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O Come, All ye faithful…

Well it will soon be that time of year again when we will all start getting festive and excited about the big celebrations of Christmas. As the title suggests we do hope to see some of our regulars and also welcome some new guests as well.

Here at “Covert Towers” we too will be trying to celebrate in style with our Hari Covert suppers on the following dates…

santa15th , 6th , 12th , 13th , 19th and 20th December 2014. This will give you plenty of choice to come and celebrate with us. We will be serving up the same menu at each dinner all you need to do is choose the preferred date and complete the booking form below!

We will be serving up a tasty and traditional four course menu that will reflect the festive season and we hope some imaginative combinations.

The evenings will kick off with a welcome drink along with some festive nibbles. We will then commence the dinner with a home-made terrine of pork studded with apricots and hazelnuts and served with a home-made seasonal relish  and simple salad garnish. We will also serve a vegetarian alternative of a warm Onion & Goats Cheese Tart.

santa2For the main course we will go slightly traditional and serve turkey…
I have to admit not always my favourite meat but we will do a slight twist and serve an individual turkey roulade. A turkey escalope stuffed with a light forcemeat and chopped chorizo to provide a slight kick, each roulade will be wrapped in air dried ham and we will serve them with a light sage cream sauce and seasonal vegetable garnish, maybe even the odd Brussels sprout as well. We will serve a salmon steak as the veggie alternative as well with a similar garnish but a wild garlic pesto cream sauce….

In true Hari fashion we will then serve a selection of cheeses with our much admired Porridge Oat biscuits and home-made Banana Jam.

decTo finish the meal we will then serve a slightly different version of a Christmas Pudding, namely a Christmas Pudding Parfait, a home- made iced parfait that will come served with a tart red fruit compote and then a holly shaped tuile biscuit.

Coffee or our own blend of tea will be served along with some mini stollen and Christmas biscuits maybe even a mini mince pie will complete the dinners.

We ask guests to arrive at 7:30pm and dinner will start at 8:00pm

Suggested Donation is £35.00 per person (Service not included)

Menu

Homemade Pork, Apricot & Hazelnut Terrine with a home-made Seasonal Relish

Vegetarian Alternative:

Warm Onion & Goats Cheese Tart with Salad Leaves

*****

Turkey Roulade with a chorizo stuffing, Roasted Potato & Parsnip Rosti and a Sage Cream Sauce, Seasonal Vegetables

Vegetarian Alternative:

Roasted Salmon Fillet, Roasted Potato & Parsnip Rosti and a Wild Garlic Pesto Cream Sauce, Seasonal Vegetables

*****

Hari’s Selection of Cheeses, Porridge Oat Biscuits, Banana Jam

*****

Christmas Pudding Iced Parfait with a Red Berry compote and holly tuile biscuit served with a glass of Muscat de Rivesaltes

*****

Coffee or Hari’s Tea Blend with Festive Petit Fours

To Book your places please complete the Booking Form below. We will normally contact you within 24/48 Hours to confirm your booking with a Credit Card number.

Please also indicate how many of your party require the Vegetarian Alternative dishes.

Chocolate heaven…

Restaurant Mimo d’en Damian – Girona

Well it was blue skies and a warm autumn afternoon when I set off from my house in France and I basked in the glorious scenery as I whizzed down the motorway towards Spain. Once through the peage at Le Boulou you climb over the mountains before dropping into Spain and the commercial “duty free” shopping conurbation of La Jonqueria – it was all going swimmingly well and I was excited at the prospect of dinner on the opening night at Damian’s new venture.

It was then a wall of traffic in front of me and flashing indicators that bought me to a sudden halt and I then began to panic I might not reach Girona in time for dinner! Well a lorry had shed it’s load and police were busy trying to reopen the motorway… some 45 minutes later I was motoring and my expectation was rising yet again.

I arrived in Girona just as the sun was setting and the birds were all coming home to roost! The cacophony was deafening and as I wandered around the old town I found myself sitting on Independence Square with it’s plethora of restaurants and bars and a real buzz as the locals were beginning to unwind at the end of their working day.

My table was booked for 8:30pm early by Spanish standards for a dinner reservation and I was to be joined by some friends who had motored up from Barcelona. They were running a little late having got stuck in the commuter traffic of Barcelona but as I sat at my table waiting I perused the decor. Simple understated table decorations included a chocolate cube sculpture on each table, a wall mounted chocolate sculpture in the shape of a cocoa pod and then some wooden tree branches also covered in chocolate sculptured facsimiles of cocoa pods all added to the statement “it is all about the chocolate”.

Damian is a renowned chocolatier and holds the mantle of the fourth best in the world and was mentor to Jordi Roca of the local El Celler can Roca.  He has, with his partner Anna, her sister and her husband formed a partnership that has seen the rebirth of Restaurant Mimolet as Mimo d’en Damian. Located near the cathedral in the old part of the city it is a perfect location for Damian to showcase his creations with a small boutique shop and a modern understated simple decor within the restaurant.

