Friday, 29 June 2012

Review: The Cube by Electrolux London. Claude Bosi

"Aleeeeeex, you promised to take me for lunch" I whined.
"Ok, where do you want to go?" he yelled from the other room...
"Let's see. Oh I know. The Cube" 
He popped his head around the door "Let me get this straight. You want me, a recently unemployed LPC student to spend £400 on lunch. Are you having a mare?"

"The greedy man curses and spurns God"(Psalms 10.3) I retorted solemnly. A pair of socks sailed through the air at my head. Half an hour later I was placated, albeit demonstratively sullen in chomping down my burger at Gourmet Burger Kitchen.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with The Cube it is a brand new London Pop-up perched atop the Royal Festival Hall. As 50% of all Michelin star chefs in Europe use Electrolux, the company has created a unique dining experience where up to 18 guests at a time can enjoy a 5 course meal with matched wine, prepared by some of Europe's finest Michelin star chefs. For the next four months Tom Kitchin, Sat Bains, Daniel Clifford, Jonray and Peter Sanchez and Claude Bosi will all be waving their magic forks over their own individual and incredibly unique menus.

So imagine my delight as I entered the great glass elevator of the Royal Festival Hall and sailed up to the 6th floor. Doe re mi fa so la ti.. DOE chimed the elevator (no really). I was then escorted through a labyrinth of corridors until we emerged blinking into the sunlight. My eyes adjusted to the brightness and to London spread out like a tapestry at my feet.  

I stood glass of champagne in hand and enjoyed the warm breeze & canapes. Now I'll be the first to admit that I'm a 'sit down to a hearty meal' kinda girl and have never been an enormous fan of conceptual cooking, so I wondered whether the food would live up to the standards of my primitive palate. 

We began with a Hibiscus Flower and Pineapple Soda. Now I'm hard pressed to describe the taste since I've simply never tasted anything like it. Guzzle guzzle guzzle- it went down a treat.

Then Claude came out from behind the counter to introduce his next dish. He spoke with a delicious French accent as he presented the  "Confit of asparagus cooked in butter infused with toasted 'ey". 

"Hay?!" objected my pepper is a walk on the wild side tastebuds. However, I didn't bring them along to argue and shoved the glistening emerald vegetable into my mouth. 'Aah' we all sighed.  The fine mellow flavour of the asparagus was superbly complimented by the rounded taste of the butter tinged with the scent of buxom milkmaids and country pastures. So THAT was what the hay was for. Boy oh boy I was coming around to this new way of cooking. The asparagus was accompanied by Joseph Perrier Cuvee Royale 2002.

 Next up. New Caledonian Shrimp, Onion and Strawberry Vierge. Again I am surprised by how the flavours interact. The aromatic smooth prawn meat is perfectly balanced against the sweet sharp tang of the strawberries. Accompanied by Ribolla Gialla, Vigna Traverso 2011. This is followed by the most divine Cornish Cod Girolles with Lancashire mead, with a side of soft and mild mushroom ketchup. The Moris Vermentino Maremma Toscana 2011 was the perfect accompaniment with its dry sherry taste and low acidity, achieved by letting the grapes sit in a cold, dark room for 24 hours after they are picked. And then we have the Label Anglais Chicken with peas, ginger and pink grapefruit accompanied by SOC Grenache Blanc, Domaine Ey 2009. I catch Claude's eye as he is putting the finishing touches to the deserts and give him a huge grin and a thumbs up; what else can you do when the food is so good. Besides I'm scared of letting my motormouth go before his culinary genius, so a thumbs up it is.

Now onto the desserts. You are probably bored by now of having to listen to me harping on about my love for all things sweet (my dinner a couple days ago was a whole can of condensed milk in front of the tele). In fact my enjoyment of food is directly correlated to its sugar content and it is through some divine miracle that my teeth are still my own. So when out came the Charlotte Strawberry with celeriac and Szechuan pepper I didn't expect to like it. But like it I did. The flavour was intensely unusual with the pepper numbing the mouth slightly whilst the celeriac and strawberry cooled and fizzed (with Clos poggiale, vin de Corse 2007). Then came the Pièce de résistance a plate of white, cream and olive coloured blobs. I mixed a few colours together and spooned them into my mouth. *fireworks*, had I died and gone to heaven? "What in god's name is this?" I questioned. We then played the guessing game around the table and had all sorts of absurd suggestions from potato mousse to escargot souffle. Claude finally put us out of our misery White asparagus with white chocolate, whey and coconut. My desert barely had time to touch the plate it sat on before it was extinguished and washed down with the most divine Hungarian Royal Tokaji Late Harvest 2009. 

