Favourite Tables

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Cornerstone Hackney

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This was our fourth visit to Cornerstone so you might be wondering why we love it here so much. Well actually it’s very simple the fish dishes created by chef Tom Brown are amazing and the desserts by Kelly Cullen are delicious so when you match this along with the great friendly service the decision to keep coming back is very easy.

It was also, therefore, no surprise when they received yet another award meaning they are now the proud holders of 3 AA Rosettes. The surrounding area in Hackney Wick where the restaurant is situated is being developed all the time which surely can only benefit this place as well. It’s very easy to get to as its only a very short walk from the station and also close to the Olympic Village which in fact as it was a nice day is the route we took from Stratford. On our arrival we were given the usual friendly welcome just like our previous visits. Our table couldn’t have been better as it was right opposite the pass where Tom completes and makes sure each dish is perfect before it’s sent out. Our lunch started with a complimentary glass of bubbles courtesy of Tom. We were then given the menu which was full of fabulous new dishes to try as well as a couple of old favourites.

On our previous visits we’ve always ordered the entire menu so after deliberating if we could leave anything out only to remember how good they were before we decided to once again order everything. This decision brought a smile to the managers face as she remembered that we did this the last time.

We started with the most amazing Sourdough Toast with Netherend Farm Butter which was quickly followed by two selections of Oysters. The first is the original Pickled Oyster with Celery, Horseradish & Dill and the new Native Oyster with a Seaweed Hot Sauce.

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Once we finished the oysters we then ordered a fabulous bottle of Certosa an Italian Rose Wine from the Island of Capri which was a real delight and accompanied the remainder of the dishes nicely Next on the list was the first of stunning new dishes a fantastic Brill Tartare with Wild Garlic, Mushrooms & Egg Yolk. This was followed by Cured Gurnard with Grapes, Almonds & Sherry Vinegar. We finished this little section with a favourite the Mackerel Pate with Cider, Sea Purslane & heavenly Treacle Bread After enjoying a little break we were then treated to some fantastic St Austell Bay Mussels in a Cafe de Paris sauce just sublime especially when you come across a couple of beautiful Clams hidden at the bottom.

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Following this was another fabulous new dish of Fried Jerusalem Artichokes with Cod’s Roe & Hazelnuts before enjoying a couple of fabulous Hand Dived Scallops, Coral Butter & Lime a pure delight We then continued to another old favourite with a slight change the Potted Shrimp Crumpet now with Kohlrabi, Gherkins & Parsley but still amazing. This was followed by two more new dishes the first being a fabulous Roast Cornish Hake with Celeriac, Anchovy & Chilli. Then came the highlight of the day a truly stunning Whole Monkfish Tail with the famous Chicken Butter Sauce.

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If you come here even for just one dish then this is it.

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After enjoying the amazing dishes another rest was required. During this time manager then came over to ask if we’d like the cheese course or dessert. We looked at her and just smiled and she knew what was coming as we said you may now bring the rest. This is where the amazing Kelly Cullen takes over starting with a fabulous Cheese Course consisting of a Blue Cheese, Honey Cake, Figs & Walnuts a perfect combination. Now it was time for desserts and once again Kelly excelled herself with three absolute beauties. The first was a fantastic Sea Salt Praline Tart & Pecan simply amazing. The second was a stunning Pavlova with Rhubarb, Clotted Cream & Ginger. Then our last dessert was a fabulous Dark Chocolate Torte with Blood Orange & Creme Fraiche Ice Cream.

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We finished with a coffee and Petit Fours which brought to end another memorable lunch here at Cornerstone. Before we left it was nice to have a chat with Tom who really is such a nice person. I’d like to Thank Tom, Christian & Kelly for the amazing food plus thanks to the front of house team for their excellent service. Another plus is that the menu changes often which is great if you are local and are able to visit on a regular basis. So yes I would highly recommend a visit as you are really missing out if you haven’t been yet. I for one certainly won’t be leaving it too long before I return and try more of this restaurant’s amazing dishes 

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Frog Hoxton

The Frog Hoxton

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If I start by saying I’ve already booked in for a return visit then what’s to follow will not surprise you. This was an excellent lunch from start to finish combining stunning food & drink with fabulous service. We arrived at Liverpool Street station and decided to take the fifteen-minute stroll along Curtain Road then as you cross Old Street this will lead you straight to the restaurant.

The restaurant itself is set on a corner of Hoxton Square which is another area in Shoreditch that has been developed into a hip & trendy location. When we arrived at the restaurant we were greeted by restaurant manager/sommelier George who really looked after us throughout our visit. After a brief chat, he showed us to our table which was along by the window overlooking the square. Once seated we had a look around the restaurant which was actually very spacious. On the left as you enter is the long open kitchen then in front there are three rows of seats with an additional seating area at the opposite end where on the wall is some amazing artwork.

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There is also the addition of a bar area downstairs. We started with a drink from there extensive wine & beer list where they in fact have over two hundred beers so unless you have a favourite it’s best to ask George for some advice. It was then time to look at the menus which there was a choice of A La Carte or our choice the Tasting Menu which you can have matched wines or beers.