So my guests arrived and settled and then the meal commenced… the menu is divided between fundamentally two choices of menu. The Plantation Menu – a degustation menu of either five or eight courses that reflects the varying chocolates that Damian likes to work perfectly illustrates the natures of their provenance. The use of a different chocolate in some form or another at each course is very much a feature.

The other menu choice on offer is named “La Finca”  a menu that provides a simple 3 choice three course menu that with seasonal influences of home inspired dishes often without chocolate except for the dessert!!! Then for groups of four or more Damian has also introduced a menu titled “LA  XOCOLATADA“. This is a selection of a lot of the dishes reflected in the other two menus.  Complemented by a simple main course of roasted chicken ballontine with garnish and to complete the sharing meal effectively a chocolate fondue served with assorted accompaniments to dip and dunk accordingly! The ethos is the re-invention of the sharing of a meal.

So we plumped for the Plantation eight course degustation (one wimped out with the 5 courses) and we decided to go that extra bit with the wines included chosen by the restaurant for an amazing 45 Euros per person. (more about that later)

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First up was what was described as snacks and were presented on a wooden board with a balloon whisk. Little miniature croquettes with capers, little coca biscuits (a local cracker) topped with a smooth velvety pumpkin mousse topped with chopped walnuts and then nestling in the whisk where what were described as Sweet corn Crisps – looking like giant onion rings these crisp little confections just melted in the mouth… all went perfectly with the lovely chilled glass of Cava that appeared in front of us.

Bread then arrived. It was intriguing and Damian explained had taken much experimentation to perfect. Fundamentally an olive oil bread that used cocoa butter these little rolls had a lovely crispy exterior and a very stringy moreish texture within…

The first course up was the described as the Santa Pau Bean Soup, a dry plate duly arrived with an arrangement of diced carrots and beans in the bottom – a sliver of dried bread that Damian describes as using a cocoa ferment in its making process and a spherical scoop of bacon ice cream before a dark chocolate coloured broth was poured into the bowl. Intense depth of flavours and balanced seasoning combinations ensured this was a great start to the meal, the ice cream melted to provide a creamy edge to the soup and the delicate bread softened within the broth – masterful.

Next came the Cep Royal, Onion Foam and a garnish of camomile and cacao soil, a shallow glass bowl had a dark warm set mousse in its base with that distinct earthy boletus flavour of the wild mushroom, a delicate light sweet flavoured onion foam had been squirted onto this and all garnished with a crunchy decoration of cocoa nibs. Textural and flavourful combinations that were truly magnificent and equally memorable. Flavours zinged in the mouth and lingered with every spoonful!

Our next course was described as White Fish, Saffron veloute, fennel & orange on the menu. We were served two fresh shell on prawns that were perfectly cooked. The sauce had a delicate aerated texture and had the addition of cacao butter to provide a richness to the dish. It was a accomplished but for me perhaps the weakest dish of the night and perhaps still a work in progress, nonetheless still very enjoyable.

Next came the main course and one I looked forward to as I am a massive fan of the “Pork Cheek”. It is something of a local favourite in the region and often found on menus both in Spanish Cataluña and French Catalan eateries. Damian interpretation was for me totally inspired. The presentation was simple but effective the pork cheek had been cooked perfectly and then shredded and formed into what effectively looked like a chocolate brownie.The garnish of unctuous smooth potato puree and then a masterful finely shredded acidic yet sweet addition of bright pink red cabbage provided the necessary foil for the richness of the meat… This was truly magnificent and for me the revelation of forming the shredded meat into a brownie shaped form on the plate was inspired and the addition of the classic mole sauce using Michel Cluizels “Los Ancones” 68% chocolate just delivered the whole dish to stellar heights. The Brueberry Negre wine from Monsant was the perfect choice to go with dish as well… I loved it

A short pause to allow us to digest the richness for the main dish was then broken by the arrival of the final stretch of the meal! The fact that Damian is formerly a pastry chef meant we were then in for a treat as he presented the three desserts on his menu.

Firstly as a palate cleanser he served up what he describes as a Grapefruit and Basil Sandwich. It was a slab of pink grapefruit sorbet of such a lovely intense flavour sandwiched between two thin pieces of crispy meringue that had the addition of basil within. Simply placed on a plate with an undercarriage of Jordi Rocas milk chocolate “Rocalat” effectively milk chocolate shavings as used within the local infamous “Roca” ice cream parlour. God this was good and got us all excited as what else was going to be served up.

