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The Oxford Blue Pub – Old Windsor

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If you’re looking to enjoy fantastic food & drink with excellent friendly service in a relaxed atmosphere at a fabulous countryside location then look no further than the Oxford Blue Pub. This was a truly fantastic evening and one I’ll definitely be looking to repeat in the not too distant future.

So how did we hear about this place? I had seen it on Favourite Tables and then when a chef I know from a restaurant not to far away visited for Sunday Lunch and the pics looked great. So visited their website to see who the chef was plus take a look at the menu and all seemed good so with that in mind made a reservation and on a recent Saturday, we made the trip from east to west to see for ourselves.

We were lucky enough to find a B&B just a short walk away. We arrived on Saturday and the outside was impressive especially as it was all lit up. On entering we received a delightful welcome as we arrived early to sample one of the beers from the local breweries. While we were looking at the drinks we received our first nice surprise as two complimentary glasses of champagne from the chef arrived at the table.

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Also at this time out came some amazing Venison Bon Bon’s that were just little balls of heaven. We then followed this by enjoying an aperitif where I did get to try well a local beer which had to be the Oxford Blue Ale of course.

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While enjoying our drinks it gave us the chance to look around. As you enter the bar is on your immediate left. To the right is the main dining area with additional seating area straight ahead. We were seated in the main area at a table that overlooked the front and to which in daylight would give you the chance to look at the stunning views. Once seated it was time to look at the A la Carte menu which had some amazing game which is inspired by the area. Before our starters, we got to enjoy some delicious warm Sourdough Bread.

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Our first courses were a fantastic Braised Suckling Pigs Trotter with Black Pudding, Apple Carpaccio & Sauce Gribiche accompanied by three thin slices of crackling which not only tasted amazing but the apple really refreshed the palate. We also chose the amazing Shellfish Rarebit with Lobster, Scallop & Cockles which was rich and creamy but just heaven.  Before we had our mains we received our second delightful surprise as the chef sent us out a little extra course and fantastic it was to a beautiful Mushroom Tartlet with Truffle & Wild Mushroom Veloute.

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Now on to the main. courses which were also amazing and of course we chose two incredible game dishes, the Windsor Great Park Red Deer with a Braised Shoulder Croquet and a Caramelised Pear & Chicory Tart. The other dish was the Roast Crown of Woodcock with Confit Leg, King Oyster Mushroom & Spring Onion Spelt Risotto. These dishes were just sublime & enhanced as we also ordered the mixed green vegetables and the beef fat chips.  It was now time for a rest before moving on to desserts.

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This is where the amazing creations of Ami take over and we weren’t let down here either as each dessert was an absolute treat. The Rhubarb & Custard Mille Feuille did not only taste delicious but was a work of art. We also had the fabulous Banoffee Soufflé with Banana Ice Cream & Toffee Sauce as well as the Milk Chocolate, Salted Caramel & Malt Ice Cream. Both of these desserts were simply chocolate heaven.  We then finished with tea & coffee. With this came a thick slice of Salted Caramel Chocolate and a little hammer which you use to break the chocolate into pieces.

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So this brought an end to a fantastic evening well or so we thought as there was one final surprise in store. We were asked if we’d like to go into the kitchen as Head Chef and Owner Steven would like to meet us. This was an honour and gladly accepted as we also got to meet wife & pastry chef Ami. You could clearly see the passion for the area and the produce they use. We had the pleasure of telling him his food was amazing and matched by excellent friendly service from his team and to tell him we were looking forward to returning again soon. Then before leaving, we were given a glass of homemade Limoncello to truly finish the evening in style. This to me is a must visit so yes I would highly recommend making a reservation and I certainly can’t wait to return. Thank You to everyone at the Oxford Blue for a fantastic evening and wishing you All The Best for the future

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The Chef’s Table team chat with George Blogg, Head Chef Gravetye Manor

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Growing up in Dorset the young George Blogg was fortunate enough to be introduced to meals containing fresh produce, rather than the prepacked food prevalent at that time. Meals at home more often than not had vegetables or fruit from the family allotment with George helping his mother to prepare dinners evenings and weekends. However, his route into restaurant kitchens came about by chance. Originally studying to be a Geologist, when his mother had to turn down a few shifts at the local Italian restaurant she put George forward to cover. Washing up led to Veg prep and then to junior chef roles. So what started as a means of paying for his studies evolved into a vocation. In his early twenties, the then geology graduate gave up the Earth Science’s to follow a full-time gastronomy career.