First up from the menu was some amazing snacks that were so delicious and just a fantastic way to start. One was a Heritage Carrot, Roasted Hazelnuts & Mint and the other was Trout, Buckwheat & Passion Fruit. Next to come was the Bread with the simply amazing Chicken Butter that was so good we were given some to bring home. This was accompanied by the Beef, Chilli & Lovage on a cracker with delightful Indian flavours.

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While enjoying your food you get to listen to some great tunes which I have heard people say can be quite loud but I can assure you that is not the case. What’s also good is that the chefs bring out each course themselves which is a really nice touch especially with it being an open kitchen giving you the opportunity to interact if you so wish. So on to our next dish and which in fact is Adam’s signature dish the Celeriac, Yolk, Apple, Dates & Truffle was an absolute delight.

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This was followed by a fabulous Mussel & Pumpkin Curry with Wild Rice very light and delicate but giving a nice warm feeling in the throat. Now it was time for our main course and there was no disappointment here either as we enjoyed a fabulous Duck, Rhubarb & Pistachio dish which was brought to us by head chef Jamie who it was great to meet and have a chat with.

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Before desserts, we were then treated to a heavenly Cheese Doughnut which George matched with a fabulous glass of Banyuls Dessert Wine. It was to die for as our waitress Tamsin who also a pleasure to meet and looked after us very well verified.

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Now it was time for desserts to which there were three to choose from. My wife chose the Blood Orange, Lemon Balm & Oats so it was only right that I chose the other two. One is the Chocolate Tofu, Coconut & Lime and the other a Caramelised White Chocolate, Buckwheat & Apple.

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All desserts were pure heaven and delightfully matched with fabulous sweet wines a Mount Horrocks Gordon Cut and a light Rude Mechanicals Frizzante To finish we enjoyed a coffee and a delightful Petit Four which brought to an end an outstanding lunch.

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I’m already looking forward to our return in April and I would highly recommend booking a table here. I’d like to say a Thank You to Jamie and his chefs for the amazing food and also to George, Tamsin and the team for taking care of us which really added to our lunch experience

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Haywards Restaurant – Epping

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For the last five years, I’ve been a frequent diner here at Haywards. This to me is an easy decision as for one it’s only half an hours drive away. The other reasons are is that the food is simply amazing which is matched by the fabulous service you receive from an excellent young team.

It’s not hard to see why this restaurant once again won Best Restaurant in Essex and now also has the well deserved honour of being a 2 AA Rosettes restaurant to which I’m sure in the future will increase. So as I said the food created by Chef Jahdre Hayward is fantastic and full of stunning flavours which without any doubt has been improving year by year. So what to expect in 2019 well if our first visit of this year is anything to go by then I would recommend booking a table now as you’ll be in for a treat. We arrived on Saturday for lunch and received our usual nice welcome before being shown to what I can now say is our regular table. While enjoying our pre-lunch drinks owner Amanda said that if it was ok with us Chef has created for us a Special Tasting Menu which would include all the new dishes.

A lunchtime Tasting Menu is something that they’re looking to introduce so please feel free to ask about its availability. Well, honestly how could we refuse so gladly accepted and couldn’t wait to see what he’d produced. We started first with some fabulous Granary Sourdough Bread before enjoying a Carrot & Ginger Veloute along with Paprika Crackers & Arancini Balls.

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Now it was time for our first course and wow it was outstanding a Foie Gras & Green Tea Ballotine with Salted Grapes & Pickled Apple a truly amazing way to begin. This was followed by a fantastic vegetarian dish a Roasted Cauliflower with Ricotta Dumplings, Capers, Pine Nuts & Raisins – just heaven.

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Now on to our next course and yes it was another dish full of flavour as we were treated to a Ham Hock Boudin, Jerusalem Artichoke Purée & Thyme Foam simply delicious. This heavenly dish led us on to our main course which consisted of a Pan Roasted Breast of Pheasant, Confit Leg & Caramelised Celeriac Purée with the added delight of Potato Dauphinois which is always amazing here.

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We now needed a short rest before moving on to desserts to which we were told there would be two. This was music to my ears as yes I love desserts. The first dessert was a divine Coconut Brûlée with Mango Sorbet & White Chocolate Aero. This was followed by a Pumpkin Tart with Nutmeg Ice Cream & Poached Clementines & Purée. We wondered if the Tart would be a bit savoury but it was nice & light and worked well with the nutmeg ice cream it was just delicious.

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We finished with a coffee and petit fours to bring to an end another fabulous lunch at Haywards and if this is what’s to come in 2019 then all diners are in for something special.