Next came what the menu described as Original Beans Virunga 70% – Forastero Beans from the Congo, a lactic free Cremosa of Cru Virunga served with Olive Oil financier, sea water and blackcurrant crisps. This was pure artistry in the visual sense as well as the eating sense. The Cremosa or mousse like chocolate quenelle in the centre of the plate was surrounded by two little olive oil cakes with the addition of little round discs of crispy sea water and then a wafer thin scroll of blackcurrant that melted in the mouth and provided an amazing combination to the fruity flavour of the chocolate. The salty flavour of the sea water crisps were revolutionary.

I know Damian has recently developed a chocolate ganache that also uses the sea water sourced from a natural marine park off the coast of Ibiza. It was another level from the previous dessert and got me thinking how do you follow this!

Well only Damian could follow it with yet another chocolate dessert and this was showcasing a chocolate I know Damian is very passionate about. Listed as Pacari Raw 70% it is a chocolate he imports himself direct from the plantation. He served it slightly warm in a glass plate bowl aerated using a nitrogen dioxide siphon, garnished with chopped pieces of raisin biscuits and a delicate jasmine tea sorbet to cleanse the mouth between each mouthful  it was inspired and whilst simple to look at has taken many months of tweaking and re working to achieve such a memorable finish to what had been a stunningly good meal.

Coffee served with a trio selection of the water ganache chocolates Damian is famous for completed the meal – spherical white chocolate & raspberry truffles and a dark chocolate and mint truffle came served on little white spoons and a oval salted peanut chocolate completed the trio.

At the 45 Euros per person including the wines it was amazing value for money and well worth the trip. In fact I can not recommend the region and the city enough, it has such a diversity and the arrival of Damian within the city has rekindled his love affair with the area and means even more can now experience the passion he has for chocolate. The small boutique within the restaurant means you can purchase his chocolates directly and the meeting room adjacent will also be used for private parties and tutored tastings. I felt privileged to have been there on their opening night and I know my friends from Barcelona were equally impressed.

I cannot wait to return again in February when I will be back in the area… just go and check out the flights to the area , book a ticket and get yourself there to sample what has been the best meal experience I have had in a while.

I wish the team the best of luck and hope they survive and prosper in a competitive market as well as testing times in Spain – when you get there just tell them Hari sent you!

Mimo d’en Damian, Pou Rodo. num 12, 17004 Girona

Tel +34 972 202 124   email : restaurant@mimodamian.cat

www.mimodamian.cat

Apple Homage…our October dinners

Well as Autumn fast approaches this months dinner will focus on the humble apple as a key ingredient at each course.

We will kick the meal off with a glass of Kir Normande… A glass of chilled cider with the addition of creme de cassis and some seasonal apple themed nibbles!

The first course will be a homemade brawn of Kentish Apples, Cooked Potatoes and Smoked Haddock set in an Apple Jelly. We will serve this with a light horseradish cream and some crisp Melba toasts. It will be a light start to what will be a fairly hefty dinner.

Next will be a slowly braised pork cheek, cooked in apple juice the tart and slightly sweet flavour helps cut into the richness of the meat and we will serve this alongside a slow cooked and crispy piece of pork belly. We will serve some roasted apple to cut the richness of both meats and the mustard grain creamed potatoes and our ubiquitous serving of green beans will complete the main course.

We will then serve a couple of our favourite cheeses – namely the local cheddar from Winterdale Shaw plus a personal favourite the Stichleton, this is the blue veined cheese from Nottinghamshire made in the traditional way of Stilton from unpasteurised milk. All served with our porridge oat biscuits and our home-made Banana Jam, plus of course some fresh crisp apple as well!

Finally we will serve a Apple, Pine Nut and Cinnamon Torte with a garnish of Salted Caramel sauce and a scoop of Vanilla Ice Cream. We will also serve a glass of Muscat de Rivesaltes with this as we will have restocked our cellars of our local French wine!

To complete the dinner we will then serve either coffee or tea with an appropriate petit four. I will have the week before the dinners also been down in Spain (Girona) attending the opening of “master chocolatier” Damian Allsop’s new chocolate restaurant and shop so might have imported some special goodies! You will all have to wait and see!

We request a suggested donation of £35 per person (service not included) Guests requested to arrive at 7:30pm with dinner served at 8:00pm promptly.

Dates: Friday 10th (Breakfast Friends – Exclusive Night) Now Fully Booked 

& Saturday 11th October 2014 – Spaces still available


“Apple Homage”

Welcome Drink served with Seasonal Canapé’s

++++

Kentish Apple, Potato & Smoked Haddock Brawn

Horseradish Cream & Melba Toast

++++

Apple Juice Braised Pork Cheeks & Crispy Roasted Pork Belly

Roasted Apples, Grain Mustard Creamed Potatoes

Green Beans

++++

Winterdale Shaw Cheddar Cheese & Stichleton

Hari’s Porridge Oat Biscuits & Homemade Banana Jam

++++

Apple, Pine Nut & Cinnamon Torte served with Salted Caramel Sauce

and Vanilla Ice Cream

Served with a glass of Muscat de Rivesaltes

++++

Coffee or Tea with Petit Fours

N.B. Menu Subject to Market Purchases and Ingredient Availability 

To book please complete the form below or click this Breakfast Friends link for their exclusive Friday night.

