Where’s the service…?

I recently paid a visit to a local newly reopened garden centre that has undergone a major capital expenditure and boasts a new restaurant called “Kitchen”.

Now call me old fashioned but to me a restaurant is one where one expects a level of service and there now seems to me a real movement in these type of places to make the experience totally devoid of all service.

IMAG0767

We the customer are herded into slow moving dithering lines bombarded with choice and herded like sheep to a till where there is a lack of social interaction with the customer as they are tasked to fleece you of your money as quickly as they can.

The amount of money they have spent here to make the place look stunning and it has given it a real sense of theatre but the one thing lacking was for me a real basic. Service.

I absolutely abhor the self service concept these and many like minded places adopt and their argument is they are cheaper to run as staffing levels are less. Well as a customer I can tell you they are totally wrong.

From the moment we arrived they had staff plentiful all looking as though they were busy but the whole concept was flawed as they did little to direct the customer as to how to order their food. A small queue to pay at a till ensued and the hot food ordered duly got cold – another pet hate.

They were not that busy and I could imagine it would be carnage when they are.

The local butcher that has a major concession within the food hall showcased his sausages on the menu and whilst they might look good they were pretty average and tasteless. Items in the food hall that tempted my wife could not be purchased and eaten in the restaurant… where’s the logic in that?

My wife in a wheelchair had no way of independently gathering her desired purchase and payment as there was no where to place her tray – obviously no thought had been given to this sector and for that matter for a single parent with young children as well would similarly struggle to collect their food and make payment.

An open plan kitchen revealed a plethora of staff and management seemed to be visible and hands on but for me it all lacked a soul or character. It looks fabulous but failed to deliver a memorable experience. If it had been mine a smaller menu and full table service approach would have made this place something to be proud of and very memorable.

It can be done, they should look at a place not that far from them called the The Twig and Spoon. It very nearly went the same route but a last minute ownership decision to provide full table service meant they have created something far more pleasurable and commendable than yet another self serve nondescript cafe.

Who ever makes these decisions might think on paper they look good but operationally they need to think the process through as to what sort of customer service do they truly offer.

They have totally missed an opportunity to provide a unique and I am sure very profitable eating establishment…maybe one day they will learn or perhaps there will be customer revolution and the masses will rise up and boycott them… then again!

Going Underground again… well almost

It was a lovely balmy summers evening when I was driving up Wrotham Hill with the car loaded up with goodies for a return dinner at Winterdale Shaw.

Robin & Carla Betts the hard working and passionate artisan cheese makers were to host a couple of days of a cheese workshop for the “West Country Cheese makers”. This was a milestone for this little select group as I am led to believe this is the first time they will have ever held such a workshop away from the West Country.

Following on from our September 2011 event Robin was keen to provide something a bit different for these cheese gurus so he asked me to cook and serve a similar dinner to what we did back then. It was to be a relaxed affair and I am glad to say it was to be held above ground in a marquee to the side of the barn (erected for a public event a few days later) so the steep cellar steps were not an issue this time and the little kitchen we were to work from had a bit more kit as well.

So the menu we served was pretty similar to the previous one so we could showcase their cheeses. Firstly some nibbles of chilled gazpacho soup shots and deep fried cauliflower cheese beignets were the nibbles and then they all sat down to the first course of double cooked cheese soufflé topped with smoked haddock and some salad leaves. They also rather enthusiastically devoured a loaf of Moodleys Beer Bread which I have to say unsurprisingly garners rave comments every time I serve it!

Robin & Carla were also keen to showcase their nearby neighbours Free Range Pork (Roundwood Orchard Pigs) so a gorgeous four plus kilo joint of rolled Pork Shoulder was slowly roasted for some 5-6 hours and the skin crisped to perfection. Served with a gravy laced with dried apricots it provided a nice citrus kick to the richness of the tender meat and well between 7 hungry souls got just about completely devoured in one fell swoop! A gratin dauphinoise and medley of vegetables accompanied this.

Finally I served up the dessert that on Carla’s request was not the junket we served originally as she felt it was an acquired taste! So some soft squidgy home-made meringues were sandwiched with whipped cream with added lemon curd and then some “Mill Farm” strawberries. This again was polished off with gusto, these cheese gurus can certainly eat!