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I would highly recommend a visit so you can see for yourself why this restaurant gets the accolades it deserves. In Jahdre they have one of the best chefs around & under the guidance of Amanda & Anne the front of house team are so friendly and professional. So don’t delay and book a table today you will not be disappointed. I’ll probably be back in a couple of weeks for another fantastic visit 

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Chef Cyrus Todiwala sits down with Chef’s Table

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Cyrus Todiwala

 

Favourite Tables recently sat down with Bombay-born chef Cyrus Todiwala OBE the Chef Patron of the iconic City of London restaurant, Café Spice Namaste, and the eponymous Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen at the Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5. Heathrow is soon to be followed by a New Opening of the same name at the brand new Lincoln Plaza London in Canary Wharf.

Cyrus is a champion of the environment, sustainability and follows closely the ethos of his Parsee community to undertake good works for others. He recently launched the ground-breaking Zest Quest Asia, a student culinary competition designed to develop skills and raise the profile of Asian cuisine ably supported by wife Pervin Todiwala and the Master Chefs of Great Britain.

He is an Ambassador for The Clink Charity and Patron of the British Lop Pig Society. He appears regularly on BBC Saturday Kitchen, has written numerous best-selling cookbooks, and has his own line of hand-crafted pickles, chutneys and sauces.

With such a busy schedule we made the most of the time we had and fired off our questions…

 


 

Q: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

CT: “Dhaan Daar Nay Vaghaar” — quite simply, Parsi-style daal with rice and caramelised onions and garlic. Or breakfast prepared by my wife Pervin.

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Q: Before you chose to be a chef did you have another career in mind?

CT: I would have wanted to get a degree into agricultural studies, I have always loved nature, plants and the soil.

 

Q: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

CT: Le Gavroche

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Q: Have you ever been presented with a dish/ingredient that you just could not eat and where was that?

CT: I once struggled miserably with fermented tarantula. It wasn’t the most appetizing, but I ate it, partly to look good…choke!

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Q: Which city or country is the most innovative in terms of food?

CT: I feel it’s London. Here you find creativity and novel ideas everywhere, every day.

 

Q:  What is set to be the next ‘new’ ingredient? And which in particular interests you?

CT: These aren’t so much ingredients, but tastes and processes.  Umami and fermenting have certainly made a comeback. I’ve already run two master classes on them.

 

Q: If you could change any misconceptions about restaurants/restaurant food, what would they be? 

CT: There are so many misconceptions surrounding restaurants. Not all restaurateurs are making money hand over fist, and neither are we all ogres when it comes to staff welfare, which is sometimes what the media makes us out to be. In fact, restaurants have to work very hard to survive and landlords and councils need to be more considerate towards owners and operators.

Tough it may be, but it’s also true that the restaurant industry is open to people from all walks of life, and regardless of age, it can offer career opportunities. You could be starting out your career or making a change, or wanting to develop new skills. All the industry asks for is the right attitude, aptitude and the desire to work. The restaurant industry can help solve unemployment problems so long as Government is understanding and flexible with us. How? By taxing us less so we can be allowed to flourish.

Q: Have you been featured or would you like to be featured on any TV food programmes. Are these types of shows a good thing for the restaurant industry and chefs?

CT: I have been featured and would definitely like to be featured more. On whether these shows are a good thing for the restaurant industry depends on how well the programme is made and the light it shines on the industry. This is how impressions are made. Young people are either motivated or disillusioned by what they see, and producers have a role in seeing to it that the right message gets across. Chefs do benefit immensely from these food programmes. But the danger is they can also relay the wrong impression to young budding chefs, who then feel that getting on TV is an absolute necessity.

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Q: How important is a Michelin star? A growing number of chefs and restaurants have recently asked that they be removed, because of the pressure – your thoughts.

CT: It depends on how much you desire it. It’s this desire and determination, and sometimes desperation, for whatever reason, personal or professional, that can drive some to insane lengths. Michelin is a recognition of all round standards, though it has also become such a status symbol that some obsess over it, adding to the pressure. Perhaps some are giving it up because they discovered that they chased it for the wrong reasons, or perhaps misunderstood its core meaning. Maybe the fear of losing the stars is simply too great. On a personal note, the media and the industry do give great importance to it, to the extent, it seems that those who hold Michelin stars then belong to an elite club. But Café Spice Namaste has held a Michelin BIB Gourmand longer than any other in the Michelin Guide and we’re very proud of this. It means good value, good food. Maybe this is what most people are looking for today.

 

Q: What do you think about negative reviews?

CT: Unless totally justified, I think sometimes they’re not as honest as they ought to be. At times, reviews can be quite vindictive to the extent of destroying an establishment. But sometimes a negative review kick-starts the recognition of weakness and can drive one towards achieving excellence too. One incident, one bad interaction, or just one bad day for the restaurant or individual does not mean that the place is bad or that all staff are indifferent. So I think a review should be backed up by more than one or two visits.

 

Q: If you received a call from Buckingham Palace with a request for Chefs who have received an OBE to prepare one dish each for a Dinner for The Queen and a small group of visiting dignitaries, what would be your dish?