 

Chef But to cook again at Hari Covert’s…

Noodles But

Well we are excited to report Chef Kam Po But formerly Executive Chef at Ken Lo’s Memories of China, Belgravia London has agreed to come back and present another two nights of his culinary prowess.

Chef But had been the Executive Chef of Ken Lo’s for some thirty years plus until his retirement a few years ago. He has been a friend for the same period and is god father to my daughter and we have done Chinese dinners in some truly amazing locations from the depths of the Hampshire countryside to the remoteness of the Isles of Scilly.

Chef But is a true master at blending dishes to be balanced in flavour, texture and colour. He has constructed a menu once again that will demonstrate all of this and to top it all off at the end of the dinner he will once again demonstrate the art of Hand Drawn Noodles. His skill in this is legendary as he has made countless appearances  on TV from The Generation Game to BBC Food & Drink and ITV This Morning.

This is a unique chance to sample some truly great Chinese food in a relaxed and sharing manner and will as always be totally oversubscribed!

We will kick the evening off with a welcome drink and simple nibbles before getting guests to sit down to a mammoth banquet. The meal will begin with a range of starters, Crispy Smoked Chicken served with Crispy Seaweed (not actually Seaweed), Sesame Prawn Toasts, Kuo-Tieh Dumplings – a little steamed pork dumpling that are then fried to give a crispy bottom served with a simple soy and ginger dipping sauce. Finally a baked fresh Scallop served in its shell with a piquant black bean sauce.

We will then serve a soup to guests – normally served at the end of a meal here though as a bit of a palate cleanser it will be a delicate Cantonese Hot & Sour Soup.

Next we will then serve what has become something of a signature dish for Chef But. Mongolian Crispy Lamb is a marinated braised leg of lamb that once cold is deep fried until crispy and served with a yellow bean sauce and lettuce leaves like the crispy duck and pancakes. It is a clever dish of textures and flavours and for many lighter than the Duck & pancake variety.

Moving onto the main course dishes we will then serve the following. Chef But will cook them and dish up as quickly as he can but they will generally come as and when they are ready. We will serve a Slow Cooked Beef Shin with water chestnuts. This is a real winter warmer dish and not found on your average Chinese restaurant menu, the beef shin is slowly cooked in a rich soy and spiced broth and then served with crunchy water chestnuts. Stir Fried Chicken Breast in a yellow bean sauce with crispy Almonds. Stir Fried King Prawns with Snow Peas (Mange Tout). Then depending on what we can purchase a fillet of fish done “Peking Style” in a light egg batter that is first fried then steamed with a sauce made from spring onions, garlic and ginger – the “Holy trinity” in Chinese cuisine.

We will serve a fresh vegetable either Pak Choy or Choi Sum (depending on our market purchases) topped with Oyster Sauce and some plain boiled rice.

To complete the meal Hari will be doing the pudding and he will showcase some exotic Asian flavour ice creams and sorbets from local producer Taywell Ice Creams. We will serve Jasmine Tea or if some want a coffee to complete the banquet.

Finally after all of this you will be treated to the hand drawn noodle demonstration by Mr But… this magical process is thousands of years old and we recommend you bring your cameras or phone cameras to capture it all as if you blink you will miss it.

Since we announced these dates spaces filled very quickly and we are now fully booked for both nights.

If you want spaces or be on our waiting list please complete the booking form at the end of this post.

Arrival  7:30pm – Welcome Drinks and assorted Chinese Nibbles

Dinner Served 8:00pm – prompt

Suggested Donation £55.00 per person service not included (Guests to bring their own wines/drinks – Glasses, Water and Ice Buckets provided.)

Menu

Sesame Prawn Toasts

Crispy Seaweed

Kuo-Tieh Dumplings (Pot Stickers)

Crispy Smoked Chicken

Baked Scallop with Black Bean Sauce

吃 嘛

Cantonese Hot & Sour Soup

吃 嘛

Slow braised Beef Shin with water chestnuts

Stir Fried Chicken with Yellow Bean Sauce and Almonds

King Prawns with Snow Peas (Mange Tout)

Fish Fillet “Peking” Style with Ginger & Garlic

Chinese Vegetables with Oyster Sauce

Steamed Rice

吃 嘛

Assorted “Taywell” Asian Sorbet & Ice Creams

吃 嘛

Jasmine Tea or Coffee

Please complete the following form to reserve your spaces. Please note we are already fully booked for both Friday and Saturday and now only have a waiting list for cancellations or potentially a 3rd night.

