chocolate pot of the childhood candy bar inspired sauce. The pistachio cake and sorbet that come with it are a little more grown up, but this is a fun dessert, and a chocolate lover's heaven.
Glenfarclas 30 Year Old Single Malt
This was a meal of many surprises and many delights with a huge emphasis on the wonderful ingredients of the south west of England. Every dish was on the money and even as I have been writing this post, looking at the pictures and writing the words has made me hungry for Paul's food all over again. Fortunately, while Paul fed us magnificently that night, he feeds all his guests magnificently every day at Number 6, so another trip to Cornwall is definitely on the cards for us later this year.
There are two other things that are always mentioned at this stage of our post. First, with the food now served, it's time to open the Glenfarclas
, and on this occasion, a 30 year old single malt. We've enjoyed Glenfarclas at every one of our dinners thanks to the generosity of George Grant and the distillery and on behalf of all the guests over the past two years, a huge thanks to them for that. Do follow them on Twitter @Glenfarclas
Second thing to mention is that these dinners are always a team effort, and Paul's team is a fantastic group of people. Head Chef John Walton and Sous Chef Chris McClurg joined us for the entire weekend prep'ing for the meal ahead of the rest of the team's arrival, and it was a pleasure to welcome them to our flat. Alex Tozer, FOH manager at Number 6 is an exemplary professional who put together some fabulous drink pairings and committed so much more than 100% to ensure the evening was perfect on the night. Every one of Paul's team, like Paul himself, represents all that is good about the industry.
Also helping Alex with the drink was Ellis Wharton Wines
and Wadebridge Wines
, and our thanks to them, the drinks were spectacular.
Camilla, Jack, Mike, John, Paul, Tom, Chris, Alex
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
, well, that's about as far as my Latin goes, but more pertinently, who feeds the chefs? Step up the appropriately named Corey Cook, on Twitter, @jharrisonuk
, who seeks to bring the taste of Montreal pastrami to the UK. Corey kindly volunteered to feed Paul's team during the early hours after party, a brave man for sure, but one who also serves great pastrami, so little need to worry, and a very happy brigade. Check out the website Jacob Harrison
if you want to know where you too can sample the best pastrami in the UK right now.
Corey serves pastrami to a happy kitchen team
It was Epicurus who was reported to have said, 'we should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink, for dining alone is leading the life of a lion or wolf'. Indeed, our dinners only have value because of other people, here's a few snaps of a few of the wonderful people who were present that day.
Before everyone left, as if the night had not been magical enough already, there were goody bags to go and boxes of lovely bread from The Bread Factory,
our thanks to Isabel Kelly (@Isabel_AK
) and everyone at The Bread Factory for their wonderful generosity (and wonderful bread).
Opening the Goody Bags, it felt like Christmas all over again and a huge thank you to all who helped here. Angela of Number 6 put the bags together and contributions included goodies from RNLI
, Robert Welch
, a fused glass coaster from Jo Downs
, chocolate from Damian Allsopp
, sea salt chocolate from Kernow Chocolate
(which I'm eating as I write and it's very good indeed), herbal products from St Kitts Herbery
, all of course from Cornwall, and a late surprise, more chocs from Playboy Club London
(thanks Judy Joo).
Christmas in February, goody bags and bread from The Bread Factory
So many amazing things, so much great food over the year, but as much fun as these dinners are, so much hard work goes in to making them each a success. For all the dinners we've done, the chef and his team gave their time willingly, zero payment, always on their day off from the restaurant: we cannot express our gratitude enough to them. Of course, what makes it all worthwhile is how much good comes of these dinners.
In 2012/13, we hosted three amazing dinners from three of the country's leading chefs: Paul Ainsworth, Simon Rogan and James Knappett, and we were delighted and proud that we could unite them together for Paul's dinner. Even more proud to say that combining the amounts donated directly to Manna Society, a cheque to be presented to RNLI at the end of this month and gift aid claimed, the hard work of Paul, Simon and James has raised over £20,000, making a huge difference to the charities involved.