As I walked home along the embankment I was exquisitely happy. The combination of the truly magnificent food, wonderful wine and the technicolor London skyline is enough to impress even the surliest of dispositions and reform even the most die hard sceptic of haute cuisine. The whole concept is very much an experience orientated one. It is not about stuffing yourself silly or trying conventional dishes done well. You go to The Cube to be surprised, forget everything you thought you liked and to surprise yourself. 

The Cube by Electrolux. Seats are priced at £175 per person for lunch and £215 for dinner, Monday to Sunday. To book a table click here.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Can I Borough You?

We stood beneath those Dickensian emerald arches and smiled. The spicy smell of paella wafted through the air. Close eyes inhale. Venison sausages with an acidic dijon kick. Close eyes inhale.  The sweet aroma of melted English cheddar toasties and heady rich truffle. And my favourite, that irresistible powdery vanilla of freshly made fudge.

We had travelled to Borough Market in search of sustenance. Dating back to the 13th century the market is London's oldest and home to countless stalls of glorious gourmet goodies, from artisan cheeses to stacks of organic brownies and cakes. Mercifully it was a Thursday, meaning no tourists, sandals or fanny-packs. Some light drizzle; but that only added to pleasure of biting into a steaming hunk..of meat.

We meandered around the stalls and were assailed by samples food at every one. Plump glossy morsels of fresh eggy pasta stuffed with veal. Gooey chocolate brownies. Crumbly pear tartlets. Steaming pieces of venison. I felt like Henry's seventh wife at a Tudor feast. 
Ultimately I settled for a double sausage burger with red onion marmalade encased in a warm English muffin. Terrific choice. Produced by Boston Sausage who specialise in fine Lincolnshire sausages, the burger was a thing of beauty and at £6 you'll have enough moola left over for the truffle toastie melts and salted caramel fudge. p.s. check out Gabi's fantastic fashion blog; Not so Basic

Friday, 22 June 2012

The Courtyard at 51 Buckingham Gate. Taj Hotels

Curled up on the sofa over tea and biscuits my friend (who shall remain nameless) was giving me the 210 on a head-spinning date she had been on. Always a sucker for living vicariously I probed her for all the details. What did she wear? What did he wear? What did they talk about? What questions did he ask her? Was he funny? How many sugars did he take in his tea?

"And you should see the place he took me" she gushed. "Where did he take you?" I queried. "Guess" she said. "No" I said. "Please guess, just guess" she said. I rolled my eyes. A non traditionalist I tried to conjure up something  dreamy.... You met on Westminster Bridge at a quiet hour of a cloudless weekday.  Jumped on an old banger of a river boat and sailed down to Hampton Court Palace. Where you walked around pretending to be cultured citizens until one of you let the facade drop to the other's relief. So you sat on the grass idly drinking pimms in the sunshine and playing some questionable game"

"You're mad" she said.

Turns out the boy was more conventional and had taken her to the courtyard of 51 Buckingham Gate, which is a Taj Hotel located a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace. 

A few days later I happened to be in the vicinity and popped in for a peek. I then spotted the barbecue in the courtyard and stayed for lunch. There are several restaurants at the property including Quilon which has a Michelin star and specialises in South-West Coastal Indian cuisine. But since I liked the look of Bistro 51 I ate there.

I'm always hopeless at deciding what I want in restaurants so quizzed the waiters on the menu. Then the chef came out. "Uh-oh. I've really done it now" I thought, conjuring up images of flying pans and korma grenades. But instead he helpfully explained the menu and asked me what I'd like. I wanted to say "Everything", but somewhere between thinking it and deliberating, the word escaped my lips. He smiled and said he knew just the thing. And so, a short while later I was presented with an exquisite curry taster dish. And for desert, a magic chocolate ball. Yes! A magic chocolate ball. Oh how I wished to be six again. To marvel as warm treacly chocolate was poured over the sphere, only for it to dissolve and reveal the perfect miniature deserts within. Now show me a man, woman or child who wouldn't be delighted.

On certain days over the Summer the Courtyard will be hosting open air opera evenings with Al Fresco dining. If my lunch is anything to go by these are bound to be fantastic. But if opera isn't your cup of tea, they also do great cocktails and a mean shisha; put that in your pipe and smoke it.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Horny Skulls

Was loitering in the Harrods jewellery department, waiting on a friend to drag her sorry-self out of bed for a long anticipated reunion over Oreo Cookie Shakes. That morning I thought I'd channel Steve Tyler, so on went the leather pants, biker boots, ray-bans and oversized tee. Then I spotted this horny beast by Alexander McQueen and it was love a.f.s. It was a done deal, he was coming home with me. I named him Christian.