By this time gone eleven pm I was pooped and needed my beauty sleep as I had an early start the next morning with a breakfast meeting I left them to their final course of cheeses with my porridge oat biscuits. I was mortified I could not stay and sample some of the goodies on offer. There was one rogue but magnificent cheese on offer a rather runny Brie de Meaux that a rogue Frenchman had bought along ( I did not quite establish how he was part of this select group)

It was a fascinating evening as I listened into their conversations on the tribulations and trials of cheese making. The story of West Country floods and how one of them managed to write off his Land Rover Discovery by thinking they could cross a flooded road was hilarious and I believe made BBC news headlines much to his disgust.

The passion they all have for their chosen craft was evident in bucket loads and you should just click the links below for their assorted web sites to get a flavour of how serious they all are to produce a product we can all enjoy and savour. Robin & Carla can also be proud of their achievements of being part of this select group with some incredible history and I know it was also a bit of a double celebration as they had just managed to secure the long awaited planning permission to convert the upper portion of their barn to be living accommodation for them and their young children.

The Cheese Makers Workshop at Winterdal Shaw July 2013

Winterdale Shaw (the hosts|)

Westcombe Dairy

Keens Cheddar

Montgomery Cheddar

Hafod Welsh Organic Cheddar

It was a scorcher….

Well, we could not have planned our latest round of dinners any better… it was some thought foolhardy to try and host two dinners back to back “up the garden” totally alfresco. It was ambitious on many levels as we had to transport food from the kitchen across the decking down to the bottom of our long garden.

As we monitored the weather, prior to the dinners, we were pleased to see there was a predicted heat wave on its way and so the fears of being rained upon or being unseasonably chilly were forgotten and we readied ourselves.

The menu we put together was one we had devised for an aborted “pop up” in a lavender field .Too good to not offer to our guests and so we decided to run it at our own secret venue.

The day arrived and the sun shone.  We readied our patio with gazebo and the fire-pit was all stoked up.  It was a gorgeous evening with warmth lingering as the sun set across the patio. The Friday night was a more genteel evening for us as we only had six diners in total, as guests arrived we then realised it was to be a bit of a wedding anniversary fest as one set were celebrating 40 years each and the other was a mere “whipper snapper” at 27 years! We served up our welcome drink, a glass of kir royal, and our nibbles were little shot glasses of chilled fresh asparagus soup, butter popcorn dusted with smoked paprika and some slices of Catalan Fuet Salami.

With the fire-pit glowing we then began the process of cooking the meats, as we served up the first course. A Smoked Haddock, Potato and Apple Brawn garnished with a horseradish cream and melba toast – it was a great way to start a meal as it was light and summery with good fresh flavours. The haddock was barely cooked as it was warmed by the hot apple juice jelly as it was poured into the moulds that set the brawn. I will have to experiment with some other versions of this for some future dinners I think! ( A jambon persille will likely appear at a future dinner now!)

So the meats we then cooked on the fire-pit were rumps of Lamb that had been studded with garlic and rosemary, boneless chicken thighs were marinated in garlic, olive oil lemon juice and chopped thyme. Some wonderful thick Magret de Canard (Barbary Duck Breasts) and then sausage were turned with regularity to ensure an even cooking and then at the last minute we placed some large shell on king prawns to grill.

All this was served with our chosen salads – Green Bean with toasted pine nuts, Cherry Tomato with thinly sliced red onions Olive Oil Baslamic Vinegar and Fresh Basil and a grated carrot with an onion and roasted cumin dressing for a bit of a kick. Pots of homemade aoili were provided to accompany the prawns & meats. Bowls of butter minted boiled new potatoes were also served.

Guests tucked in on both nights to a veritable feast and much praise for the lamb and duck breast. In fact there was little left over as we cleared plates away in readiness of our next course. In true French fashion we served our cheese selection. A local cheddar cheese and favourite… Winterdale Shaw from Wrotham Hill – now a totally carbon neutral cheese-  was served alongside a piece of Stichleton an unpasteurised “Stilton” cheese and then a piece of fresh goats cheese that was served with some of our homemade banana jam and our veritable Porridge oat biscuits.

The final course served was a melee of summer fruits, Local Strawberries, Raspberries, Cherries and Blueberries served with a scoop of earl grey & lavender sorbet and also some of our homemade strawberry parfait. With a freshly baked shortbread biscuit that was topped with some foraged meadowsweet pollen sugar it made an interesting combination with a glass of our Muscat de Rivesaltes dessert wine.