His résumé makes for impressive reading with time spent at two Michelin-starred restaurants: Philip Howard’s The Square in Mayfair and David Everitt-Matthias’ Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham. George has also completed stages at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire, The Ledbury in Notting Hill and Noma in Copenhagen. Each playing a part in forming his chef’s style and they instilled many of the benefits around his use of locally sourced and foraged produce. Then following a very successful tenure as executive chef at Hotel TerraVina in Hampshire George moved to the AA Hotel of the Year England 2013-14, Gravetye Manor in June 2014. Gravetye was awarded a Michelin Star which has been retained for the past four years.


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

A: That fine dining, or whatever you would like to call it, is not dying. No matter how many places are moving towards more casual dining concepts, this is as much to do with companies trying to improve profits/costs as it is a shift in public need. People expect good value for money, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they want to spend less.

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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?

A: I’ve been fortunate enough to host a semi-final of Masterchef Professionals in the kitchen here at Gravetye, filmed over 2 days. As a marketing vehicle, TV is an excellent way to get noticed and improve business. The downside, that I feel some chefs fall into, is that it takes you away from the kitchen, and ultimately that is where you need to spend your time making sure that your guests receive the best experience possible.

 

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

A: If you cook for the recognition of any guide, you are not cooking for the right reason, which is for your guests. If you care about offering your guests the best experience, then should it make a difference if you receive an accolade or not? Pressure only exists if you care more about the guides than your guests. So I don’t really understand why anyone would ask for a Michelin star to be removed unless they were worried about losing it and/or trying to implement a controversial marketing strategy.

Q: What do you think about negative reviews?

A: I don’t mind negative reviews as long as they substantiate why something is bad in a considerate way instead of being negative just for the sake of elaborating a story.

Q: What would be on your menu if you were creating a diner and could have all the previous owner of Gravetye – Richard Infield, Kathrine Compton, William Robinson, Peter Herbert and Jeremy & Elizabeth Hosking around the table?

A: I would serve them our current tasting menu. We call this menu Time and Place, and it reflects where Gravetye is at the moment. Hopefully, they would all be interested to see what Jeremy, Elizabeth and the Gravetye team have accomplished.

Click for Current Tasting Menu

Click for Current Tasting Menu

 

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

A: We have a cold starter using cured Isle of Gigha halibut, mussels, turnip, caviar, coastal herbs and sesame. It is a dish with a lot of interesting components. It is delicate, but has a healthy richness and looks beautifully natural.

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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?

A: Paul Bocuse, because who else could you choose?

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My Favourite Tables 

Two restaurants I have visited and why?

 

Restaurant (1): Umu, London. It’s a fantastic Kyoto style (more traditional food) Japanese restaurant off a side street in Mayfair that serves impeccably fresh fish and a stunning selection of Sake. It has 2 Michelin stars, and is excellent value for money considering the quality.

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Restaurant (2): Ynyshir, Wales. Gareth and Amelia have created a unique must-visit destination restaurant with rooms.

Ingredient led, flavour-driven, fat-fuelled, meat-obsessed. This is how Gareth describes his food. I love it.

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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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Matt Waldron, Head Chef at Park House Cardiff Talks to Chef’s Table

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Matt Waldron, Head Chef at Park House Restaurant Cardiff

Matt started his career in a small country house hotel named The Glen yr Afon in Usk, completing his apprenticeship in cooking.  His interest in food science lead him to complete a degree in culinary arts and food science in The University of West London.  Staying in London Matt worked his way through some very established restaurants with Helene Darroze at The Connaught Hotel being his most influential.  After two and half years there it was time to come back to Wales.  Working as Sous chef at Restaurant James Sommerin in Penarth from the opening of the restaurant until it gained a Michelin Star taught him a lot about running a restaurant and all that goes with the territory. After completing his time there he then moved on to work for Gareth Ward at Ynyshir, which holds a Michelin Star and 5 AA Rosettes.