James Knappett, Paul Ainsworth, Simon Rogan
What more to say? Well, we can't say thank you enough to everyone involved, which by now, is hundreds of people. Thank you to all who took a seat round the table so contributing to these worthy causes, especially the auction winners (Dr J & Lord O on this occasion). To Robert Welch, Goodfellows, Pacojet and Thermomix. And Glenfarclas (which I will be drinking 10 minutes from now). And of course the chefs; without exception, every meal has been brilliant, every course brilliant; lifetime memories while doing a world of good.
Actually, there is one last thing to say: get involved with a charity that means something to you. Whatever you do, at whatever level, your effort makes a difference. And we know for sure, your efforts will be thoroughly appreciated by whatever charity you choose to support; is there a better way to spend your time? That's all from us.
When, in 2011, we first ate at Paul Ainsworth's Padstow restaurant, Number 6
, we described it as 'utterly brilliant' and said it was in our top 10 meals of the year. In 2012, Paul was awarded a Michelin star and many will be familiar with Paul from his regular TV appearances, including his banquet reaching performance on Great British Menu.
We are delighted to announce that Paul and his team will be cooking a one night only charity dinner at our home here in London and that two spaces at the table are available as part of a fabulous auction package. This would make for an ideal Christmas present for any food lover.
The event with Paul will be held on the evening of Sunday, 24th February 2013. It will include champagne on arrival, a unique tasting menu by Paul together with matching wines, and after dinner drinks including Glenfarclas whisky, going on till the early hours. There will also be lots of time to meet and chat with Paul. It will, without doubt, be a very special evening.
The auction prizes also bring together other great dining experiences, including meals at Koffmann's, Goodman steakhouse, Charlotte's Bistro and Lumiere in Cheltenham. And if that weren't enough, there's also a fabulous wine tasting event that we detail below.
Charities we are supporting on the night are Manna Society
, a day centre providing food, health care and advice to London's homeless, and RNLI Padstow
. Every single penny raised from the event goes to the charities and Paul and team are generously giving their time and energy for free.
If you want to hear Paul talking about his food, watch the short clip below.
As well as the dinner, we are also hosting in March 2013 a charity wine tasting. The tasting will include Dom Perignon, Mouton Rothschild, Chateau Margaux, Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Latour, Haut Brion and Chateau d'Yquem. Tom Harrow, WinechapUK
will be hosting the event and it will take place in the wine room at Alyn Williams at The Westbury
Details of the event and vintages to be tasted can be read here
. The event is limited to 8 people to ensure adequate glasses of every wine for all participants.
Three places are separately available for the wine tasting.
Charity Auction details
Please note the date of the events:
Paul Ainsworth dinner: Sunday 24th February 2013
Wine tasting: Wednesday 27th March 2013
Please also be aware, this is a set menu event, no vegetarian option or allergy options are available. Auction: Dinner Seat 1
Includes all of the following:
- An all inclusive attendance at Paul Ainsworth's charity dinner at CC for one person
- Attendance at the Bordeaux Wine Tasting for one person
- Lunch or dinner for two people at Koffmann's
(at the Berkeley), including a bottle of house wine, a signed copy of Pierre's latest book Memories of Gascony
(and possibly even get to meet Pierre himself!).
- Lunch or dinner for two people at Lumiere
, Cheltenham, ranked 37 in the Sunday Times 100 Top Restaurants (and 4th best in South West England)
- dinner for two at The Ship, WandsworthAuction: Dinner Seat 2
Includes all of the following:
- An all inclusive attendance at Paul Ainsworth's charity dinner at CC for one person
- Attendance at the Bordeaux Wine Tasting for one person
- Feast at the brilliant London steakhouse Goodman
. Enjoy a table for two people, a house bottle of wine and all you can eat steak! See the meat hanging room and tour kitchen. A meat lover's heaven.