As the light faded on both nights and the evening temperature cooled we lit the garden with candle bags and fairy lights and guests conversations ebbed and flowed. It was a really magical atmosphere that seemed to have all leaving enthused by the experience and the comments afterwards in our guest book and by some of the guests on twitter were much appreciated.

from – @lemezma it was absolutely amazing. On behalf of @emzylemez & me thank you so much ;)

and from @Leilanimitchel – AMAZING evening at @MrHariCovert s secret restaurant, a birthday surprise for @mark_head, the surprise was its not his birthday for ages!

It was a tough couple of nights for us as we had to lug all the food up and down the garden and we had a total of 16 guests on the Saturday night and it was a very hot night as well so I must say a big thanks to my helper Julia… she is the unsung hero behind all my events as she has to put up with my mood swings and tantrums as we battle to give the guests a secret adventure to remember!

In between our two nights was also an event I was keen to support and glad I did. A regular attendee and patron of Hari Covert’s is Laura Goode who was behind  the Tunbridge Wells Food Swap. The idea was to grow it, make it and then swap it! There was to be a clandestine meeting of like minded foodies scheduled to be like a flash mob in central Tunbridge Wells on Saturday 13th July at 11am when we would all bring along our chosen foods to swap with others.

Well I had arisen early Saturday to make up two loaves of fresh Moodley’s Beer Bread to go with already packaged up jars of Strawberry Coulis and a couple of jars of Strawberry Jam, and bags of Porridge Oat biscuits with little bags of my salt & pepper mix and a recipe sheet to have a go and make some of their own!

It was great fun to see what I could swap and I must admit I was delighted with my haul of a lovely fresh baked sour dough loaf made by @JPJanetPenny that went down well with my Saturday night guests and the little chocolate and almond petit fours by @sunnyingrid were also well devoured by my guests.

A gorgeous Lemon Drizzle Cake (thanks Sharon) and some of Mike Goode’s Welsh cakes with a cup of tea were also much appreciated. I have yet to sample @TunWellsFoodie Chilli Jam and Laura’s Sun Dried Tomato and Almond Pesto and then Adele’s Spiced Plum Chutney – it was a great simple idea and I urge all fellow foodies to sign up on the web site here and look out for the next one which I think is scheduled for sometime in September – they also have a Facebook page and twitter profile so make sure you follow them if not already doing so!

So it was a real scorcher of a weekend… we are now taking a break till September… we hope to see you sometime soon and please keep checking our site for the latest posting or why not sign up to get our regular newsletters.

Have a fun filled summer break… we will !

Hari C

PS some of the photos are by Leilani who was a guest on Saturday!

Benvinguts Girona…


Having driven down to our French home for our half term break we felt this trip would not be complete without a quick trip across the border to Girona in Spain. The main reason for our visit was to rendezvous with “super chocolatier” Damian Allsop and his partner Anna. They until about eight weeks ago were based just outside Tunbridge Wells. Then after much heart searching and deliberation took the decision to up root their business to Anna’s home area of Girona in northern Spain

Damian equally familiar with the region as he had previously worked at the now infamous highly rated Cellar Can Roca (Just awarded the best restaurant in the world) So after loading up the removal lorry and then the disposal of some two tonnes of assorted stuff at the North Farm tip in Tunbridge Wells a group of us had met up in the town for a quick coffee and farewell. It was with some sadness but a new chapter was about to begin for this pair and I can now report they really have landed well and truly on their feet with this move.

The long drive south over a total of three days was according to Damian not the finest gastronomic experience – I fully understand his frustration with French Gastronomy – a little hit and miss these days. Anyway once ensconced back in the Catalunya region they set about trying to find a location to set up their production unit. Some abortive attempts led finally to something of a gem.

Their unit in Kent was quite large and had been set up for the past seven years. This Spanish unit could not be more perfect. They are renting space form an outside catering company based on an industrial estate in the area of Banyoles. (This is where they held the Olympic rowing for the Barcelona Olympics!) Located somewhat befittingly behind the local Haribo Factory they have an air conditioned and sectioned area of a modern purpose built kitchen plus their own frozen and chilled storage.

Why Spain I hear you all ask well as Damian explained the rent they paid back in the UK was 5 times more plus then charges for the transportation of the finished product was twice what they are now paying from Spain. They still have to work out how their “On Line” shop is to work but their UK distributor for trade orders seems to be well settled and we saw the next palette load of chocolates being finished off ready for dispatch.

What is equally important is they are now trying to establish a work life balance that will ensure the survival and expansion of their business. The struggle for them over the last couple of years had taken its toll on the business and the decision to up root and change location was one they did not take lightly but now seem to be all set to develop the business in new and exciting ways.

