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Sunday, 26 January 2014

5 Questions - Carlotta's Chocolates

The Scottish Speciality Food Show at Glasgow's SECC has just come to an end and myself and Nicola were fortunate enough to be able to attend and catch up with lots of the skilled producers from across the UK. Chocolate fans would have been in their element as their were loads of artistic chocolatiers showcasing, and showing off their impressive works of art. As we wandered around the stalls, we stopped to chat with Niall Benvie, a wildlife photographer and husband of Charlotte Benvie who is the creative brain behind Carlotta's Chocolates.
Carlotta's Chocolates originate in Brechin and offer award winning hand crafted chocolates, unique chocolate and personalised print gifts, as well as running tuition classes with an introduction to fine chocolate making.
Here's their story;

How did you get started?

I worked for the Civil Service for almost thirty year but have always had a passion for cooking and fine food, something encouraged by my mother. I was one of thousands who lost their jobs in government cutbacks following the onset of the recession but I was lucky enough to receive funding for retraining. I enlisted on a variety of cookery courses but the one that captivated me was a course with master chocolatier, Ruth Hinks. Indeed, I changed a couple of the others so that I could take more courses with Ruth. With the help and support of my husband, Niall, we figured out the look and feel we wanted for the business and set about perfecting the recipes. Incidentally, I am Carlotta's Chocolates rather than Charlotte's Chocolates simply because that domain had already been taken and in this day and age if you can't be found on Google you don't exist!

What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?

​Figure out your cash flow before you start, don't invest in equipment until you can't progress without it, know what it is that makes your offer distinctive and promote it remorselessly. Paid for advertising is a waste of money these days; inbound marketing, such as social media platforms, is where it is at.

Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?

We are not interested in endless growth, for philosophical as well as practical reasons. There are plenty of examples of artisan businesses which have become anonymous by growing too big. We want to keep the personal feel to our business and to keep that authentic. But we do want to develop our brand into an attractive model for franchising.

If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?

Right now, it would have to be our dark chocolate bonbon: it's the first of our lines to receive a Great Taste Award and is very distinctive.

You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?

My last supper...? Well, it would have to be something I would like to eat: sorry if that seems selfish! So that would be a fillet steak, chips, and a large freshly picked salad followed by my apricot brioche. I love fine dining but under the circumstances I would go popular. And it would have to be outside on a June day at my parent's place in rural France. I see them too infrequently and would like to be with them.

To make these award winning chocolates number 6 of your five and day, pop into any of the stockists dotted across the country, however if their isn't a stockist near to you, why not ask your local deli to get in touch with Carlotta's Chocolates or simply log on to the website and buy online

Keep up to date with Carlotta's Chocolates on Facebook.

 

5 Questions - Kwan's Kitchen


This time last week myself and Nicola spent the day at the Scottish Speciality Food Show at the SECC. One of the first exhibitors that I met was Stephen Kwan, the man behind Kwan's Kitchen. The Kwan family have a long heritage within the Chinese restaurant trade, running Beijing Beijing in Galashiels and Kwan's Chinese Restaurant in Kelso.
Kwan's Kitchen supply traditional Chinese spice mixes and condiments to a host of suppliers across the UK. In order to maintain quality and authenticity, all of the condiments are made in small batches within the kitchenn of the Beijing Beijing Restaurant, using no MSG, artifices colouring, flavouring or preservatives.
Here's their story;
How did you get started?
I was a restaurateur and Chef for 10 years running my own Chinese restaurants until one day a customer asked me to “can” the recipe for “Salt & Pepper” dishes such as Chicken wings. Following a series of failed attempts “Salt & Pepper Spice” was created which subsequently won 2 Gold Stars at the Great Taste Awards in 2011. Following the award I launched an authentic range of restaurant quality Chinese condiments which includes Blackbean & Garlic and Szechuan Chilli Oil. You can use all three condiments to create many different tasty Chinese dishes. We quickly listed in a number of local delis including Realfoods in Edinburgh and now stock throughout Scotland.
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Do your research but follow your gut.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
Supplying fine food retailers throughout the UK.
If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?
Blackbean & Garlic on Salmon Fillet – quick, tasty, healthy and indulgent!
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
Choosing just one guest would be easy! It would have to be my loving partner who has encouraged me and supported me throughout this adventure! I would cook Szechuan Salt & Pepper Prawns, delicious!