You can get a similar one on here for £125.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Review: Cut at 45 Park Lane

This year Father's day happened to fall on a gloriously luminous Sunday. The air had a certain balmy sweetness and the sun glowed flaxen playing peekaboo behind the wooly clouds. I spent the morning ensconced in laboured revision. My last exam was on Monday so I was employing my usual technique of legal rap to learn the rules;  "In West Maida Vale, born and raised, a life tenant lived out the last of their days.. Chillin' out maxin' relaxin' all cool. Until he got topped by the gangsta in school.. there's inheritance tax at 40% .. forget CGT, there be swagger instead."

Luckily (for Kanye), the clock pulled me back from the precipice of hip hop stardom and sold out arena tours. It was Father's Day AND my dad's birthday. We were off to celebrate. 

Rewind two weeks. After much head scratching over where to go for pa's 47th.. "what to do? what to do?". I decided to book Cut at 45 Park Lane. Opened earlier this year by Wolfgang Puck, America's Austrian born answer to Gordon Ramsey the restaurant promised the best steak this side of the Atlantic. Apart from the prices, pucking expensive, I knew from the reviews that it would please. And so, as it was dad's birthday, it was a case of the best for the best (biased? who? me?). Even if we did blow my entire dowry in the process.

We are back on that glorious Sunday afternoon. Five reverent carnivores around a round table. There are jazz musicians softly crooning to the right of us, whilst my brother is regaling us with tales of vice in the back alleys of Bangkok, where he had just from the sounds of it spent a rather eventful 2 weeks.

Now I'm not sure whether it's the Crème de cassis, the sinister bluesy saxophone or the man at the next table with the oiled moustache daintily sipping chai from a porcelain cup; but something about Cut and its long, corridorlike layout reminds me of a railway carriage. Half expecting brunch aboard the Orient express to be interrupted by a pair of feet sticking out from under the table and our moustachioed Poirot to leap into action, I hurriedly place our orders.

Starters arrive. Dad and mum both have the dorset crab and lobster, which they inform me is 'good'. Now in my family something that's "good" is never merely just "good"; it is marvellous, stupendous, mind-blowing. Alex and Alex on the other hand are moaning quietly in the corner over their steak tartare. Al puts some steak tartare on dad's plate. The three of them unanimously conclude it's the best they've ever had. My tuna tartare has attitude, it's spicy with a soft kick of wasabi. Tastes good, but I'm too hungry to fully appreciate the flavour.

Now for the main. I order the Australian Waygu and Black Angus Beef Burger. Puck certainly has his work cut out. It's easy to make a good burger, but hard to make one that will burn into your memory like that time when...
I am now excited and still ravenous. With all the anticipation of a groom at the alter my eyes flick towards the door at the smallest suggestion of food. Then I see her. Opps I meant it. Here comes the bride all dressed with fries. That first bite. Mind blowing bovine ecstasy. I look across at Alexandra who is also having the burger. She is in some far off place, eyes glazed over. Brother takes a bite of his and looks stunned. Usually burgers are big heavy things, to be wrestled with and conquered. This one looks like it would be no different, in fact it looks pretty average. But in the mouth it just melts in a way I've never encountered. It doesn't just go down, but it glides down like a calf on iceskates. As delicate as if it had been pre-chewed by newborn baby angel kittens. And the flavour simply indescribable. Mum and dad both went for the steak, which they inform me is "marvellous, stupendous, mind-blowing". 

I should also mention the pancakes. Oh my sweet lord, the pancakes. I never thought I'd taste a pancake to rival that of the Four Seasons New York (see here), but I prayed and God answered. Now here's the best bit. If you can't afford to have dinner at Cut, then you could always have breakfast. Allow me to push/shove/force you in the direction of the pancakes and at £13.50 you'll take 3 portions. 

I'm absolutely stuffed. I haven't saved room for desert but have it anyway. One baked alaska and apple crumble later I am ready to collapse. As I crawl out of Cut I spot a dainty Nicola Roberts and think "pshhh, she don't know what she's letting herself in for"  

45 Park Lane, Mayfair, London W1K 1PN  020 7629 4848

What to Order

1. Steak Tartare
2. Waygu Burger
3. Any sort of steak (their medium is pretty well cooked, so medium rare if you like it pink)

CUT at 45 Park Lane on Urbanspoon
CUT at 45 Park Lane on Urbanspoon