CT: I would still do what we prepared for Her Majesty during the beginning of her Diamond Jubilee tour, the “Country Captain” or Indian Shepherd’s Pie. I think that would stand out by providing a real cultural connection with India. It will help showcase how the very first spice influences weaved their way into Britain, leading to the current desire for spices and hot food. It would showcase Britain today as the most multi-cultural nation in the world where people don’t just mingle and live together but take part in one of the most important things in life — good healthy eating made using top quality ingredients!

 

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Q: What is your favourite dish on the current menu that you have created in the past 6 months and why.

CT: “BEEF XACUTTI”. It’s always challenging to put this curry on the menu except if you are in Goa itself. Being one of the most intricate and labour – intensive curries it can let you down heavily. It is performing extremely well on the menu and is impressing diners as we had hoped it would, making all that effort that went into it worthwhile.

 

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Q:  If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

CT: Oh, there are too many! The reason, moment, or event would play their part in my choice. For one, I would like to cook alongside a regional Italian master to showcase the similarity and the link to one’s Persian heritage. Franco Tarusho would be the most likely companion as his style of cooking is brilliant. Though retired now, I still have a very deep respect for this grand master. Having said that, Mr Mosimann is my hero and perhaps doing a selective menu with him would suit me very well!

 

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My Favourite Tables  – Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Restaurant (1): Green Papaya, Mare Street, Hackney, London.

191 Mare Street, London E8 3QE, England. www.green-papaya.com

Well, we dine here more often than not. It’s the place for us to relax and chill, enjoy some good food and very friendly staff. We know the owner very well too. We’re never disappointed.

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Restaurant (2): Good Earth Cromwell Road.

Address: 233 Brompton Rd, Chelsea, London SW3 2EP. www.goodearthgroup.co.uk 

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The Five Fields

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This was a long overdue return to The Five Fields but I have to say it was definitely worth the wait as it turned out to be a truly fabulous evening. We’ve been here twice before but the last time was over two and a half years ago and I can honestly say it won’t be anywhere near as long before we’re back again.

Set just off the Kings Road and only a short walk from Sloane Square tube station is where you’ll find the restaurant. As you enter the restaurant you immediately get a lovely homely feeling along with a warm and very friendly greeting. As you look into the dining area you see the tables down each side are set out for couples where each person faces inwards. There are larger tables down the centre plus upstairs is a Private Dining Room.

Once seated we were treated to a delightful glass of Welsh Sparkling Rose from the Ancre Hill Estates. We also enjoyed some amazing snacks while we looked at the menu. On this occasion, we decided to opt for the eight-course Tasting Menu. It was then time to meet the wonderful sommelier Anna who it was a pleasure to chat to throughout the evening. Regarding our choice of wine, we said that we would like to just have a bottle than the matched wine option to which Anna recommended a fabulous Riesling Trocken from Germany which was an absolute delight and really matched each course nicely.

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Now onto the food itself and we started with a stunning Scallop with Tomatillo & Lime this was followed by a heavenly Lobster with Fennel & Lardo. These dishes were brought to us by our Spanish waitress Lourdes who was so friendly and professional and truly added to our magical evening The next two courses were equally fantastic.

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The first being an amazing Beef Tartare with Mushroom followed by a simply stunning Foie Gras with a Beetroot Brioche & Blackberries Before we got to the main course we had the pleasure of a beautiful Turbot dish which came with Seaweed & Garlic So now it was time for the mains to which there was a choice of two. One being Roe Deer served with Courgette & Potato and the other was Grouse which came with Pumpkin & Girolles. We decided to have one dish each and can honestly say they were both worthy of being the highlight dish of the evening as they were just amazing Before dessert we decided to opt for a cheese course which apart from one French cheese the rest were British & Irish. The cheese was nicely presented to us by our delightful waitress Lourdes.

 

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We then had a pre-dessert which was a fabulous Melon with Hazelnut & Orange. This led us into our last course a delightful dessert of Honey, Lemon & Tarragon and the Sweet Wine chosen by Anna a Vouvray from the Loire Valley matched the dessert beautifully. This brought an end to an outstanding evening where the food, wine and service were of the highest order and will definitely go down as one of the highlights of the year.

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Therefore I would highly recommend that you put a visit to this restaurant very close to the top of your list and as I said at the beginning it certainly won’t be very long before I return

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We meet with Alex Boyd Executive Head Chef at Caxton Grill for Chef’s Table

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Alex Boyd

 

Alex Boyd grow up in Aldershot and then at the age of 18 moved to London. For two years prior to moving Alex travelled to Westminster College to study for a Professional Chefs Diploma having decided at the age of 12 that a chef is what he wanted to be.

In his second year at college, one of the work placements he attended was at Scotts of Mayfair. Two months in, Alex was offered a position in the kitchen. Not wishing to give up his college position he studied and had the theory in the mornings and worked the late shift at Scotts in the evening, gaining invaluable experience and as he says “best thing I ever did” As a commis Alex worked on all stations and was always asking questions.