We managed to sample some of the condiments in the range, including a fantastic blend of black bean paste with Szechuan chilli oil, as well as the aromatic salt and pepper spice mix. Both were packed with flavour and tasted like something you would eat in an authentic Chinese restaurant.
With Chinese New Year just around the corner, why not check if there's a Kwan's Kitchen stockist near you and bring in Chinese Year of The Horse in style.
Keep up to date with Kwan's Kitchen on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

5 Questions - Trotters Independent Condiments



In the next instalment of '5 Questions', I pick up with another exhibitor from the recent Scottish Speciality Food Show, Trotters Independent Condiments. Oddly enough, this was one of the few businesses that I didn't manage to speak with whilst at the show. At the time we reached the Trotters Independent Condiments stall, the stall was unattended, however the contemporary branding on the displayed jars of relishes and chutneys was enough to catch my attention.

Trotters Independent Condiments specialises in sourcing, developing & producing products that are unusual or unobtainable in the UK market. I took advantage of the missing stall holder by enjoying generous amounts of sample chutneys, including a wonderful Mostarda - a tradition mustard based chutney that originates in Northern Italy. Despite the fact that the owner was not around and based on the delicious relishes and chutneys on offer, I left my calling card and sent an email giving Trotters the opportunity to answer '5 Questions'.
Here's their story;
How did you get started?
I started Trotter’s Independent Condiments in November 2009 after I had finished university. I had graduated in event management from Manchester but was finding it very hard to find a job in the industry as it was very saturated as a result of the recession. Meanwhile, Mum and Dad had been on holiday in Italy where they came across a delicious condiment that they loved called Mostarda. Mum tried but failed to find a Manufacturer in Scotland, so she found a recipe online instead and whipped up a batch for herself. I had wanted to start my own business and work for myself from a very young age and it was at this point in my life I decided to go for it. So mum taught me the recipe and I began manufacturing from my parents kitchen In Fife, and selling it at the local Fife farmers’ markets, Farm shops and Delicatessens.
What's the best piece of business advice you would give?
Know your strengths and know your weaknesses, that way you can work on the things you are good at, whilst outsourcing the parts of the job that you know aren't your strong points.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
I would like the business to be self sufficient so I can make a start on my next business venture.
If you could only have one of your own products, What would it be and why?
That's easy! It would be my Hot Pepper Jelly, a recipe given to me by my great Aunt Dinah from Jamaica. It's packed with spicy Scotch Bonnet Peppers, it's definitely my favourite.
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal - Who would it be and why? ... And what on the menu?
Richard Branson, he is my idol and a huge inspiration to me and my business. I would keep the meal simple and serve and would make him an Uncle Allan's Chutney (similar to Branston's Pickle) sandwich.
You can pick up the flavours of Trotters Independent Condiments in a huge host of stockists across Scotland as well as a handful of places south of the border, although with a busy schedule of food shows and speciality fairs already lined up for the remainder of the year, who knows - "This time next year, they could be millionaires"

Keep up to date with Trotters Independent Condiments on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

5 Questions - Chillilicious

The Scottish Speciality Food Show has just come to an end. For the last three days, producers from all over the UK have been tirelessly presenting and pitching their products to the catering and gift trade. Myself and Nicola attended the show on Sunday afternoon and had a great time talking with producers and sampling their wares. As a huge chutney and pickle fan, my eyes were drawn to the colourful branding of Chillilicious, a family run business who produce a range of relishes inspired by and infused with the chillies that they grow on their very own chilli farm.
Here's their story;
How did you get started?
Chillilicious started as an idea of Tricia's in October 2010. I was working abroad and she called me (5am my time i'd like to add as she forgot the time difference!) very excited and asked for my help setting up her chilli chutney business. The company launched in May 2011 as a food and art venture between Tricia and myself. It was incredibly well received - we had over 1000 visitors on the day we launched our products from the farm! Today Tricia is the Chef of Chillilicious, I myself run the chilli glass studio and my Dad Carl heads up the growing aspect of our fresh chillies.