Matt took over the kitchen at Park House in the summer of 2018 and has immediately had an impact. Matts style of cooking is based on exquisite flavour using Welsh produce from the coast and off the mountains. He has cultivated strong relationships with farmers and works closely with small local suppliers which gives him the ability to handpick the produce to ensure it’s the best he can get his hands on.

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CT: Which Chef/s influenced you in the past? Who continuous to influence you now?

MW: Working for Helene Darroze in The Connaught for 3 years influenced me massively.  Her philosophy of using the very best products and treating them with respect and care.  Seasonality was a massive part of her menu.

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Closer to home a big influence is Gareth Ward at Ynyshir.  The way he creates his dishes, works closely with nature, the acidity of dishes, and just the simplicity of his dishes to the eye makes one of the most amazing restaurants in the UK.

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

MW: My mums Sunday dinner.  Roast beef, roasties, and all the vegetables from dads garden.  Cant beat it.

 

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

 

MW: Piazza Duomo in Northern Italy. The food at Piazza Duomo is inspirational due to the use of local food products from his kitchen garden and around Alba.  They have such amazing produce in that region and Enrico Crippa just showcases it at its best.  It is his take on Italian food with influences of Japan visible in his dishes.

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CT: What do you think about negative reviews?

MW: I think negative reviews can be a good thing.  No one is perfect and sometimes things don’t go to plan, but that’s life.  You have to see in what context the review was written in.  If used properly negativity can be flipped into positivity, ideas to improve something, maybe something that hadn’t been spotted before.  All reviews whether positive or negative are a good thing, but the people that write reviews just to get something for nothing should stop, it can be quite damaging to a business.

 

CT: If you received a call from Buckingham Palace asking you to create a Dinner Menu using the best of Welsh produce what would you feature?

MW: The main event would definitely have to be Preseli lamb, for me, it’s the best lamb around.  The abundance of seafood we have around us I would definitely have to use the crab from Solva and our vegetable guy who has an organic veg farm. His vegetables are incredible.

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CT: What is your favourite dish on the current menu in which you use foraged ingredients or produce from your most local supplier?

MW: My favourite dish on the menu at the moment has to be the pork belly, shiitake mushroom, pickled sea weed and smoked eel.  The pork belly comes from Pembrokeshire, the seaweeds are all picked from Barafundle bay 10 minutes from my house in West Wales.  We pick the seaweed every Monday then process it for the week ahead.

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

MW: Charlie Trotter.  His food is very classic, looks immaculate and focuses on seasons.  He introduced America to food styles not seen before, very bold for the time.  He was ambitious and wanted everything perfect, from the minute you walked in the door.

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

Restaurant (1):  Gareth Ward at Ynyshir.  The food is exceptional.  There is a continuous development there and the place keeps getting better and better.

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Restaurant (2): Restaurant Frantzen, Sweden.  It’s a combination of relaxed atmosphere and incredible food.  There is no stone unturned there, the attention to detail is out of this world.  If I could afford it I would eat there once a month.

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Haywards Restaurant

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There are many reasons why I’m a frequent diner at Haywards but the main ones are:

1) the food is always amazing created by Chef Jahdre Hayward and his wonderful team

2) the wine which we often asked to be matched with each course is chosen superbly by Restaurant Manager Amanda Hayward

3) the service is very professional from the excellent young and friendly waiters/waitresses and it was a pleasure to have witnessed all three once again on Saturday of last week as we took friends to experience a Tasting Menu & Matched Wines evening.

On arrival, we were greeted so warmly before being shown to our table where we enjoyed a lovely cocktail while perusing the menu. It didn’t take us long to decide that we were all going to have the Tasting Menu. After enjoying some delightful snacks it was time for the first course a fabulous Chicken Leg & Sweetbread Ravioli with a Roast Chicken Consommé.