- Dinner with matching wines at Charlotte's Bistro
, a great place and a personal favourite of ours
- Dinner for two at Michelin starred restaurant The Elephant in TorquayAuction: Wine Tasting
3 separate places are available for this event, and will be awarded to the three highest bidders:
- Attendance at the Bordeaux Wine Tasting for one personNew addition:
with three places up for auction for the wine tasting, there's a special additional prize for the the highest bidder on this lot: a year's membership to WinechapUK's Premier Crew.
This superb (and highly valuable) prize provides a wine concierge service giving you your own personal 'wine chap' helping out with everything from cellars to wine purchase to restaurant access.How to Participate
If you want to participate in the auction either contact us and bid on Twitter (@CriticalCouple
) or via email (email@example.com). State clearly whether you wish to bid on Dinner Seat 1, Dinner Seat 2 or Wine Tasting, and clearly state your bid.
Updates of where the bidding stands will be posted periodically on Twitter and on our website.
The auction close date is midday Sunday 16th December
, subject to final bids at that time.
Auction winners will be asked to provide payment (cash, cheque, bank transfer) by Sunday 23rd December.
Failure to settle by the above date will risk forfeiting the lot. Decisions of David & Nicole Williams (aka the critical couple) are final in all aspects of the auction and the events.
In February 2013, we will be hosting what we anticipate to be the last of our charity dinners, when the brilliant Paul Ainsworth of Number 6 Restaurant Padstow will be cooking up something very special indeed. The money raised from the dinner will be split between two charities, Manna Society, a day centre for the homeless in London, and RNLI Padstow.
Two seats at this private event will soon be made available via auction, and to supplement the prize, we have created a special wine tasting to be held later in 2013 (March, tbc) for the winners to attend.
But it gets better, because four additional places at the wine tasting will be available in the auction also, as stand alone auction lots.
For many, Bordeaux is considered the producer of the greatest wines in the world. Sadly, prices for the most part are prohibitively expensive, especially when it comes to the esteemed first growths. The wine tasting we have put together however will allow the auction winners to sample all of these including a 1990 Lafite, rated 96 points by Parker, a legendary wine from a legendary vintage. For a fun comparison, we've put a 1990 Mouton in the mix too.
In the line up then for the tasting are:
- Mouton Rothschild 1990
- Chateau Margaux 1985
- Lafite Rothschild 1990
- Chateau Latour 1997
- Haut Brion 2004
Furthermore, there will be a glass of Dom Perignon 1998 (tbc) on arrival and the tasting will finish with a Chateau d'Yquem (vintage tbc). There will only be 8 people at this event so this will not be just sips, but near on a full glass of each of these exclusive wines.
Furthermore, the event will be held in the beautiful Wine Room at Alyn Williams at The Westbury, who will be providing canapés, cheese, and a dessert to be paired with the Yquem.
Finally, the host for the night (alongside us) will be Tom Harrow, aka WinechapUK who will be conducting the tasting and answering all your wine and fashion questions.
The auction will be held in December, closing well ahead of Christmas, for this would make a unique Christmas present for any wine lover. 100% of proceeds from the auction will go to the charities involved. Watch our website and Twitter for further details.
Simon Rogan is one of the greatest cooking talents in the UK right now and the past two years have seen more and more people won over by his unique but never less than brilliant food. While his restaurant L'enclume in Cumbria remains the centre of his operation, Roganic opened in London in 2011 to widespread critical acclaim and brought something genuinely new to the London food scene. 2012 meanwhile saw Simon Rogan as the only chef on Great British Menu to have every one of his dishes be short-listed for the banquet with his dessert, scoring 39/40 by the judges, winning that category.