What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Do it YOUR way. When we started Chillilicious many people thought we were mad! Food AND art? How does that work? Chillies grown in Scotland? NEVER! Well here we are almost 3 years later and we're going strong! Our business was created from a love of what we do and a strong family bond. Chillilicious has evolved by listening to public feedback and the willingness to be flexible to the needs of our customers.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
I see The Chillilicious Farm being the number one stop for all your chilli needs! I want to stock not only our wonderful products but products from chilli farms around the UK, therefore continuing to educate the public on the world of chillies as well as supporting our UK economy. There are so many amazing chilli products being created actually IN the uk that we shouldn't need to import from abroad. Support local!
If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?
Tricia's Chillilicious Cheeky Chillililli! My Mum makes the BEST piccalilli you'll ever try - fact. I eat it with everything and there never seems to be any left over in the sample jars when i come home from manning our stall... yum yum yum.

You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
I'd invite Wilbur Scoville! Auld Willie was an American Pharmacist who in 1912 invented the Scoville Scale - how to measure the heat of a chilli! What a clever chappy. I'd serve a selection of the worlds hottest chillies to show the excellent use of his system however keeping in mind since Wilbur passed away in 1942 chillies have been getting hotter so perhaps i'll serve milk as well - just to be a good host!

The chutney and pickle market is a crowded one yet with very distinctive branding and huge flavour crammed into each and every jar, I'm sure that it's only a matter if time before the Chillilicious name is on the tip of everyone's tongue.
Keep up to date with Chillilicious on Facebook and Twitter.










Tuesday, 21 January 2014

5 Questions - Raisthorpe Manor Fine Foods

Over the weekend myself and Nicola took a visit to the SECC to visit the Scottish Speciality Food Show. We had a great day meeting some of the producers of delicious food and drink from all across the UK, plus we managed to fill ourself up with tasty samples from the majority of the stall on show. I was also very grateful to receive a huge number of sample products to try at home and I will try to post up my thoughts as and when I work my way through my bag of goodies.
Whilst at the show, I gave each of the businesses the opportunity to have their very own '5 Questions' post written up and published on Gerry's Kitchen, to which almost everyone that I spoke to were to keen to have their story told.
One of the last stalls that we visited was that of Raisthorpe Manor Fine Foods who produce a wide range of flavoured gins and vodkas in very eye catching packaging.
 
How did you get started?

Raisthorpe Manor Fine Foods began as an accompaniment to Raisthorpe Flyers, providing homemade raspberry gin for guests at elevenses. The popularity of the drink grew and in 2008 the company was set up, creating homemade gins and liqueurs out of the farmhouse kitchen. The business continued to grow and with thanks to funding from RDPE via Yorkshire Forward now operates from a brand new factory facility in the heart of the Yorkshire Wolds. From there our products have gone on to win numerous awards and two of our liqueurs are currently being used in the cocktail bars of Harvey Nichols nationwide. All our products contain only the finest ingredients (locally sourced where possible) created using traditional methods to create our delicious ranges.

What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?

If you have a great idea then go with it!

Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?

We would like to see the brand become more National, and to be a supreme premium product.

If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?

Tangy Orange Vodka, Rhubarb and Greek Yogurt Dessert - simply cook fresh rhubarb, ideally from the Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle), then mix with our Tangy Orange Vodka before adding to Greek yogurt. Why? because it's deliciously light and can be prepared in no time at all!

You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?

The one person we would invite would be the painter David Hockney as he has painted many picture showing the wonderful places that surround Raisthorpe Manor, especially the one of the famous 3 Trees. In order to make David feel welcome, we would prepare a menu that would show off some of the fantastic products that we produce on the estate.