His culinary CV continued with time working for Pierre Koffman at La Tante Claire. The “very tough environment” of a Michelin kitchen under Chef Koffman instilling lessons that remain with him today. His career includes working at the Montcalm Hotel, where he progressed from Chef de Partie to Senior Sous Chef in just three months and the Bluebird Restaurant, Chelsea. He was then involved in the launch of the V Restaurant & Bar in Hong Kong, where he spent three years learning new skills and experimenting with a variety of local ingredients. Alex then returned to London to join L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, another two Michelin starred restaurant, before his appointment as Head of Catering at the Lawn Tennis Association. Here he spent six years before leaving for a senior role as Executive Head Chef at The Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London.

 

He is now Executive Head Chef at the St. Ermin’s Hotel and for the Caxton Grill. We chatted to him in the Private Dining room of the Caxton Grill. That morning Alex had already been busy up in the Roof Kitchen Garden on top of the hotel checking on the 350,000 Buckfast honey bees that produce the St. Ermin’s Hotel’s own honey and the homegrown fruits and vegetables utilised in his inspired new afternoon tea and Caxton menus.

 


 

Q: Before you chose to be a chef did you have another career in mind?

A: Racing Driver – I could have been the next Lewis Hamilton…

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Q: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

A:  Alinea in Chicago. I think Grant Achatz is just amazing he is so far ahead of other restauranteurs. So innovative in the plating and the way desserts are served direct on to the tables, definitely somewhere I want to visit.

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Also, I have to say I really want to get to the Fat Duck, not managed that yet

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Q: How important is a Michelin star? A chef in France, who has 3 Michelin stars, recently asked that they are removed because of the pressure – your thoughts

A: Its a very interesting topic of conversation. Because you’ve got the customer and you’ve got a chef, and a chef will work hard because for him it’s a status symbol it’s recognition of hours and hours of hard work, pushing the limits, maintaining consistency and training his brigade to put out what you need them to put out. It’s a huge amount of work. From a customers point of view, I think people look to it as a certain standard of food. They like to go, certainly in London, to place they hear about, oh did you know this place has a star, or that place has a star. It can really help business and I think it almost puts you on the map especially in a city where there are lots of great restaurants getting that star elevates you to another status. So, I do think they’re important and I do think the industry needs them it’s almost like getting a BAFTA or an Oscar.

 

 

Q: What do you think about negative reviews?

A: You have to be aware of them but take them with a pinch of salt. I mean it depends if there are constantly negative reviews about a place, that’s telling you something. But if you’ve got a hundred reviews and two of them are negative so the majority of customers are happy, then that’s a good place. I think you need to look at reviews as a bigger picture rather than reacting to one person’s comments. All of the online services like TripAdvisor make it so easy for people to be negative in fact they almost encourage it.  We get it here, but I would personally much rather a customer speak to us at the time and we can sort out the issue and hopefully end up with a happy customer.

Q: Having spent some time in Hong Kong do you use any of the techniques or ingredients from the in your cooking/kitchen now?

A: I would say I’m a lot more comfortable working with asian spices etc. But Chinese cooking is so different to how we cook in the UK. Caxton’s menu is modern British so it would not be appropriate to bring too many Chinese influences into the kitchen, but I do have the techniques if required. There is one dish I would like to maybe try on the menu. I had it a couple of times whilst in Hong Kong, it’s called Scallops baked in Crab Milk. It’s almost like a very light crab mouse with the scallops baked through it. Like a savoury blancmange but full of flavour. I’m trying to emulate it but not totally successfully yet.

 

Q: What are your personal favourite dishes that are currently on the Caxton menus: A) to cook and B) to eat

A: To eat it would be one of the starters. Beef Carpaccio its done with Basil Dressing, smoked almonds and parmesan. We use fillet of beef from a farm we work closely with, in Sussex. It is incredible beef and which we dress with pickled shallot rings, basil leaves and little parmesan croquettes.

Caxton Beef (1)

To prepare would be a salmon dish. We cure the salmon for an hour and then sous vide at 42 degrees to get a really soft melting piece of salmon. Served with Horseradish Cream, Pickled Cucumber and a smoked salmon foam.

Alex Boyd

 

Q: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any chef past or present who would that be and why?

A: oh wow… anyone? Then It would have to be Anton Mosimann he’s an inventor of modern gastronomy, nouvelle cuisine. He was right at the forefront of that and an incredibly knowledgeable chef. I’ve heard he has thousands and thousands of cookbooks, a room full of them apparently and that he is a real gentleman. That would be an incredible opportunity.

 

Anton_Mosimann

 


My Favourite Tables– Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Eleven Madison Park

Last year In April I had the chance to visit again 11 Madison Park in New York. The night we were there was the day it was announced they had won the Best Restaurant in the world. Everything about this restaurant is amazing. I would suggest to anyone going there to try the Baked Sweet Potato because whats put in front of you looks just like a piece of baked potato, but when you taste it it’s simply an incredible depth of flavour and texture.