Readers of our blog will know that we have been huge fans of Simon and his food since we first ate at L'enclume in 2011and we were absolutely delighted when Simon agreed to cook one of our charity dinners. Simon and all of his team gave their time without charge to support Manna Society
, a Bermondsey based charity that provides a day centre for the homeless, feeding around 200 people every day of the year as well as providing basic help and medical care. Due to the generosity of many people and organisations, the dinner raised over £8,000 for Manna making a world of difference in the help they can provide to those in need.
As before, we auctioned two seats over Twitter for the dinner, and our thanks to the following who helped us put together some magnificent packages: The Ledbury
and Pollen Street Social
for tables at their restaurants, Le Manoir and the Raymond Blanc Cookery School
for donating a prize and Infusions 4 Chefs
for offering a fun filled day of molecular wizardry, Richard Vines of Bloomberg for volunteering to take our winners for a guest review and Inka Grill
for sponsoring a dinner at The Church Green by Aiden Byrne. We remain massively grateful to Glenfarclas
whisky and Dom Perignon
who have supported the dinners from the start and continue to do so.
We must also say a hug thanks to Goodfellows
who supplied all the plates for the evening, they can be seen in the pictures below how beautiful they are, and Robert Welch
for supplying the cutlery.
And as immensely talented as Simon is, these events are never one man projects. Joining Simon in the kitchen was Dan Cox, Roux Scholar, farmer, chef; Kevin Tickle, sous chef from L'enclume, and from London, the Roganic kitchen team of Andy and Matt. Roganic were also represented front of house with Richard Cossins and James.
There were two other special things about the evening's food and proceedings. First, all the veg that was being served had been taken from L'enclume's own farm in Cumbria. Simon and Dan had picked the veg from the ground on Saturday morning and driven it down themselves. Dan as noted has charge of the farm and therefore had planted this, nurtured it, picked it, prepped it and cooked it - the ultimate in vertical integration. Second, Simon likes to be as close to the diners as possible to provide yet stronger links to the food and that saw us bring the kitchen out the kitchen so to speak, creating a pass next to the dining table as well as workstations with water-baths, a Pacojet, induction stoves and a liquid nitrogen display right there in front of guests. Brave, and very special.
Simon Rogan and Dan Cox
If you've eaten at L'enclume or Roganic, you'll know they do tasting menus rather than a la carte, and that is often preceded by a handful of amuse courses; so it was here. First out was something very special: unfortunately, the one member of Simon's team who was unable to attend the night was Mark Birchall, Head Chef of L'enclume who was back in Cumbria delivering service, however, he did send a little treat down to kick things off - fried anchovy bones. This is a Can Roca special loved by us. Since Mark spent his three months there having won the Roux Scholarship in 2011, he knew we would love this as a way to start, we did, thank you Mark. This little snack is delicious: the anchovies are salted and cured, the bones are removed and placed on a purée of cooked rice and then deep fried. It's the best light crispy salty snack imaginable. This was paired with seaweed prepared in the same fashion. Amazing.
The other amuses were equally brilliant and included a crab and potato ball in crispy pork fat, a stunning looking mushroom bread, a gingerbread sandwich 'buttered' on one side with spiced strawberry jelly, on the other a tarragon mayonnaise, and the middle filling being a semifreddo of bay leaf and rapeseed oil. And as if this weren't enough treats to start, there's a poached oyster and chicken liver parfait too.
Crispy mushroom bread, mint, vinegar
Poached oyster, wild juniper and hazelnut
Cumberland creamed chicken livers
Enough of the amuses, onto the menu: Westcombe cheese dumplings with dried tomatoes, fennel, celery, spring onions and onion broth looks stunning in the selected bowl. The cheese dumplings, made with kuzu are exquisite, and like much of Simon's food, offers some familiar groupings, cheese, tomato, onion, with its own twist, the soft almost melting texture dumplings and broth.
For some, the next dish is one of the real highlights, mackerel in coal oil. The coal oil intrigues, Simon explains that it's achieved by pouring oil over red hot coals allowing the oil to infuse with the coals to give a smoky barbecue flavour. Simon uses this on a number of meats and it recently featured paired with beef tongue at Roganic. The quality of the veg really comes through here also with the own farm peas noticeably contributing to the dish, as does the mustard like dittander.