Very Boozy Lunch Menu:

Starter: Smoked salmon & vodka crème fraîche

Main: Partridge Cooked in Sloe Gin with Sloe Port Jelly Glaze with seasonal vegetables

Dessert: Eton Mess made with Raspberry Gin Liqueur

You can keep up to date with Raisthorpe Manor Fine Foods on Facebook and Twitter.



 

Monday, 13 January 2014

Review - dei Frescobaldi at Harrods

A trip to London wouldn't be the same without a visit to the luxury department store Harrods, so on our second day in the capital, we made our way to plush Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea in hope of picking up a bargain or two in the world famous Harrods Sale.
Harrods is huge, occupying a 5 acre site with over one million square feet of sales area and I'm sure it would take several days to properly browse the 330 different departments that trade within the store. We barely managed to cover the ground floor before we realised that it was getting on to lunchtime. We had a choice of either exiting the store to look for somewhere local where we could grab some lunch before heading back for more shopping, or trying to get something to eat inside Harrods. We didn't fancy the prospect of battling through the crowds, plus the weather outside was horrible, so we decided to stay inside and eat at one of the many options inside the department store.
There are no shortage of places to eat inside the store, In fact there are over twenty five restaurants and cafés inside Harrods meaning that most tastes and budgets are catered for. In the end, as we were already downstairs in the wine & spirits department we decided to grab a table at dei Frescobaldi, a modern looking Italian restaurant on the lower ground floor. The Frescobaldi name is perhaps better known in the winemaking world, having been producing wine for over 700 years and are believed to have supplied wine to renaissance artist Donatello as well as King Henry VIII. These days, the Florentine family business is split between wine production and restaurants renowned for exquisite food with perfect wine matching.
The restaurant was almost full when we enquired about a table however after a short wait, we were seated and given a quick rundown of the specials. There is a daily set menu offering two courses for £20 but the main dishes that had caught our eye were not available this menu.
I ordered the gentile paccheri con ragù d'agnello, which which roughly translated as pasta with a lamb ragu. I was surprised when my dish arrived as I had expected the ragù to be ground meat and tomato based, but what I received was almost like a rich meaty gravy with chunks of amazingly tender slow cooked lamb. The thick fresh pasta was cooked to perfection and the intense flavour from the consommé was so good that I devoured the contents of my plate in no time at all. Oddly enough, I had recently had a debate with my 13 year old nephew about why pasta and gravy don't go together - however based on this fantastic lamb ragù dish, I'll have to eat my words! It would seem that the definition of ragù is dependent of whereabouts in Italy you are. In the north, a ragù is generally made with ground meat, sautéed vegetables, whilst in the south a ragù is made by slowly braising large, whole cuts of meat with vegetables and tomatoes. Regardless, the lunch that I had at dei Frescobaldi was one of the tastiest pasta dishes that I've ever eaten.
I think it took Nicola less than thirty seconds to choose her own lunch course, as soon as her eyes clocked the words 'risotto' & 'truffle', she was hooked. The risotto con funghi porcini al profumo di tartufo, translated as cep risotto scented with truffle, arrived and immediately our nostrils were filled with a wonderful mushroomy aroma. The risotto was light and creamy and packed full of flavour. The massive mushroom flavour hit came from the huge chunks of porcini mushroom and the black truffle oil that had been added to lift the flavours to another level, yet whilst there was no doubting the fact that this was a mushroom risotto, it wasn't overpowering either. With a good handful of chopped fresh herbs, the dish had a perfect balance. I do make a mean risotto at home but did feel slightly deflated when Nicola said that this risotto was better than mine!
Our lunch cost £64, including a great bottle of Pinot Griggio and 12.5% service charge. I'm sure that had we made the decision to go outside to find somewhere to eat then we wouldn't have spent so much on lunch, however I doubt that we would have tasted food as good as we did at dei Frescobaldi.
So, with us revitalised after a delicious lunch, we made our way back upstairs and into the madness that was Harrods Christmas Sale. Nicola managed to pick up a wee bargain or two in the beauty department but unfortunately I wasn't able to find anything that I needed. In fairness, I was quite happy to do a bit of window shopping, marvelling at how the other half live.
It's amazing how quickly time can pass when you're walking endless miles inside Harrods and before we knew it, it was time to make a move and get back to the hotel. By the time we exited the building it was getting dark and the outside of Harrods was lit up like the preverbial Christmas tree, making for a perfect photo opportunity before heading underground to get our tube back to Fitzrovia.
Next time you're in the Knightsbridge area and feeling peckish, I wouldn't hesitate in recommending a visit to Harrods and a hearty Italian lunch at dei Frescobaldi.
Keep up to date with dei Frescobaldi on Facebook & Twitter, (& here too)You can also keep up to date with Harrods on Facebook & Twitter too.