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Our second course was the Optional Extra Course of Scallop, Octopus, Red Pepper Purée & Chorizo Foam serves in the Scallop Shell. This led us onto the fantastic Mushroom Risotto topped with Black Truffle We then moved on to a beautiful fish course of a Fillet of Cod and a Brussels Sprout Purée before going on to the main course a Braised Short Rib of Beef with miso & aubergine purée which was equally as fantastic.

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Before moving onto to the desserts we all decided to have the additional cheese course as the restaurant has a wonderful selection of British & Irish Cheeses.

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Now it was time for dessert and another memorable dish a nice a light Chocolate & Hazelnut Mousse with an Orange Sorbet & Yoghurt Foam we then received a lovely surprise as the Chef sent us out an extra dessert a stunning Apple Crumble Soufflé & Cinnamon Ice Cream which brought us to an end of a very memorable evening.

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I would really like to Thank all of the team at Haywards for such a fantastic evening. To Jahdre for the amazing food, to Amanda & assistant Anne for the wine selection which included a delightful wine from a local supplier Parvills Farm in Epping and to the waitresses for exceptional service. This restaurant to me is the Best in Essex and the county really should be so proud of it and one that should definitely be placed on anyone’s places to dine lists

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Head Chef Karl Martin of Old Downton Lodge speaks to Chef’s Table

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Karl has worked in the hospitality industry for 20 years. Starting his career at a small golf club in the heart of England, where at the age of 13 he became KP in the kitchen of the local golf club in Wolverhampton where his father ran the restaurant, followed by catering training at Henley College in Coventry. Since that time he has gained experience working in many different restaurants in the Midlandsworking with the likes of Peter Griffiths MBE, Simon Haigh F&B Director of the Eden Hotel Collection, Adam Bateman Group Executive of the Hotel Collection.

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Karl is now Chef Patron at Old Downton Lodge,  a restaurant with rooms on the Downton Estate near Ludlow.

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“Here at Downton Lodge we never force a dish, we class the food style as natural. Everything has a purpose. Its British country dining with a modem twist, with the emphasis on the ingredients and the marriage between them. We focus on the flavour and believe in treating the ingredients with respect.  Using nature and working with and preserving the seasons. We try to tell a story with our food. Where, nature to plate, is very important along with the traceability of the produce we use in the restaurant”.

 

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Being situated in the heart of a country estate, there is a wide range of produce that Karl has at his fingertips, from wild game to foraged fruits, nuts, herbs and mushrooms.  Giving the guests a unique dining experience where the quality of the ingredients and simplicity of the dish shine through.

The dining room is a small intimate 20 cover restauran, creating a 6 or 9-course seasonal tasting menu that changes every day, using the best of local produce in and around the estate and Herefordshire, Shropshire and the Borders of Wales.


 

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

 

KM: There are a few, to be honest. My dad was a huge influence on me, I started where everyone should start, on the pots. Seeing the structure of a kitchen from the age of 13 has been a massive help and he was hard on me which has made me tougher as a person.

My two biggest cooking influences are Peter Griffiths and Simon Hauge. I learned so much from them. Focus, determination, drive, respecting people, ingredients and doing things the right way. Whether that be at work or in life. Both are huge inspirations.

Present day, it would have to be Claude Bosi and Gareth Ward.

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Living in Ludlow I won’t go a day without hearing about Hibiscus or a story about Claude. A true legend of Shropshire cooking scene and his food is inspirational.

I ate at Ynyshir Hall 2 years ago and can’t stop talking about it to this day. As a chef, I try to get as much flavour as possible out of the ingredients, Gareth and his team just blow my mind with the amount of flavour in every course. I left speechless!! He has been great to speak to as well, always offering good advice. A true gent.