Westcombe dumplings, dried tomatoes, fennel and celerey
Fresh mackerel in coal oil, peas and dittander
Verbena and smoked curds, radishes and watercress
Bay shrimp with purple sprouting, blackberry and crystal lemon
Thanks go to Kevin Tickle for making the special journey from Cumbria on Sunday to bring us the beef tongue. Here it is served with carrots (in the picture below what looks like an egg yolk is in fact the perfect end of a chantenay carrot), mushrooms, buttermilk foam, crumbs of carrot cake, and dill dressing.
Carrots and beef tongue, dill, buttermilk
Red orach, smoked yolk, purple azur, apple marigold
As if 26 courses were not enough, the next course, not featured on the menu, was a surprise but still welcome addition: crispy duck sweetbreads on a sweetcorn purée. This is very L'enclume, but what follows is a pure Rogan signature dish: vintage potatoes in onion ash. It's dishes like this where a great chef using great ingredients can allow even a humble (albeit vintage) potato to be the star without so much additional fuss; that's real talent.
duck sweetbreads, sweetcorn puree
Potatoes in onion ashes, lovage and wood sorrel
Razor clams with sea herbs, turnips and pearl barley
The sea bass with roasted leeks came with its own marine inflections, dressed with sea sandwort, garlic sand and a cockle sauce which had been set in the shape of a starfish. Brilliant.
Sea bass, grilled leeks, sandwort with cockle sauce
Salt baked turbot, marrow, cauliflower and roasted bone
Randolph Lop suckling pig, Scottish girolles, mustard and chenopodiums
Reg's English Fowl, offal, broad beans, and elderflower
Cumbrian Hogget is a regular feature of the menu at both L'enclume and Roganic. While there are several conflicting definitions of a hogget, consensus suggests it is defined as an animal between a lamb (up to 1 year old) and mutton (more than 2 years old). While lamb remains commonplace, hogget is seldom seen on menus yet as we discovered last year at L'enclume, hogget can be so much better, at least when done by Simon Rogan. To add further depth of flavour, it is served here with lambs tongue.
Hoggett with courgettes, pickled tongue, nasturtium
Desserts were of course fabulous, you'd expect nothing less from the chef who won GBM on the strength of it. We started off with sweet cheese ice cream, a component that featured in the winning GBM dish. Because Simon only uses British ingredients, you wont see for example chocolate on his dessert menu, but what it does mean is that what you do get is usually innovative, often surprising and always delightful.
Sweet cheese and raspberry, honey with rose
Meadowsweet with sweet bracken, lemon balm, rhubarb
Douglas fir and cherries, goat's milk and penny royal
James, Matt, Richard, Andy, Dan, Simon, Kevin
What a phenomenal achievement this was by Simon and team. From what ever basis the meal is considered, the range of ingredients, number of courses, the quality of each of those course, the originality of the dishes, the ability to do this in a domestic home, it left everyone in awe of the talent on display. This was a unique menu, featuring an occasional signature dish but mostly created specifically for the night constituting for many the meal of a lifetime.
It's impossible to communicate in the post just how much hard work went in to making this meal happen but our sincere thanks to Simon and his team and all the sponsors who contributed to the success of the night. The evening, without doubt will make a difference to hundreds of people supported by Manna Society over many months to come.
If you want to try Simon Rogan's food, Roganic
continues to deliver an amazing food experience Tuesday to Saturday while a trip to Cartmel Cumbria will be rewarded with food perfection at L'enclume
. If you want a similar experience to the dinner above, consider dining at Aulis where Dan Cox
will cook you a meal right in front of you allowing you to enjoy a very personal and up close experience.