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September Menus… Hari’s Favourites

UPDATE…

JUST 2 Spaces left  for 20th September …Please spread the word…

Well we are back home and all is looking good. We have decided to do four nights in September over two weekends this month as it has been over nine months since we did dinners in our own home and we have something rather different now. We have decided to do a simple choice set menu on each weekend that will give diners a chance to sample some of our favourite dishes. On September 5th and 6th the Menu will be as follows. Choice can be made on the night which is something new for us!

Arrival 7:30pm Dinner served at 8:00pm

Gravad Lax with a Sweet German Mustard Sauce 

Onion & Goats Cheese Tart with a Salad Leaf Garnish

####

Spicy Moroccan Lamb Tajine with Cous Cous

Smoked Cod Fish Cakes, Wilted Spinach and a Lemon Butter Sauce

####

Chocolate “Nutella” Torte with a Red Berry Compote

Hari’s Cheese Selection with Porridge Oat Biscuits & Banana Jam

Coffee or Tea with Petit Fours

Suggested Donation £30 per person (service not included)


 

September 19th and 20th the menu will be as follows:-

 

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Pork & Apricot Terrine with Rocket & Pine Nut  Salad

####

Poached Chicken Breast with Spinach, Feta & Sun dried Tomato Stuffing, Herb Butter Sauce. Lemon Bulgar Wheat

Roasted Salmon Fillet with Chorizo, Green Beans & New Potatoes

####

Flourless Orange & Hazelnut Torte with Marmalade Cream

Hari’s Cheese Selection with Porridge Oat Biscuits & Banana Jam

Coffee or Tea with Petit Fours

Suggested Donation £30 per person (service not included)

NB: All Menus Subject to

Market Purchases and Ingredient Availability

Please complete the booking form below to secure your places. Please note we will normally contact you within 24 to 48 hours to confirm your booking.

 

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Consistency Rules…

I could not resist a quick stop off on a recent return trip from the depths of south west London before a I hit the M25.

I wanted to check out a chain of Fish & Chip shops that I can lay claim to discovering possibly some thirty years ago when I was working for that doyen of critics Egon Ronay. I did all seven inspections visits of them in two days!!!

“Superfish” are a chain of Fish & Chip Takeaways with licensed restaurant seating  alongside them. When I discovered them 30 years ago they were ground breaking with their modern clean decor, freshly cooked Fish & Chips served with hot French Bread & Butter. It was the brainchild of owner Michael Rhodes, still at the helm and certainly not your normal greasy spoon.

They were different in the South East for a number of reasons. Firstly they fry in dripping the Yorkshire way. They also trained the shop managers to be the only people to fry the fish to ensure a consistent standard. Staff were also well trained to provide a friendly and smiling service to both takeaway and eat in customers.

I have fond memories of making a round trip of some 70 miles to eat their food with a bunch of Swiss visitors who craved the real deal of Fish & Chips. At that time decent local Fish & Chips to me did not exist but I am glad to say this has been rectified now!

I am glad to report the branch I stopped at in Ewell was still as good as ever if a shade dated in decor it made up for it with the friendly welcome and superlative Cod & Chips. It comes in three sizes, Small, Large or Moby Dick. ( I resisted the latter)

It was crisp light batter and for summer potatoes (New Crop) great crisp chips with fluffy potato innards. The fish was perfectly cooked soft and succulent, piping hot and really hit the spot!

It was good to see that after all these years this chain is still going strong and I do believe they have spurned many an operator including another of my favourites Chez Fred in Westbourne Nr Bournemouth. So I guess if ever you are in the depths of Surrey with hunger pains then head straight to Superfish and tell them the man from Egon Ronay sent you as consistency really does rule!

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More tea vicar…

Well following our disappointment with the Bell Inn at Ticehurst the next day was as I previously described was the difference between “Chalk and Cheese”

The day started with my Swiss friends managing firstly at getting lost with their Sat Nav and arriving somewhat late for a hastily arranged private tea tasting… It was one of my friends who is something of a tea fanatic and I thought what could be more unique than arrange a private tea tasting courtesy of master tea blender Alex Probyn of Shoreham based tea company Blends for Friends.

Alex has grown his business at a phenomenal rate over the last few years and what intially was a tea blending for individual customers is now by something of a monolithic giant in bespoke tea companies. He blends brews for clients around the globe from 5 star hotels to even other tea companies.

We arrived late but Alex warmly greeted us all and we got stuck into a quick (by Alex’s standards) tutorial on the differing types of tea.

Well a good hour later after a tutored tasting and a very informative tour of his set up we left with some great tea blends and more importantly I left with a supply of specially blended tea ready for the Vicars Picnic scheduled for August 30th in Yalding!