 

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

 

KM: Restaurant Frantzen in Stockholm Sweden. I follow them on every social media outlet I can. Their food blows me away! I remember seeing them for the first time on a video on Facebook, I just sat there with my gob open! It’s on my 2018 list. Can’t wait,

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

 

KM: Fine dining! What is it! Some people have this misconception that some restaurants are “too posh”. I agree to a certain point but at Old Downton Lodge I couldn’t give a shit if they want to wear shorts and flip-flops. FFS they are paying customers. I want people to come here feel relaxed and have great food, wine and an amazing experience.

 

FT: 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 – thoughts?

 

KM: For some people, it’s not important at all, for some it’s a must (die trying kind of thing).

I remember a tweet from Michelin that said “cook for your customers!” A lot of chefs forget that they’re the most important people. I’ve never had a star, so can’t comment on the pressure, but we just try and enjoy it. It’s food at the end of the day. I’m here to enjoy my cooking, not drive my team into the ground. If it happens for us it will be amazing but if not and the customers are happy we are doing our job right.

 

FT: What is your favourite dish on the current menu/s in which you use produce from your most local supplier?

 

KM: Has to be the 3 day cooked Wagyu Feather Blade from Montgomery (supplied By Alternative Meats) it never comes off the menu! Only the garnish changes. We are very lucky to be so close to such an amazing product/producer! Really is world class.

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

 

KM: Claude Bosi – it would be great  to cook with him in Ludlow and just a very inspiring chef. Marco in his hey day just would be amazing. An absolute hero of mine.

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

Restaurant (1): Ynyshir Hall- I’ve only been once but another trip is planned this year. Just one of the best in the UK and is for me soon to be world class.

 

Restaurant (2): Simpsons in Birmingham. I’ve been 3 times 1st was 18 years ago and twice last year. Just keeps going and evolving. It’s a great mix of classic and modern working well together.

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Chef’s Table talk with Chef James Sommerin

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James started his culinary career at the age of 12 working on a Saturday morning in an Italian restaurant in Newport, Chez Chiovanni, after leaving school he started his first full time cooking position at the Cwrt Bleddyn Hotel near Usk.

 

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It was from there, at the age of 16, that he decided to move to Scotland and worked at Farleyer House Hotel under the guidance of Head Chef Richard Lyth, it was whilst being taught by Richard that he gained the understanding of seasonality, quality and the essence of flavour. Whilst in Scotland he cooked at the dinner to celebrate the opening of the Scottish Parliament and was also shortlisted as Young Scottish Chef of the Year. after a few years working in Scotland, he met future wife Louise and after marrying and having their first daughter James decided to move his family returning to his home country- Wales.

Back in Wales in August 2000 he started at the Crown at Whitebrook as Sous Chef and became Head Chef in late 2003, four years later obtained his first Michelin Star, an achievement he is rightly hugely proud of. He retained the coveted Michelin star until 2013 when the “Crown” closed its doors. Recently reopened under new ownership as The Whitebrook

 

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2014 saw James and Louise open Restaurant James Sommerin in Penarth. James and wife Louise were determined to make the restaurant with rooms a success and are rightfully very proud of what they and their team have achieved. A Michelin star in 2016, AA Restaurant of the Year – Wales 2016-2017, 4 AA rosettes, Restaurant of the year 2016 for Wales at the Food Awards Wales and Number 34 in the Good Food Guide for 2017, also achieving 5 stars for rooms with the AA and Visit Wales.

 

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” We pride ourselves on being a family run business, with myself heading up the kitchen, Louise front of house and our 3 girls never far away “

 

Chef’s Table Asked:

 

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

A:  My late grandmother has always been my inspiration, cooking with her on the weekend gave me my love and passion for cooking and I will always be eternally grateful.  So I would have to say my late grans beef brisket, gravy & veg

 

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

 

A: Durian Fruit – tried it in Singapore in 2012. It tasted horrendous, I can’t even put it into words.

 

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Q: If there were a “Fantasy League” of Chefs, who would make up your perfect brigade?

 

A: Richard Lyth, Michele Roux Snr, Grant Achatz, Alex Stupak, Brett Graham & Eric Frechon

 

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Q: What’re the most overused words on restaurant menus’ today

 

A: where can I start – Textures of, deconstructed & foraged!

