Put another way, Simon is in demand because he's bloody brilliant and we are honoured therefore that he chose to come to London and create a very special one off menu for our Chefs @CriticalCouple dinners.
Helping Simon in the kitchen was Sous Chef Craig, as well as Jordan and Elly. Out front, we were delighted to have Jason Poore join us, the excellent and knowledgeable front of house manager from The Elephant, as well as Charlie, both dressed to theme; read on.
Readers of our Chef Dinners series will know that chefs who cook here have a free hand in devising the menu, and Simon told us that on account of him being situated on the English Riviera, his menu would be themed around a day at the seaside. On receiving an early copy of a cryptic menu, and seeing 'jelly fish' and 'Big Mack and seagull shit' as courses, we wondered what we had let ourselves in for.
Guests were told to arrive promptly on the evening for we had our own surprise planned: after following signs to the beach and entering to the sounds of seagulls, what could be more British seaside than a Punch & Judy show. This 350 year old tradition was excellently performed by Robert Styles and got everyone in the seaside mood ahead of the main event.
During the show we are treated to Seaweed fritters which prove a real hit with their salty crunch, Whitebait and River Teign oysters keeping the Devon/seaside theme intact. With Punch & Judy over, we take our seats at the table and everybody else gets their first look at the menu; the usual degrees of fear and excitement envelopes the table - what after all is Brits on the beach and Sunburn midway through the menu?
Scallop sand castle follows, and since every castle needs a flag, here the Union Jack is firmly planted atop the scallop; everybody is smiling. We have lemon sand, made from dashi, lemon oil, dextrin and even some gold giving the sand a real shimmer to it, together with the tiny shirasu fish, sourced from The Fat Duck where Heston uses the same in his classic Sounds of the Sea dish. On top of course is a Torbay scallop really highlighting that Torbay's local seafood can match any on quality.
Given the sweetness to these dishes, Jason paired a Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett 2007 to match the food, which it did marvellously well. As Jason duly observed, Simon's food is not so easy to pair wines with given its variety, even on a single plate.
With the stronger flavours of the sardine, we paired the full flavour of Dom Perignon Rose 2000.
The wine choice for these dishes is Kirchberg Gewurtztraminer Grand Cru 2007.
It's paired with a Hermitage La Chapelle 1983.
Doughnuts are simply the best and here, everybody loved the lemon curd variety and there were plenty to go round. Finally, being Devon, afternoon tea is a must, so scones, jam, and Devonshire clotted cream are delicious and round out the meal.
The Torquay crew also came through from the kitchen to massive applause, showing off their tour T-shirts, Wapping-on-Sea on the front, alternative names on the back: chef, beaker, stud and cuddles.
We also used the event to support Galvin's Chance charity, where the generosity of our guests allowed us to collect in excess of £1,000 to support this totally worthy cause.
Everybody agreed, Simon is a hugely impressive talent and we should all expect to hear a lot more about him over the coming years as he piles success on success.
A huge thank you from us and from our guests to Simon and his team for delivering a meal that none of us will ever forget. As days at the seaside go, it was one of the best we can remember, and we didn't even leave our flat.
In the kitchen at Thomas Keller's French Laundry pop up, he has written on the wall so the entire kitchen team can see it the words: 'TO MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY/That is what cooking is all about'. Well, if that is the yardstick for success, Simon Hulstone is the real deal for by the end of the night, there were 12 very happy, very full punters who by universal consensus had an absolutely magic night. That's definitely the way to do it Mr Punch. Thank you Simon.
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