I know the region reasonably well having owned a property across the border in France for the last 15 years and it is an inspiring part of the world with not only a wonderful focus on foods and products but a heritage that is something we can be envious of. Festivals abound for foods such as Cherries, Apricots, Onions and restaurants of note seem to flourish in the region.

Whilst we visited the area we joined Damian and Anna for a lunch at one such place. Anna’s sister and husband operate a now well established restaurant in the old quarter of Girona. Mimolet located on Carrer Pou Rodó, núm. 12, it is just a short walk from one of the more quirky tourist attractions in the town. The “Lion of Girona” has an infamous history that the rite of touching or kissing the rear will guarantee a happy return to the city.

Well following what was a very enjoyable lunch with top notch local produce from crispy bread toasts infused with garlic and tomato and a selection of local cured meats including a rather scrummy local Botifarra sausage of black and white varieties.

We settled into some rather well executed dishes… my starter sounded in the English translation all rather comical “Warm Cream of Gourd, Ginger, Blinis with Spawns of Herring and a “creaking” of Botifarra” – what came was a very pretty and delicate arrangement of a dry soup plate with the then addition of a light soup of squash – the spawns of herring was a pile of vibrant orange herring roe and the creaking of Botifarra was cubes of that black and white sausage scattered across the dish. It was a lovely balance of flavours and textures

The main courses we chose ranged from a Cannelloni of Roasted Chicken with a rich truffle sauce to a truly magnificent and unctuous Honeyed Veal of Girona with a slice of fresh Foie Gras and a red wine sauce. The “Veal of Girona” was a slow cooked beef cheek that just fell apart and garnished with baby glazed onions and a generous slice of foie gras the addition of some strands of fresh wild asparagus illustrated so perfectly the marriage of local produce and again balanced flavours and textures.

To complete the meal a little hot chocolate fondant with a homemade ice cream was simply divine and along with coffee and a selection of Damian’s water ganache chocolates the kissing of that lions bottom for us was not a requisite to ensure we make a return visit.

It was so good to see Damian & Anna so animated about the future and I am sure the move whilst a bold one will be a resounding success as there is so much scope to expand the business in so many exciting ways… we will be back and look forward to repaying their hospitality and also make sure you do explore the town for some of its other hidden gems like the amazing ice cream parlour “Rocambolesc Gelateria” inspired by Roald Dahl and operated by the Roca brothers and then the Rambla in the old quarter and the terrace of Independence Square all cry out for our return visits! We still have to kiss the lions bottom if nothing else.

Damian Allsop Chocolates – c/o El Ginjoler Catering, Poligon Industrial Pont – Xetmar, E-14 Cornella del Terri 17844 Spain

Up the Garden…

Menu

Welcome Drink & Nibbles

ﻰ ﻰ ﻰ ﻰ

Apple, Potato & Smoked Haddock Brawn with Horseradish Cream

ﻰ ﻰ ﻰ ﻰ

Fire Pit Grilled Marinated Meats & Fish

Assorted Seasonal Salads including a Green Bean Salad

Hot Buttered Minted New Potatoes

ﻰ ﻰ ﻰ ﻰ

Hari’s Cheese Selection

Porridge Oat Biscuits

ﻰ ﻰ ﻰ ﻰ

English Summer Fruits, Lavender Earl Grey Tea Sorbet 

Home made Shortbread Biscuits

ﻰ ﻰ ﻰ ﻰ

Coffee & Petit Fours

NB. Menu Subject to alteration & Market Purchases

Dates: Friday 12th & Sat 13th July

Welcome Drink: 7:30pm Prompt

Dinner: 8:00pm

Drinks: We will provide a welcome drink and glass of dessert wine with the pudding. Please bring your own drinks to have with your dinner. Water, Glasses and Ice Buckets provided.

Cost: We request a £35 Donation per person – Service is not included. We do prefer cash but will accept a card payment if we have to.

This months dinner will be an alfresco one… yes I know this is ambitious with an English Summer, but we will try to ensure it works and we will provide a covered terrace. With a couple of fire pits and blankets on hand this will ensure our guests are well cosseted. We would request guests bring or wear suitable clothing to ensure they are comfortable should the evening be a little fresh. We will also have a contingency to bring the meal indoors if weather is that bad. (We will keep fingers crossed)

We have therefore opened the bookings early as we will have a slightly bigger capacity with a maximum of 18-20 spaces depending on the table configurations and how prepared guests are at sharing.