 

Q: Having worked and trained in Scotland what food preparation or styles of cooking did you learn then that you still utilise today. What was on the menu for the opening of Parliament dinner?

 

A – oh gosh, butchery.

The menu hmmm, I’m sorry I can’t remember back that far it must be a sign of my age now.

 

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

A:  Old Cogan Farm Penarth where we get our Welsh Lamb which we serve with Broad Beans and Turnip.

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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?

C – That’s a tough one, I couldn’t narrow it down to 1 person.


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

 

Restaurant 1 – The Greenhouse in Mayfair – fantastic cooking, every time we go (and we’ve been a few) staff are all very friendly.

 

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Restaurant 2 – Geranium in Copenhagen, cooking on another level

 

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Chef Alex Bond of Alchemilla Nottingham talks to Chef’s table

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Alex Bond

 

Chef Alex Bond has been cooking since he was 19 years old and most of his working life has mainly been in Michelin-starred kitchens including 42 The Calls in Leeds, Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham, Auberge du Lac in Hertfordshire and Turners in Birmingham.

It has been for some time his ambition to open his own restaurant. Alchemilla recently opened in Nottingham is the realisation of that. Alchemilla has been two years in the making with the project to turn an old 19th-century coaching house, which had remained empty for over 150 years, into a modern light space for a restaurant, whilst retaining the character of the building.

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The food is clean, fresh and a talking point with diners as the menus have elements that they won’t  necessarily have tried before. Alex is a keen gardener and is also married to a gardener so he uses vegetables and plants as centre stage in the cooking. With the resulting dishes delighting and surprising people with the flavours that can be achieved by letting vegetables feature prominently in the menu.

We wanted to know a little more about Chef and his plans:

Q: Which Chef/s influenced you in the past? Who continuous to influence you now?

A: Every chef I have worked for has influenced me whether it’s for good or bad reasons, we can learn from all of these experiences whether its cooking techniques and philosophies, how I wanted to treat my staff or run my business

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

A: Top of my list at the moment are Hedone, Saison, L’astrance and Attica

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

A: There’s been a real shift towards less protein in my cooking over the last 4 years and that seems to be a big thing in this country. I know it’s very Nordic but my plant-based cooking feels very British which I love.

 

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Q: If there were a “Fantasy League” of Chefs who would make up your perfect brigade?

A: I would have to go with Nathan Outlaw on the fish, Gareth Ward on the sauce, James Petrie on the pastry, myself on the vegetables, Tom Spencley and Tony Parkin on the larder

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Q: What foods or styles of cooking do you enjoy cooking the most and which do you most like to eat?

A: I love cooking with vegetables, a large hand dived scallop almost does the work for you whereas a cabbage or cauliflower needs thought, effort and skill

 

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

A: Cauliflower, roasted yeast, almond

 

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

A: I would love to smash out a service with Pascal Barbot of L’astrance in Paris

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My Favourite Tables – a restaurant I have visited several times and why?

 

Restaurant (1): Ynyshir. Gareth Ward is doing some of the most innovative food in the country and I have had 4 meals there and it just goes from strength to strength

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Chef Steven Ellis talks to Chef’s Tables

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Steven Ellis

It is our great pleasure to speak with Steven Ellis, who is Chef Patron at the newly opened Oxford Blue, “a pub that serves great food” – that’s his introduction to what is one of the most popular New Openings of 2017.

Originally from Lancashire, Steven spent most of his childhood growing up in the Middle East. Aged 16 he returned to England, enrolling at the Birmingham College of Food & Tourism, before moving to London to follow his dream.

Steven’s talents were developed working in well-known restaurants such as Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen and the three Michelin starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, but his vision of creating an extraordinary culinary experience within the comfort of a country style gastro pub came from his time spent at Andrew Pern’s Star Inn in Harome.

His passion to promote a part of our country’s heritage that hasn’t so much been forgotten but needs to be brought back to life drives him. His dishes are sophisticated yet familiar, a perfect match for the relaxed surroundings that this charming pub has to offer.