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Website – https://www.elevenmadisonpark.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/ElevenMadisonPark/

 

Kitchen W8

I used to live just down the road from here and my wife and I started going when they first opened. Phil Howard is behind the concept and it recently got its first Star. Right from the beginning, you could see that they just wanted to serve really great food

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Website – https://www.kitchenw8.com/

Twitter – @KitchenW8

 

 

 

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At the Chef’s Table – Jeremy Villanueva, Head Chef, Romulo Café London

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Romulo Café London, on High Street Kensington W8, has had remarkable success since opening just over two years ago. It’s now considered the  ‘go-to’ restaurant for fine Filipino cuisine in London. The recent appointment of Jeremy Villanueva as Head Chef has led to a new menu and even greater attention. Like owner Rowena Romulo, Jeremy is on a mission to make fine Filipino food as popular as other Asian cuisines.

Our Chef’s Table team thought we should get to know Jeremy a little better…

 

 


 

CT:  Who influenced you in the past? Who influences you now?

 

JV: Two chefs stand out in my past. One is Richard Blades, who was Executive Chef at Simpsons-in-the-Strand when I joined as a commis straight out of catering college (Blackpool and the Fylde). He had a very well thought out style of management, and a logical approach to his staff. He was a good people manager, and chefs who are good with their people can get a lot out of them. Richard also used to be the Head Chef at the Atlantic Bar and Grill at the height of its fame.

The other is Michel Roux Jr, another great people manager. He had a healthy respect for the traditions and the legacy of his father and uncles. The Rouxs were always firm but they treated their people well. I trained with him at Le Gavroche before going to the Waldorf Club.

Today there is no particular person who influences me, but it’s more the innovations I see in Filipino food right now. Filipino food has evolved so now we look at the food beyond its utilitarian value – as a means of sustenance. Filipino food is as much food for the senses, not just the belly.

 

CT: What would be your last dish (to eat) ‘the death row question’.

JV: A version of Poulet de Bresse. It would be cooked free-range chicken done in the ‘inasal’ style of Bacolod, the capital of the province of Negros Occidental in the Philippines. It would be cooked over Bincho Tan, charcoal from Japan, with a side salad of Cos lettuce, radish and ramsons. I’d wash it down with a glass of fresh calamansi (Philippine lime) juice.

Sizzling Chicken Inasal Sisig (1) 1434296211509

 

CT: If you were not a chef, what could you have become?

JV: To be honest, I would never have considered being anything else but a chef. I decided at 18, and that was it. I’m interested in electronics, but it’s not something I would see myself doing as a job. Once I started to cook, I never looked left or right. I always enjoyed being in the kitchen when I was young. For fun, my uncles used to make pizzas and several kinds of pasta. My family has always been into food.

 

CT: Which restaurant would you like to go to (eat at)? (that you have NOT had the opportunity to visit)

Chef Monica Galetti’s Mere in Charlotte Street. I would tell her, ‘Congratulations, well done.’ I worked with her in Le Gavroche.

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CT: Which are the next ‘new’ ingredients’?

‘Ube’, which is purple yam, and ‘Langka’, or jackfruit. I don’t know of anyone else who uses ube as much as Filipinos do, apart from people in Fiji or Guam. The Filipino community in Hawaii love ube cheesecake. But generally, the purple colour seems to be catching! Langka is the new pork for vegans, meaty and flavourful and very versatile. It can be eaten green or ripe. It can be sweet or savoury. That leaves a lot of scope for chefs. I actually saw fresh langka being sold in Peckham.

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Young Jackfruit and Coconut Stew (1)

 

CT: What is the one piece of equipment you could not do without?

JV: Our Rational oven.

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CT: What is your favourite dish in which you use produce from your most local supplier?

JV: The supplier is obviously not based in London where we are, but my favourite dish is Dingley Dell Pork Adobo. The produce is highly sustainable, and we source it from the only RSPCA accredited suppliers of pork. They create a really good grade of pork, the best quality. Today it’s not so much about the seasoning that creates flavour, although it does, so much depends on the quality of the meat, the primary product.

Romulo_Adobo (1) Romulo_dingley (1)

 

CT: If you could invite any chef, past or present, to cook alongside you for one night who would that be and why?

JV: Fernand Point. He was the chef patron of La Pyramidein Vienne, France. His book, ‘Ma Gastronomie’ is one of the first books I read by a known chef. I was fascinated by what he said. One of his signature dishes was a chicken with crayfish. He was of the old school. He still influences the mentality of many kitchens. Many of his quotes endure and continue to guide chefs today, such as ‘Success is the sum of a lot of small things done correctly’ and ‘I’m not hard to please; I’m content with the very best’. Chef Fernand is someone I can imagine cooking with, in the evening, champagne in hand, listening to his musings.

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My Favourite Tables– Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Le Gavroche. It’s the traditional service as much as the cuisine. It’s a complete experience. Their service is intuitive. They take care not to make you feel uncomfortable.

Website –  http://www.le-gavroche.co.uk/

Twitter – @legavroche_

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Social Eating House. I like the Blind Pig bar. It’s innovative and exciting. I went to catering school with Chef Paul Hood. If I am not mistaken, I think that out of the 30 of us who went to catering school together, we are the only ones still cooking.