The Vicars Picnic Blend is a mix of three teas… Indian Assam, Sri Lankan Dimbula and a Chinese Yunnan… it is a fruity flavour in the style of an English Breakfast Tea that will go well with the planned scones, jam and clotted cream!

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The “Vicars Picnic” Tea Blend

The tea will be also on sale in retail packs to take home as well so you can have a lasting memory of the day!

Pickering’s Choice… Saturday 19th July

Chef Peter PickeringWe have decided for our first official dinner in our restored home to host a special dinner on Saturday 19th July. (if demand sufficient then we will also do Friday 18th July)

We have invited a guest chef to launch our new venue and we will be joined by Peter Pickering a 27 year old chef who is a young lad to watch. I have known Peter since 2009 when I was appointed his mentor at Oxford Brookes University in his final year of study before he graduated in May 2010.

He has since gone on to work in some prestigious places from the 5 star Milestone Hotel in London to the Broadcasting Centre for the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics to the opening of “Dinner by Heston Blumenthal” with Ashley Palmer Watts, The Café Royal relaunch in late 2012  and then more recently the Chiltern Firehouse the new André Balazs Hotel in late 2013 working alongside Chef Nuno Mendes. A truly impressive pedigree.

I have asked Peter to put together a menu to relaunch the new Hari venue and we will be hosting a five course menu that will reflect his experiences in some pretty amazing restaurants. I will be acting as his commis chef and it will be as much a learning experience for me with modern techniques and imaginative flavour combinations! Very exciting!

Peter’s menu will be as follows:

Menu

Grilled little gem salad, Nuns of Caen, marinated button mushrooms, soy and sherry dressing

*****

Seared Cornish mackerel, poached rhubarb, pickled shallots, borage

*****

Cotswold white chicken, confit heart, onion and horseradish, spring greens

*****

Chocolate mousse, passion fruit jelly, milk and lemon thyme

*****

Hari’s Selection of Farmhouse Cheeses with Porridge Oat Biscuits

*****

Coffee with Homemade Shortbread

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

Arrival 7:30pm – Welcome Drink & Canapés

Dinner 8:00pm – prompt

Suggested Donation £50 person – service not included

If you wish to attend then please complete the following booking form. It will be a single table seating 14 persons in total and we will be allocating places on a first come first served basis.

We look forward to seeing what we hope will be some new and old customers!

Not ringing my bell…

The Bell Inn – Ticehurst – Well I had a quick lunch here a couple of weeks ago with Mrs HC as we wanted a place close to a B&B that some friends visiting us were staying in. We only had some light bites but were quite impressed so we booked a table for dinner on this basis.

So the appointed day arrived and we rendezvoused with them for a pre dinner drinks while we perused the menu. The place had guests but was certainly in no way rammed with diners but service was a little slow and on reflection a little more formal than it had been for the lunch we had consumed.

Starters chosen ranged from a Spinach Soup that had a good vibrant colour and came garnished with supposedly soft poached egg in it (the egg alas was over cooked) A salad of smoked duck was also a bit of a disappointment. Some thin slices of duck were buried under a large mound of salad and for the price charged I felt all a bit of a rip off! My crab salad was ok with some nice fresh white crab meat and then topped with some mayonnaise and a mound of slaw – all pretty basic and at nearly £9 not mind blowing in culinary terms just the price.

Our main course choices ranged from a Fillet Steak listed on the menu as “Cow” that caused much confusion with the foreign contingent of the party who were not familiar with the terminology. Two had the Cod dish that was well executed and my choice was a confit pork belly that to put it mildly was awful. I was in an awkward situation in that to complain would have been a bit churlish as the friends were likely to be picking up the tab (not that I was expecting them to) and it could have put a dampener on the evening. My pork belly was so undercooked and tough to eat. It was just poorly executed but I persevered. It could have been so much better.

Finally we decided on a couple of cheese plates and one of the party had a dessert “Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate” It was OK but again nothing spectacular. The cheeses were alas fridge cold a good Kentish Blue a Lincolnshire Poacher Cheddar (Why not the more local Winterdale Shaw?) and a soft unnamed one by the staff that was ripe but for me a shade too mild tasting. An over acidic chutney and some good biscuits.

It was in no way mind blowing and staff were to put it mildly a touch patronising in the way they served us. I certainly felt less comfortable and overall thought the food had a pretension to it in comparison to what we were served for lunch and was all just a big disappointment. It certainly has not made me think I want to rush back and when I compare it to where we then ate the next night it could be described as chalk and cheese. More on that in my next post!

All about the service and the food… some reviews…

Well we are now just a few weeks away from the summer solstice – it has been nearly six months since our home was badly flooded and we had to evacuate. It has been a stressful time as we have battled with inefficient and frustrating processes conducted by loss adjusters and the insurance company, plus a rogue builder has meant we have yet still to move back home.