Friday, 10 January 2014

Review - Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, London

Where does the time go? Who would have thought that just one week ago, Myself and Nicola were busy packing our suitcase before heading home after a fantastic long weekend break in London. We had made the (rather eventful & unfortunately very delayed) journey to London in order to do a bit of Christmas shopping, make the obligatory trip to Harrods, take in a West End show, and hopefully enjoy a few decent meals in the Capital before whiling the 'wee hours' away in some of Charlotte Street's finest bars.
Unfortunately for us, London doesn't seem to be the kind of place where you can simply walk into a bar at 10pm on a Sunday evening and get a drink. In fact, London seemed very keen to close early all weekend, this despite the fact that it was the weekend between Christmas and New Year. I was also surprised to see that a large number of food businesses had made the business decision to close shop for the whole of the festive season!
So whilst London may have been a bit of a damp squib from a drinking point of view, there is no getting away from the fact that you can easily enjoy a decent meal in a host of fine restaurants. We enjoyed a hearty lunch at Red Onion on Kingly Street , and our lunch at Dei Frescobaldi in Harrods was a fantastic way to break up our luxury shopping day, but the highlight of the weekend was undoubtably our visit to the two Michelin starred restaurant, Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley, in Knightsbridge.
Marcus Wareing has a long relationship with The Berkeley, previously working with Gordon Ramsey at Pétrus in the same location before opening the eponymous flagship Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley in 2008, and quickly establishing it as one of the top restaurants in London.
The weather on our last day in London was horrible, with heavy rain and strong winds helping to blow us along the length of New Bond Street. In order to get out of the rain, Nicola took shelter inside the Michael Kors shop just long enough to purchase another fancy handbag, before we made our way to Knightsbridge.
We arrived early and after freshening up, we had time to grab a drink (and our breath) and relax in The Caramel Room - a dining room/bar that offers a perfect mix of modern chic & old school charm, and is the home of the famous Prêt-à-Portea. Before we knew it, it was one o'clock and time for us to take our first steps into proper fine dining.
Stepping through the door into the restaurant, we both felt a strange nervous excitement. After all, we've never experienced Michelin star treatment and our expectations were high. We were warmly welcomed by restaurant manager Daniel Greenock, recently returned from a year working in New York at the three Michelin star restaurant Eleven Madison Place, before being seated at lovely corner table with a fantastic view across the restaurant.
It didn't take too long for the nerves to settle and after the champagne trolley made a visit to our table we sat back savouring the atmosphere, sipping bubbly and enjoying the little profiterole like, cheese gougères that made the perfect appetiser.
Fine dining can be an expensive way to eat out, however most Michelin restaurants do offer great value lunch menus throughout the week. The lunch menu that is served up at Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley starts at £58 for three courses, with enough choice on the menu to make picking and choosing fairly easy. In stark contrast to the pared down lunch menu, the wine menu looked like a volume of Encyclopedia Britannica with a massive selection of carefully selected wines from all over the globe. We ordered a bottle of Gavi, the Italian dry white wine, and gave our lunch order to our waiter then sat back in anticipation of gastronomic delights that we were about to experience.
I'm sure that we could have continued drinking champagne all afternoon, but in the words of Freddie Mercury - 'The show must go on', and it wasn't long before we were presented with a little appetizer of ricotta mousse with spiced pumpkin seeds and cold pumpkin soup. This was a great way to get us in the mood for food. The mousse was wonderfully light and airy, the crunchy texture of the pumpkin seeds. The spices from the seeds worked well with the creamy pumpkin purée, making sure that our taste buds were wakened and ready to go.