Website – http://www.socialeatinghouse.com/

Twitter – @Socialeathouse

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CT: Finally Is there a message you would like to convey about Filipino food and Romulo Cafe?

 

JV: People should come in and see that ours is not the same as Vietnamese food or Thai.  Filipino food tends to get lumped with other Southeast Asian foods. But ours is different. Even the influences we get from other culinary traditions we have made our own. So our Pollo Relleno is not a lesser version of what they have in Spain. It stands by itself, as do our Callos or Paella. Our Pancit Guisado is not Chow Mein. It is a Filipino dish, and not an interpretation of something else. It has its own terroir.

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At the Chef’s Table with Daniel Kent of Wiltons

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Daniel joined Wiltons in 2011, having previously worked at some of London’s finest restaurants such as Le Café Anglais, Skylon and The Wolseley. He initially went to university with the idea that he would become a Restaurant Manager. However, upon graduating, he fell in love with cooking, having been previously inspired by the many Sunday lunches at his aunt’s house where she would put on a feast of local Yorkshire produce and sherry-laced trifle! He has a firm belief that use of great ingredients and an exceptional team behind him is the perfect recipe for a world-class establishment.  He has enjoyed re-introducing many of Wiltons classic dishes as well as showcasing many of his own creations.


 

 

Question: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

Daniel: A cep risotto, it’s a classic but I absolutely love this dish.

Cep_risotto

Question: Before you chose to be a chef did you have another career in mind?

Daniel: I loved History at school and I had a brilliant teacher who really got me interested in it and I think it made me want to be a History teacher.  But then came the part-time job in the kitchen and I got the hospitality bug.

Question: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

Daniel: Faviken in Sweden, the whole experience is so far away from what we do here it really appeals to me.

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Question: What do you think about negative reviews?

Daniel: I hate them! We have let the guest down, but you have to look at them and understand where we let them down, was it the cooking, the ambience or not understanding why they were visiting our restaurant and in turn, how do we make them feel comfortable as our guests. We have to make the reviews a tool to understand how we can improve.  We have a policy of not questioning the guest if they have made the wrong choice of wine or dish and we will go some way to replacing it if they let us know during the meal we are more than happy to correct it there and then.

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Question: If you received a call from The White House to say the President was in town and wanted a British Dinner Menu at Wiltons what would you feature?

Daniel:  We know now that President Trump is in love with American Food but I think we would have to bring him back to his ancestral roots with some amazing Scottish salmon and the amazing products we have in the United Kingdom,  be that the beef we use to make the consommé or the oysters that are paired with it.  I’m sure he has a sweet tooth as well so he won’t go wrong with our formidable Summer pudding…

                                     MENU

River Yealm oysters with jellied beef consommé and horseradish

Steamed Wild salmon with asparagus and watercress

Summer pudding the best of British products.

 

Question: What is your favourite dish on the current Wiltons menu/s that you re-introduced from the long history of the restaurant?

Daniel: The Cropwell Bishop twice baked soufflé is the dish that I reintroduced as it was on the menu in the past as a Souffle Monico and it is a dish that has really found a following with our regulars. We even put it on our private dining room menu as people have asked for it several times… I think it’s the balance of the cheeses we use the texture of the soufflé that seems to have the guests wanting more and even asking for the recipe!

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Question: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

Daniel: I would love to cook with Thomas Keller as I think he has a level of perfection that is inspiring and I love his use of using producers who are driven in their fields. I would love to talk to him about how he has trained so many talented chefs through his kitchens and how he uses his “on the pass moments” that he posts on Instagram to inspire his team and of course how I can replicate the infamous oyster and caviar dish.

Thomas_Keller_Wiltons

 

My Favourite Tables– Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Restaurant (1): J Sheekey’s it’s a little dinner treat for me and the wife before the theatre and I love that it gets me brownie points for the intimate and romantic feel of it.  @JSheekeyRest

 

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Restaurant (2): Noble Rot, I just love Lamb Conduit Street and how this restaurant has found its place here, brilliant food and wine, the table just by the fireplace in Winter is brilliant. @noblerotbar

 

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At the Chef’s Table with Stefano Turconi of Franco’s

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Stefano joined Franco’s as a senior chef de partie two years after the restaurant’s initial re-design in 2005.  After successfully working in all the sections of the kitchen, he was soon promoted to the position of senior sous chef.  Two years later when the previous head chef resigned, it was an easy decision to promote Stefano to Head Chef Stefano continues to inspire and delight with new dishes on a daily basis.  Although from the north of Italy, Stefano has a passion for many of the ingredients from central and southern regions.  With Stefano’s thoughtful guidance, Franco’s continues to focus on ensuring the consistency and quality of all the products we serve.