We have held a few private dinners and we have also conducted a couple of dinners in homes loaned to us for the purpose.

We have also used the time to go and try a few places to eat and thought as opposed to one review we thought we would lump them all together and give you a taster to perhaps try them yourself…there have been some real gems!

Alimo – Whitstable –  Tel 01227 272725

Well I had a very enjoyable lunch here with the imitable Jules Serkin who is the host of the Scoff&Quaff weekly Internet radio show. She has some amazing contacts and is a bubbly (Prosecco induced) lady to lunch with. With tales of her new husband and such like one can say lunch was certainly not boring. Alimo is a bit of a gem and I will have to go back. Located under a railway arch on the way into Whitstable from the Thanet way it has a vaulted ceiling and slightly themed Middle Eastern decor to transport your to the Kasbah or desert tent!

Alimo

I was impressed by the food we consumed as there were some sound cooking and authentic flavours – everything from some well flavoured lamb koftas in a mildly spiced tomato sauce to a zingy fresh Quinoa Salad and some tasty if a tad slightly overcooked (and sinewy) Lambs Liver with an almond sauce and creamy chick pea and potato mash. It was the manager Andy who served us and he was a great example of professionalism matched with great social skills and I guess contributed massively to the whole experience.

It is a place I am now keen to go back and sample yet again perhaps for dinner

Jo Jo’s – Whitstable  – Tel :01227 274591

photo (180)I am a big fan of this place and found myself eating here once again when celebrating my birthday. It is a gem of a place serving some great food that is well designed to share with family or friends. We had everything from the sharing platter of meats and assorted dips to the goujons of fresh fish to some amazing monkfish cheeks in a light beer batter to finally a massive meringue topped with a fruit compote or a salted caramel and brownie coupe that we enjoyed immensely and required us to take a brisk walk afterwards to try and aid the digestive system. If you have never been I implore you to try the place. It is so worth it!

Bills – Tunbridge Wells -Tel: 01892 548699

Me and the Mrs had been having a bad day with all our house woes and needed cheering up and we found ourselves in central Tunbridge Wells outside the newly opened Bills. It took over the site of Dame Tartine that had been a popular place and used weekly as the venue for a twitter gathering called Twuttle. photo (174)

We entered a pretty busy and crowded establishment and were shown to our table swiftly and politely and then a young waitress took our order and duly went about her business. We tucked into some Deep Fried Squid rings, tender and crisp, a pot of honey glazed sausages and some goujons of fish that were a little dry and tasteless. It was however the desserts we tucked into that provided a memorable finish. A lemon meringue coupe and a giant chocolate Jaffa cake that was very rich but scrummy.

The Vine – Sevenoaks –  Tel: 01732 469510

This former pub on the northern approaches to the town has undergone a great deal of “TLC” and beautification and is now something that could be described as a swanky place for the residents of Sevenoaks. I know the chef well here and have followed his career over the past few years from a new gaff on the outskirts of Maidstone to a gastro pub in central London. He is a Glaswegian that has spent most of his working life in the south but has not lost his accent one little bit, he can also cook some pretty amazing food as well.

I was eating here for a couple of reasons but what struck me was the simplicity of blending a cheap cut or inexpensive ingredient with something luxurious. It shows clever and photo (175)diligent purchasing matched to a creative eye of detail.

We kicked off with a black pudding scotch egg with a gorgeous soft unctuous egg yolk and then some fresh local asparagus topped with a crispy fried poached egg and some fresh morel mushrooms – a truly mouth-watering combination. It reminded me of a dish that I used to cook in Switzerland many years ago. Slowly poached calves tongue that was then thinly sliced and served with a brandy and morel cream sauce with a finely shredded vegetable garnish.

Next was a slow cooked pork belly and pork cheek served with an apple puree, boulangere potatoes and my dining guest tucked into a pan fried fillet of sea bream with a masterful potato puree charred leeks and truffle sauce. We ordered an extra of some truffled mash that just reeked of the fungus and we were told the peelings and nubs are used in this to ensure nothing is wasted, gosh it was so good…

A couple of desserts then followed and we were done – the Strawberry Parfait was a total triumph as a yet to be added to the menu and as I dropped my guest back at the station I felt we had consumed a very well executed and clever lunch. It will be another place I urge you add to the list to try.

Crabshakk, Glasgow  – Tel: 0141 334 6127

A few days after my visit to Sevenoaks I found myself some four hundred plus miles away from there in the centre of Glasgow. It was to be a fleeting visit with Mrs HC and teenage daughter who was off to see her idol Katy Perry in concert. I was to meet with an old friend who I had not seen for some twenty years and we headed off to the West End of Glasgow to have dinner together.

I had originally planned to go out for dinner with him at a swanky Asian restaurant as we both love this style of food but for reasons I kept from him had to change to this place. He initially said to me are you sure you want to go here as like myself I had looked at the menu and thought it was all pretty basic and not really selling itself to me via their web site or for that matter by the reviews on Trip Advisor.????????????????????????