I had ordered the Lamb, Ravioli, Celeriac & Pine Nut to start. When my dish came to the table, it was like a little work of art with a light ravioli pillow (about the size of the palm of my hand) which was stuffed with tender, melt in the mouth, slow cooked lamb. The ravioli was full of flavour, and when combined with the mild celeriac purée, toasted pine nuts, and sticky reduction, It was a joy to eat.
Nicola wasn't too sure what to expect when she ordered the Quail, Foie Gras, & Quince starter but was hugely impressed when it arrived. The quail was served as a terrine with disc of smooth foie gras running through the middle. This was garnished with slices of blanched chicory (we think, but forgot to ask) and a sweetened quince purée. The balance of texture and flavour on this dish was top notch. The flavour of the chunky quail terrine, and the smooth, buttery flavour of the foie were the perfect match. Nicola did let me try a little....but only once!
With the starters done, we both took a little toilet break and when I came back to the table I noticed that red mine glasses had been set alongside our other glasses. My slight confusion didn't last long as we were soon presented a surprise course of Roasted Pigeon, with compliments of the kitchen. The sommelier then poured us a glass each of a matched red wine from Tuscany.
The pigeon dish was a proper treat, rich and succulent pigeon breast resting on a bed of well flavoured put lentils and a warmed egg yolk, finished off with a crispy skinned pigeon drumstick. The Le Difese was a very nice match to this dish, light but with an oaky finish, and certainly a wine that I would look for in the future.
I would like to take this first opportunity to thank the staff for their generosity in providing us with this extra course and matching wine. I was very much appreciated by both myself and Nicola. At this point in our meal we were able to take a short interval before out main courses arrived.
In a weird twist, we both ordered fish for our main course. Nicola is a huge fan of sea bream so her decision was easy, but I was torn between all four options on the menu. If I hadn't had pork belly the night before then my decision would have been far easier but in the end I ordered the Halibut, Leek, Polenta & Purslane. This turned out to be another visual masterpiece with a doorstep sized fillet of moist, meaty fish, dressed with bite sized chunks of braised Italian leek, seasoned dollops of polenta, a stem of wilted asparagus, and thin slices of chestnut helping to add another texture dimension to the dish. The halibut was perfectly cooked and worked well with the sweet softened leeks, whilst the purslane added a slightly sour and salty lift to the mix. My only criticism of my own main was that I wasn't overly impressed with the polenta (not sure why, maybe I just prefer potatoes with my fish.) and would not have missed it if it wasn't there. Although I did still clear the plate!
I was slightly jealous of Nicola's main when it arrived. The two crispy fillets of sea bream accompanied by goats' curd, parsnips and chervil root, looked amazing. Once again, the perfectly cooked fish was the star of the show but the supporting cast of sharp goats' curd (which were like little goats cheese gnocchi) and roasted parsnips helped the sea bream win the battle of the fish dishes. At this point Nicola was beginning to feel a little fool full, especially after our earlier extra course, have no fear though as I jumped to her rescue and helped her finish - although I'm not sure that that is the done thing in a Michelin starred restaurant.
We were both beginning to feel very much at home within the burgundy walls of the restaurant, and I cast my mind to lovable rogue Derek Trotter standing in the wine bar thinking to himself "now this is a bit of me"! Our waiter brought the menu back to let us choose our dessert but we had already made an earlier decision to share the Pear Tarte Tatin, Spiced Milk, Mulled Wine & Clotted Cream. I'm sure that the other desserts would have been delicious but with the cold winter weather stills wildly blowing outside, the tarte Tatin was sure to warm us through. As we sat enjoying the wait for our pudding, yet another little appetizing treat was served up to us with a cute little shot glass layered with calvados soaked apples, chestnut mousse, ginger and cinnamon crumbs and topped with a sharp apple sorbet. Talk about fancy apple crumble? I loved the sorbet and now that Santa has brought be a nice cream maker, maybe I should make an attempt at my own apple sorbet in the coming weeks.