It had been our plan to do a bigger “Pop Up” for this month in a lavender field. It was to be a mammoth event and a very big challenge! However because of some logistical issues we felt, to do it justice, we would hold off till next year!

We had already a menu planned so thought we would now use parts of this menu for our “Up the Garden” event.

To kick the meal off we will serve some seasonal nibbles with a glass of something chilled!

The first course will be an apple juice jelly set brawn of diced apple, potato and smoked haddock, which we will serve with a delicate horseradish cream sauce.

We will then have a selection of marinated meats and fish, that we will be cooking on our fire pit barbecue, and serving this with hot minted new potatoes and selection of seasonal salads. We will, of course, somewhere or other serve up some green beans… would be strange if not!

Our cheese course will then be served with our home-made and much admired porridge oat biscuits that will also be accompanied by our banana jam as well!

Finally the dessert will be a light refreshing finish, We will be making our own Lavender Earl Grey Tea Sorbet that will be served with a selection of summer fruits and a warm freshly baked shortbread biscuit.

Coffee and petit fours will complete the meal – all we can hope for is the weather will be warm and sultry to provide a perfect summer’s evening as the backdrop for our event.

Please complete our Booking Form. We will normally contact you within 48 hours to confirm your booking with a credit card number. If date required is “Fully Booked” please still apply for cancellations or unconfirmed bookings.

Summertime Sizzler…

Welcome Drink & Seasonal Nibbles

****

Catalan Red Pepper “Escalivida”

****

Roasted “Kentish” Lamb Chump with Skordalia Potatoes

Melange of Beans

**** 

Hari’s Cheese Selection & Porridge Oat Biscuits

****

Choux Pastry Bun filled with Lemon Curd Cream

& Fresh Local Strawberries

****

Coffee & Petit Fours

****

NB. Menu Subject to alteration and Market Purchases

Dates: 7th June & 8th June

Welcome Drink: 7:30pm Prompt

Dinner: 8:00pm

Drinks: We will provide a welcome drink and glass of dessert wine with the pudding.
Please bring your own drinks to have with your dinner. Water, Glasses and Ice Buckets provided.

Cost: We request a £35 Donation per person – Service is not included.
We do prefer cash but will accept a card payment if we have to.

This months menu will be an interesting mix of dishes that reflects some different cuisine styles. There will be a Mediterranean influence with several dishes. The starter is a Catalan salad of char-grilled roasted red peppers and aubergine that we will serve with some toasted home-made bread.

Roasted Lamb Chump will be served with Skordalia Potatoes.. A Greek influenced dish this is potatoes cooked in milk, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice and then pureed to a thick sauce consistency. We will also serve a mix of seasonal green beans, round, flat and broad!

Next we will serve up our selection of cheeses with our now infamous porridge oat biscuits and home-made banana jam.

To complete our dinner we will serve a classic choux pastry bun filled with a lemon curd cream and fresh local strawberries – a real taste of summer to complete our meal.

Please complete the Booking Form below to reserve your places.

We will normally contact you within 48 hours to confirm your booking with a credit card number.

EmWilco Supperclub… a review…

I have been wanting to try some of the competition in the way of other Kentish Supperclubs and I finally managed to get along to a relatively new one. I know of three other supper clubs in Kent now since I first opened my doors over three years ago. It is always hard to try and find a date when I am free and also a competitor supper club is doing an event.

Finally I found a spare Saturday night in early May (2013) when I had no commitments but there was a competitor supperclub hosting an event. My apologies to both Annies Supperclub and also The Fat Carrot I will get to one of your events one day!

So Mrs HC and myself set off to deepest Faversham a total fifty mile round trip to sample a supperclub that is run by Emma Wilcox in the Macknade Farm Shop on the A2 outside of the town centre. Emma has been operating them in this venue since about April 2012. I had been in twitter correspondence with Emma for some time as I am very keen to try and get all the Kent Supperclubs together at one event and see if we can all showcase together what we do as we are so varied. Annie’s in Bromley is Gluten Free,The Fat Carrot in East Peckham specialise in Vegetarian and EmWilco like me loves to showcase local produce.

So we duly arrived at the venue and whilst a few minutes early we awaited in our car and watched other attendees arriving. Then at just before 7pm a side door to the farm shop opened and we all tumbled out and were led through the vast farm shop aisles to the far end and what by day is the cafe and used for Emma’s dining area. We were welcomed with a glass of Spanish cava and then some plates of nibbles were handed round to guests.