Well a lesson to learn from this is never judge a place before you try it yourself. We arrived at the appointed time and were pleasantly surprised to be warmly greeted and shown to our table in the upstairs section of this minute and buzzy place. It’s simple decor and cramped tables all add to the flavour… clever use of every available square inch is made.

Service was slick, friendly and informed and we tucked into some stunning food. A specials blackboard boasted two of my most favourite seafood, Razor Clams and John Dory which had to be consumed and as we reminisced over lost friendships and past good times we became more and more contented with our enforced change of venue.

?????????It is a gem of a place where the seafood is so fresh and correctly handled with simplistic preparation and garnishing. The razors clams served with surf clams and a chorizo butter sauce were to die for and the John Dory well that cam e served with a celeriac puree and some puy lentils that provided an earthy dimension to the sweet flavour of the fish. Well worth the 800mile plus round trip!

A simple Panna Cotta with minimal garnish and a cheese board with ripe cheeses well explained by a bubbly pair of waitresses completed a truly magnificent meal.

So if you should ever find yourself in the region this place is a must… just make sure you book it as it is popular and do not believe all that is written about it – except by me!

Terroirs, London  – Tel: 0207 036 0660

This place is one of may favourites and located just a stones throw from Charing Cross station it provides a perfect watering hole should you need sustenance before jumping on a train to Kent! I chose this venue to have dinner with some Swiss friends visiting the UK for their summer holiday. Having done the tourist bit with them – a wander round Borough Market and then a cruise up the river and a wander round Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens we needed sustenance.photo (177)

I chose this place as a venue for it’s simple no fussy and informal atmosphere and as the friends are also appreciative of some good wines I felt this would fit the bill and it did so in so many ways.

It was not too busy when we arrived (they had emptied from the pre theatre crowd) but it soon filled and got busier. It has a bar counter with seats and closely packed tables and an open to view kitchen area allows you to see the chefs beavering away.

photo (176)We settled down to some competent and well judged cooking, A duck rillette with toasted sour dough was as usual a real triumph, a smoked duck breast and green bean salad with a soft boiled egg was also a light fresh starter but for me the best was yet to come. Grilled bone Marrow with a parsley and caper salad was as one of Swiss friends remarked as good as eating fresh foie gras and now is converted to a dish they were sceptical of trying. The main courses we consumed were boiled salt beef Pot au Feu a great classic that was comfort food at it’s best and a Sea Bream fillet served on a bed of samphire with Jersey Royals and a great saffron infused rouille sauce.

A great bottle of a biodynamic red wine from Italy was a real enjoyment and as I bid my friends fare well and jumped on a train to Kent they headed back to their hotel before setting off next morning to tour the west country.

Years ago we were hard pushed to recommend places to eat – now spoilt for choice it makes deciding where to eat a tough one – they have had a fantastic tour and we meet again in a few days for a couple of days before they head back home. I am confident they will go home still in love with what the UK has to offer!

The Kentish Hare, Bidborough – Tel: 01892 525709

photo (178)This place opened about 4 weeks ago and so is still finding its feet – I had heard mixed reviews on the place operated by a couple of celebrity chefs. James & Chris Tanner both local lads had worked in assorted places before heading west to Plymouth. They have now been tasked to turn this pub atop the Bidborough ridge into a food destination and asset to the village.

Well my visit was certainly whilst a fleeting one was impressive with some assured cooking and I have to say it was good to see the place was pretty busy for a Thursday lunchtime and whilst the clientele were predominately of a more senior nature the young staff still finding their feet seemed to be doing a good job. I will return and perhaps give it a more in depth test. The chicken liver parfait consumed was smooth buttery and generous portion size with its own little mini fresh white loaf. The Smoked Mackerel salad with salad leaves and toasted croutons was a good light starter

Main dishes of Skate Wing with sautéed jersey royals and green beans and the Duck photo (179)Confit with salad leaves were enjoyable and well executed. The cheese selection we then shared a good test to see how serious they are was I have to say a shade disappointing. The Kentish Blue the only local cheese and was the best served. A cheddar was OK but an unripe and nondescript Brie was a let down, good presentation with crackers and a piece of membrillo

A couple of small local Tonbridge brewed beers and the bill for just over £60 was fair for the offer but I suspect the extras and more alcohol could rack up the bill a good deal more. It has a great garden area to the rear and the decor within is airy light and due to hard surfaces a bit noisy when full but there are some nooks and crannies where you could hide yourself away for a more peaceful time. I will be back!

So there will be more revues soon plus we will be announcing dates for Hari dinners as well so watch this space!

Happy Eating

Hari C

 

Kent's first Underground/Secret Restaurant…

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