For a personal view of what's going on in all of the above you can also follow Simon Rogan on Twitter @simon_rogan
Simon Rogan is the award winning chef behind restaurants L'enclume and Roganic, with L'enclume currently rated number 2 in the UK in the Good Food Guide. For those watching Great British Menu this year, you'll know that not only was Simon a finalist but he had every one of his dishes make the top 3 being the only chef to achieve that accolade. He then went on to win the dessert course and cook at the banquet. Personally, we rate Simon Rogan as the best chef currently in the UK.
On Sunday 8th July, Simon Rogan together with his team, Roux Scholar winners Mark Birchall and Dan Cox will be cooking a one off charity dinner here at CC headquarters. The charity is of course Manna Society, a day centre for the homeless situated just off London Bridge.
The dinner features a one of a kind menu from Simon and will be a unique opportunity to experience Simon's food and to interact with the Chef. Wines will also be paired with the food throughout the night.
We have therefore created two exceptional packages for people to bid on to attend this event with help and support from our generous partners in supporting the work of Manna Society. Auction Seat A
A seat at the Simon Rogan dinner (1 person)
Lunchtime tasting menu for 2 people with matching wines at 2 Michelin star The Ledbury
(date to be agreed with restaurant)
Join Bloomberg food critic Richard Vines on the job and participate with Richard in a London restaurant review (1 person).
Enjoy a day at Le Manoir, Raymond Blanc Cookery School
Dinner for 2 at The Church Green by Aiden Byrne courtesy of Inka. Meet Aiden and even get to cook on the Inka if you want to try your hand (2 people). Auction seat B
A seat at the Simon Rogan dinner (1 person)
Table for 2 people at Jason Atherton's Michelin starred Pollen Street Social
(2 people, date to be agreed with the restaurant)
Join Bloomberg food critic Richard Vines on the job and participate with Richard in a London restaurant review (1 person).
Enjoy a day at INFUSIONS 4 Chefs
learning the cooking secrets of El Bulli and Can Roca (1 person)
Dinner for 2 at The Church Green by Aiden Byrne courtesy of Inka. Meet Aiden and even get to cook on the Inka if you want to try your hand (2 people). How to Bid
This couldn't be more simple. Tweet us your bid or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember to tell us whether you want to bid on Seat A or Seat B.
We will provide regular updates on Twitter and on our blog as to where the bidding is and there is no restrictions on how many times you can bid. Bidding will close at midday on Sunday 24th June. The winner will be notified shortly thereafter.
James Knappett and Sandia Chang are two of the nicest people in the industry, they are also two of the most talented. Both have worked in some of the world's top restaurants including Per Se and Noma, and now together, they are opening Bubbledogs& (read press article here
). When we decided that we would again undertake a small number of charity dinners this year, we were absolutely delighted that James & Sandia accepted our invitation to help.
We decided to resurrect the dinners this year after we became involved with local charity the Manna Society
who run a day centre for the homeless in Bermondsey. They feed around 200 people a day, provide limited medical care, a mailing address, showers and toilets, education, and crucially, advice to help people back in to work and homes. Like all charities, they struggle with limited resources which impacts their ability to feed those who come through their doors hungry, as well as limiting other services. Our hosted dinners this year have the sole aim of raising as much money for Manna Society as possible.
In doing this we have had much help. First and foremost, James and Sandia have given huge amounts of time and energy to make this happen. As has always been the case with our dinners, the chefs volunteer their time and take no payment other than our heartfelt thanks and a beer at the end of service. Down the right hand side of this page are the banners and links through to our partners who have helped make the dinner happen and otherwise supported the charity. They are all great people and we thank them for giving so generously, we'll talk about them more below.
Special thank yous go to Fred Sirieix and Galvin at Windows
, Alyn Williams at The Westbury
and Jose Pizarro
who all helped us package two fantastic auction seats that raised an amazing amount of money (thanks to all who bid too). With that said, we are delighted to announce that the dinner raised in total over £5,000, every penny of which goes to the Manna Society in helping London's homeless.