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We asked chef how he would best describe the Oxford Blue:

” I think of the Oxford Blue very much as a pub. We have locals who come in for a drink and also people who like to come in to dine with us. The beauty of the Oxford Blue is that you can come for a casual drink while reading the newspaper by the open fire or come in with friends for a meal. But also you can bring the other half and enjoy a romantic meal for two. The Oxford Blue has the ability to change for everyone’s needs whether it be a quick meal at lunch or a long evening of 3-4 courses with friends and family.”

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The Oxford Blue has had some amazing reviews and coverage in the press, we asked – What do you think about reviews?

“I feel reviews are healthy for restaurants but only if they are presented in a constructive way, so the owners and staff can take it on board and help better themselves and their business. It’s always good to get an outsiders opinion as sometimes the obvious things can be overlooked when you are working long hours and focused on delivering what you believe to be the best you can do. What I don’t agree on is when someone has a grudge towards a business or just unhappy with them and because of this come in with a negative attitude where everything the restaurant does is seen as ‘wrong’ “

You have worked in Fine Dining Michelin Star awarded restaurants. How important is a Michelin star?

“The benefits I feel a restaurant achieves by obtaining a star is that one, they earn the right to be listed in this exclusive guide but also become noticed by a wider audience of foodies, people who share the same passion for eating out as we do for delivering a high level food and service. But can also attract people who appreciate the hard work that is put into delivering a great experience.”

Achieving your dream here at Oxford Blue must have been hard work, who influenced you in the past?

“One of my biggest idols, since I was young, has to be Marco Pierre White. The passion he had to deliver the best experience to his guests is inspiring but, also the way he liked to push boundaries and not follow the trends proved to me that if you believe in something don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise because you have a responsibility to yourself to make sure it comes true! “

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

“As I mentioned previously my idol being Marco Pierre White it would only feel right in saying that I would love to cook alongside this industry legend for one night”.

What is your favourite dish on the Oxford Blue menu in which you use produce from your most local supplier?

“My favourite dish has to be my ‘suckling pig’s trotter’. But, in regards to local suppliers and having such a huge passion for using game, I work very closely with the head game keeper of Windsor Great Park. Being able to use an abundance of different types of Game, it allows my imagination to run wild with ideas I only once dreamt of being able to create”.

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Staying with favourite dishes, What would be your last dish (to eat) “the death row question”

“Most likely a Venison Wellington, being such a lover of all things ‘game’ “

 

Finally, Favourite Tables, where do you like to dine when you get the chance and the time away from your own kitchen.

 

To be Confirmed…..

 

 

 

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Rubino Kitchen

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Rubino Kitchen is a lovely little restaurant set in a lodge on a farm in Maldon , Essex and a real credit to the county as this small team under the guidance of Head Chef Rob produces some great and interesting dishes from using great local produce.

 

It’s a small restaurant but has a great friendly feel from the moment you arrive until you leave . So onto the evening itself they have a good menu where you can choose from 1 to 5 courses which can come as a starter or main or as we did we went for the Tasting Menu so that we could try every course.

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We started with a nice and refreshing White Grape Gazpacho which was delicious before moving on to what was my favourite course the Haddock Scotch Egg with peas , raisin & curried puffed rice it was heaven. Then a Beef Carpaccio delightful followed by a Sweetcorn Risotto which came with Balsamic Vinegar interesting but it worked then to balance the Menu we had a lovely Cod with Octopus Caponata it was beautiful.

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Now onto the main course of Braised Lamb Tortellini & Smoked Aubergine Purée with Gem Lettuce & Beans a great hearty course to finish well almost because there’s always time for Desserts, yes Desserts .

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There were three on offer so of course we had to try them all the first being a Blackcurrant Panna Cotta with Honeycomb which I got to eat myself as my wife decided to have some Gorgonzola Cheese & Crackers. Next was Mille Feuille and to finish a Baked Alaska with Lemon Ice Cream nicely made by Dana .

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I have to say it was a really pleasant evening good food and very friendly service so look forward to returning soon 

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