As our dessert was being brought to the table we were treated to another little snippet of generosity when sommelier, Joris Beijn, declared that "it would be a cardinal sin not to have a dessert wine with our pudding" and poured us each a glass of chilled Disznoko Tokaji Aszu. I'm really getting a taste for the sweet dessert wines and this gem from Hungary is wonderful. Joris explained a little about how the Aszu wines are produced from overripe grapes that develop botrytis or 'noble rot'. This link echoes the information that Joris was able to effortlessly rhyme off.
Our pudding was the perfect way to end a fantastic dining experience. Sticky sweet pear and buttery flaky pastry were accompanied by a delicious spiced milk ice cream, sticky mulled wine reduction, clotted cream and home made honeycomb. This was a proper grown up pudding, the aromatic spices from the milky ice cream and mulled wine making the Tatin taste like Christmas on a plate. Absolutely delicious and I'm sure that Stephanie Tatin would have been very proud of how her legacy was served up today.
By the time that our pudding was finished, we were beginning to get a little conscious of our time. We had been seated for the better part of three hours and knew that we better get ourselves together as we had a train back to Glasgow to catch, so decided against coffee and settled up our bill. As I mentioned earlier, there were a few items that we had received that did not feature on our final bill, so again I would like to thank the restaurant for their generosity over the course of the day.
We had been made to feel very welcome from the moment that we walked through the door and despite the fact that this was our most expensive meal to date, we certainly don't regret making the decision to visit Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley. As an added bonus, Joris kindly gave us a tour of the kitchen and introduced us to head chef, Mark Froydenlund and a couple of his team who by this point in the afternoon were busy prepping for the evening service. Sadly, the big boss wasn't around, which is unusual as Marcus, rather than being a figurehead and name above the door, is one of the few Michelin star chefs who is almost always present his own kitchen. Ah well, maybe I'll catch up with him another time.
As we came to the end of our first Michelin dining experience, there was no doubt that we had been wowed by the high quality food and impeccable presentation of everything that came out of the kitchen. Our expectations had been very high and head chef Mark Froydenlund and his team had delivered a meal that we will long remember. When people think about fine dining and Michelin stars they often put huge emphasis on the what happens in the kitchen but today we learnt that it's not all about the food. The restaurant staff have a huge roll to play in making sure that every diner feels comfortable, and Daniel Greenock's staff done just that, there was no mistake that there were staff about but at no pint did they ever seem to be in the way. We certainly didn't feel out of place or intimidated by the surroundings, and little things like having the table pulled out when you come back from the restroom, napkins being re-folded in your absence, the choreography that is clear to see when food leaves the kitchen - I could go on but I'm sure you get the point.
So to sum up, you get what you pay for when you choose to visit a Michelin restaurant. High quality and expertly presented food, coupled with a level of service that made us feel like royalty. This was an experience to remember and something that we would happily repeat and definitely recommend anyone with a love of food to try.
As it turned out, we were some of the last diners to experience Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley as the restaurant is to close after the final service on Saturday 18th January and after a major refurbishment and rebrand, plans to reopen in March as 'Marcus'.
Chef patron Marcus Wareing is aiming to bring a more engaging and inviting approach to the luxury dining experience. I'd be interested to see how the team can improve on the our own previous experience - Looks like I'll need to arrange another trip to London in the coming months to check out the new approach.
You can keep up to date with everything that's going on at the restaurant at www.marcus-wareing.com, or on Facebook and Twitter.