 


 

Question: What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

Stefano: Pizza with spicy Calabrian sausage

Calabrian sausage pizza

Calabrian sausage pizza

Question: Which restaurant would you like to go to? (that you haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet)

Stefano: I would love to try Osteria Francescana – Massimo Bottura’s 3 Michelin Star restaurant in Modena, voted best world restaurant 2016/18

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Question: How important is a Michelin star? a chef in France, who has 3 Michelin stars, recently asked that they are removed because of the pressure – your thoughts

Stefano: Michelin star it is the very top of the game, but not the most important thing in hospitality, you can have a successful restaurant even without it.

 

Question: What’s the most overused word on restaurant menus’ today

Stefano: These days you can always see in most menu the word’s healthy and light

 

 

Question: If you received a call from Buckingham Palace asking you to create a Dinner Menu with dishes or ingredients from your home region in Italy what would you feature?

Stefano: If I needed to choose ingredients or dishes from Lombardy, It would have to be some risotto some gorgonzola cheese and a pudding made of panettone.

Risotto with Gorgonzola

Risotto with Gorgonzola

Classic Panettone

Classic Panettone

Question: What is your favourite dish on the current Franco’s menu/s in which you use foraged ingredients or produce from your most local supplier?

Stefano: Cornish hake with fennel black olives and saffron

Amanda8330

 

Question: If for one night you could be invited to cook alongside any Chef past or present who would that be and why?

Stefano: Definitely Nico Ladenis OR Marco Pierre White two of the best chefs ever

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My Favourite Tables– Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Restaurant (1): Locanda Locatelli: simply the best and most original Italian restaurant in London

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Restaurant (2): Chez Bruce: a very interesting style of food, using various worldwide ingredients

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Cornerstone

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On hearing that Chef Tom Brown was looking for a venue to set up his own restaurant I was very excited to find out where that would be. Then when we heard that it would be in Hackney Wick I was at first a bit surprised but secondly very happy as it wasn’t too far away. In fact, it’s in a great location just one stop from Stratford in an area that is quickly being redeveloped which should be great for the restaurant.

Being very keen to visit knowing his background as Head Chef for Nathan Outlaw and also seeing him on Great British Menu we decided last Saturday to do just that. We got on a train at Romford then just 20 minutes later we’re walking out of Hackney Wick station where you immediately see all the redevelopment taking place. Then just a very short walk from the station you arrive at Cornerstone which is set in a quirky little area.

As you enter the restaurant there’s a nice relaxed & casual atmosphere. We were greeted by one of the staff who all were very friendly throughout our visit. We started with a drink at the bar and it was from there you got a great view of the big open kitchen in front of you with the tables set out at the front and down each side of the kitchen. We were then seated at the side in fact right where Tom was himself which was great and gave you an insight into seeing a chef run his restaurant close up.

We were then given the menu and as we expected it was mainly fish, in fact, nine of the twelve courses which are all sharing plates. Our waiter went through the menu options to help us decide but we just looked at him and said can we have everything which seemed to please him so that’s exactly what we did.

We started with some Sourdough Toast & Coral Butter before enjoying a fabulous Pickled Oysters with celery, horseradish & dill we then enjoyed some delightful Raw Hand Dived Scallops with Tomato before a stunning Cured Monkfish with grape, almond & sherry vinegar. The next course was a fantastic Mackerel Pate with seaweed, cucumber & homemade Rye Bread. This was then followed by a beautiful Asparagus dish with smoked cod’s roe.

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We then had an amazing Lamb Shoulder Kiev with anchovy, pea & mint before enjoying a fantastic Potted Shrimp Crumpet with kohlrabi, gherkin & parsley. The final four courses were some of the best fish dishes you could wish to try and we started with an amazing piece of Plaice with lobster, paprika & courgette. Followed by a fabulous Roast Pollock & Cafe de Paris hollandaise. We then had the most fantastic Cider Braised Cuttlefish with lentil, apple & spring onion dressing, before our last dish a stunning Ray Wing with a spiced aubergine purée, basil & ginger.

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Well it has to be said each and every dish was amazing We chose a lovely bottle of organic wine the Macabeo 2017 with its fruity aromas of apricot, Pear & citrus fruits with floral notes that seemed to compliment the dishes quite nicely It was then time for Cheese & desserts as we jokingly said to the waiter that we were going to have everything. There was a nice selection of five kinds of cheese which came with a delicious Saint Kew Chutney & Sourdough Crackers. Before moving onto desserts which were also heavenly and literally an excellent way to finish. The first being a Cornish Burnt Cream with strawberry saffron & ginger. The second was a Chocolate Mousse with raspberry & pistachio bringing to an end a simply amazing lunch.

After finishing with a coffee it was time to head home but not before having a nice little chat with Tom who came across as a really nice person. He also asked us which was our favourite dish which was the hardest question of the day as they were all a delight and we couldn’t reply with just one. This was definitely some of the best fish courses I’ve had the pleasure of tasting and I’m already looking forward to a return visit. So with the food being amazing the staff so friendly and a nice atmosphere I would highly recommend paying a visit to this restaurant I honestly believe you will not be disappointed

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