All the wonderful plates that you can see the food on were donated for the night by Goodfellows
and all the cutlery supplied by Robert Welch
James & Sandia
James Knappett is no stranger to tasting menus given the restaurants in which he has worked and here we are presented with an extensive one, some of which will shortly be available in the fine dining part of Bubbledogs&. The fish courses to start incorporate the best ingredients, the lightest touch from James and more often than not, a twist. The most incredible turbot (from Fish for Thought
) is served raw, thinly sliced with an orange dice providing a fresh juice burst. Cornish Mackerel meanwhile moves flavours up a gear with deep fried ginger adding some crunch together with coriander and chilli, all of which James describes as 'a little warm'; a little delicious too.
Salmon eschews the expensive prime cuts for the belly, very fatty and therefore loaded with flavours. Smoked over woodchips, a twist of lime and sea salt is all that's needed here; if you've not had this before and see it on a menu, it's a must try. Scottish hand dived scallops return us to prime ingredients with a twist, here, beautiful wild strawberries, chopped dill and a lemon vinaigrette. Strawberries and scallops are a new combination to everyone round the table but they work fabulously well together, the strawberries adding a complimentary sweetness, but also acidic juices and additional textures to the very best quality scallops (also served raw).
Eel is next and is a little more daring. The eel is smoked, served with horseradish cream and garnished with the deep fried spine of the eel, the skin, and the cartilage. The deep fried spine is reminiscent of the anchovy bones also served deep fried at Can Roca, and adds a great crunch to the dish.
Finally, in this first section, there's whipped cod's roe and pig skins, the skins being the super light and crispy variety, having been dehydrated before frying.
turbot, orange, avocado puree
mackerel, ginger, chilli, coriander
scallop with strawberry
eel with horseradish
It's ham and peas next but not quite in the traditional sense. Filo pastry baked with a little sugar and milk is draped with ham and filled with a raw pea purée and mint, prepared in the Thermomix kindly donated for the night by UK Thermomix
. It's a fun and tasty transition. Following peas it's tomatoes, arriving at the table as a massive burst of colour on the plate. But there's also cucumber (in pickled and compressed form), melon, smoked crème fraiche, dry olive and cous cous. This is a really fresh dish, the dehydration and compression concentrating the flavours.
Poached egg yolk on a seaweed salad with smoked scallop roes follows. The transition back to the sea is followed by Cornish oysters (River Fowey), butter poached turbot skirts, a medley of sea vegetables (supplied by Forager
) and a sauce from the roasted bones of the turbot deglazed with wine and butter. Too excited by the food, I only realised I had not taken a picture of this dish once I had finished! This is followed by a fabulous Cornish John Dory and cauliflower (roasted, butter poached and raw) and amandine.
'ham and peas'
tomato, cucumber, melon, dry olive, cous cous, smoked crème fraiche
egg yolk, seaweed, smoked scallop roe, crisp bread, seasame
John Dory, cauliflower, pepper yoghurt, almond, butter
Home made macaroni with wild garlic and summer truffles follows (also no picture, oops). Big offal flavours then follow with BBQ chicken hearts, elderberry capers, beurre noisette and crispy chicken skins. Everyone gives them a try, for some, one's enough. Our thanks to Aubrey Allen
for supplying the chicken and pork products.
The two meat courses continue to build on the theme of the highest quality British ingredients. The venison is first and is special for the kitchen as James helped Cornish Game
shoot this a week previously. It's served with radish, asparagus, sauce from the bones and Parmesan; most agree it is the best venison they have ever tasted: tender, moist and awesomely flavoured, it's hard to believe this is not a meat that is marbled with fat. Serving venison this good from a home kitchen is a remarkable achievement, a testament to supplier and chef.
The tenderness of the beef equally surprises everyone, the quality shines. It has been supplied by Warren's
of Cornwall who undoubtedly supply some of the best meat in the UK - it's Warren's beef that we have previously raved about at both Alyn Williams at The Westbury
and Pollen Street Social
. The cut is Jacob's ladder, it's BBQ'd raw, then cooked for 10 hours at 80 degrees and served with onions, smoked bone marrow, pickled mushrooms and the jus. Once again it's a remarkable display of great produce meets perfect cooking; as a beef dish, it would stand up to any served up in any restaurant across the country. As GBM judges might say, it's a gold medal winner.
chicken hearts, elder butter, chicken skins
venison, parmesan, radish, asparagus
beef, bone marrow, pickled mushrooms, onion, turnip
Our cheese course of Burrata with grapefruit and caviar leads us into the final phase of the meal, again with surprising combinations as the grapefruit cuts through the Burrata and caviar.
A trio of desserts finish up: olive oil panna cotta with roasted rhubarb; pear cake, raw sliced pair, dehydrated liquorice, liquorice ice cream and sweet cicely; finally, a Baileys bon bon. All were fabulous. The ice cream was prepared using the Pacojet kindly donated for the night by ChefTools
Burrata, caviar, grapefruit
Panna cotta, rhubarb
pear, pear cake, sweet cicely, liquorice ice cream liquorice dust
To do a meal of this magnitude is never the work of just one person. James was helped in the kitchen by Michael, Aaron and Oscar. Sandia was helped out front by Jack Settle and James. Again, everyone volunteered, giving their time for free to do this, and their hard work is much appreciated.
Jack, Aaron, Oscar, Sandia, James, Michael, James
On the drink front, wines throughout the meal were paired brilliantly by Sandia. The wines served during the the evening can be read here
. And after the food had finished, we were again lucky enough to have a bottle of Glenfarclas for guests to enjoy and we thank Glenfarclas
distillery for their ongoing support of our charity events (readers of our Twitter feed know this is a whisky we adore). Support on the wines was also provided by Dom Perignon
, The Sampler Wine Merchant
and Fields, Morris & Verdin
and our thanks go to them. Koya
restaurant also kindly provided an excellent (and enormous) bottle of sake.
While Bubbledogs& opens soon, at the time of the dinner James, unlike other chefs who have cooked here, had no offsite facilities for preparation. Trishna Restaurant
generously helped out in this resepct, but it also meant that the kitchen team were here much of the weekend for prep. The amount of hard work undertaken by everyone, all the attention to detail, was simply astonishing, we cannot thank them enough; we felt privileged to watch and help out where we could.
James's food is undoubtedly fantastic and Sandia is the perfect front of house; Bubbledogs& is going to be a remarkable addition to the London food scene when it opens later this year, currently expected to be July. The meal also highlighted how blessed the UK is for great food stuffs. All the main ingredients used were British: Scottish & Cornish seafood, Cornish and Devon meats, British veg (supplied by Tayshaw
). And when great ingredients are placed in the hands of a master chef, this is what results.
The night was the result of many contributions, all so generous, our thanks again. The evening will for sure make a difference to hundreds of London's homeless. After the event was publicised on Twitter, we received an email from a chef which we will leave as appropriate final words:Just over 4 years ago I found myself to be in the situation where I was too proud and too stubborn to ask for help even though I was in the most need of it!!! Due to being made unemployed for reasons of the economic crisis that was happening, I found my self homeless and in hard times to extents I never imagined but due to help from certain people who want to remain unknown I was able to piece my life slowly back together, it hasn't been easy or straight forward but today I stand with a determination more than ever to succeed and with your help many more people will have this chance! So with greatest respect to all of you please raise awareness to the homeless problem that not only affects our industry but can help so many more like my self thank you. On Twitter, follow:
James Knappett - @jamesknappett
Sandia Chang - @watermelonchang
Bubbledogs& - @bubbledogsuk Quality pictures
Food photographer Thomas Bowles captured the evening - view pictures here