The table we were all to be seated at was one long table seating the thirty guests booked in and some clambered for their places whilst others nervously held back. The nibbles proffered were thin slices of cured duck breast akin to Pata Negra ham and then slices of bread topped with a smoked cod and red pepper pate. We then chose our places and sat down and were promptly joined by a couple next to us. Conversations started to flow as we found they (John & Linda) had come along to meet new people having just moved to the area and when we told them what we did and they quizzed us further we realised we both knew someone in common… so it just goes to show how small the world is.

So as we all relaxed and got into the evening a big platter of homemade sourdough bread was placed at intervals along the table… they got quickly devoured and replenished as they were really good!

The first course up was a vibrant and wonderful fresh tasting nettle soup flavoured with wild garlic pesto and a poached quails egg. A well accomplished dish that set the tone well for the evening. My only critique was the egg was overcooked and more hard boiled and did little for the soup but otherwise it was a great start!

Next came a crab tart. Emma had waxed lyrically on her blog pre dinner about the origins and memories of this dish and we were all presented with a generous slice of soft unctuous full flavoured tart with a lovely depth of flavour. Simply garnished with watercress and pea shoots. A stunning dish that illustrated so perfectly Emma’s passion for quality ingredients that are simply handled.

Conversations flowed and it was interesting to observe the dynamics of the table. For me it was a shame that such a large table seemed to discourage mixing with fellow guests and as darkness fell and main lighting was toned down we were subjected to just candle lit tables adorned with bottles filled with fresh wild flowers and spring blossom.

Main course then arrived and this was a well thought through dish of roasted lamb cutlets beautifully rose pink with a puree of flageolet beans and some very tannic tasting greens and a roasted baby leek. A garnish of wild garlic flower heads offset the plate perfectly. It was well executed but for my palate just a touch lacking in salt and was also not as hot as I would have liked. I know from experience that trying to serve 30 people all at once from an unfamiliar kitchen is always a challenge. Emma did admirably well and we all tucked in and savoured the juicy lamb chops.

The main course cleared away meant it was time for dessert… Emma had chosen to make little chocolate mousse pots served with a lovely chewy sour cherry amaretti biscuit, one seemed hardly enough as they got devoured all rather too quickly.

So that was it… dessert devoured some guests started to leave and I thought this was a bit strange as surely coffee was on it’s way… well that was it – no coffee… my only gripe as with a 40 minute drive home a little cup of coffee would have been the ideal finish to what had been a good meal. I did not question Emma on this point but guess there is a reason why?

With Mrs HC on the drive home we pondered how our experience had been and we agreed it was a good one. Different to how we do ours but nonetheless and an enjoyable night out and some good food. A great introduction to a secret Supperclub if you have never been.

January Sale…

Well that’s the festive season just about over now… I hope you have all had a good one… We thought for our January event we would provide a slightly cheaper meal and also only a three course menu as I am sure you will have had some excess over the festive season!!!!

We are unashamedly reproducing a couple of previous dishes we have served as we felt with what is likely to be a cold night we would serve a heart warming free range Pork Sausage Paprika flavoured stew as a main course and then for the pudding we thought a rather scrummy warm chocolate bread and butter pudding.

A simple mulled Perry will be served along with some simple nibbles. And to go with the coffee at the end of the meal some homemade shortbread biscuits.

Friday January 18th & Saturday 19th

7:30pm Arrival with welcome drink and nibbles

8:00pm Dinner prompt

Menu

Beetroot Carpaccio with Feta Cheese and toasted walnuts

ϖϖϖϖ

Free Range Pork Sausage Zigeuner Goulasch

Creamed Mashed Potatoes

Green Beans

ϖϖϖϖ

Warm chocolate bread and butter pudding

ϖϖϖϖ

Coffee and Homemade Shortbread

Menu Subject to Market Purchases and Ingredient Availabilty

Suggested Donation  £25.00 per person Service not included

Glasses and water provided please bring your own drinks to go with your meal

October Feast… Hari Fest a report…

We had a very busy weekend with a full house on both nights for our last couple of Hari nights which we loosely named “October Feast”… in fact it was an interesting couple of nights as we decided to do something a little different. Firstly we did a simpler menu, with a choice of dishes for each of the three courses, and then we also did it a little cheaper than our normal donation as it was all a little bit simpler.

Crab Cake…

It all seemed to go down well and what was interesting was the fact that we had  a high proportion of new guests and quite a few parties of two who were forced to share tables. We have tried all sorts of table configurations with our guests… separate tables, a single large one, but what now seems to work best for us is two large tables of six.

It is also quite interesting to find each night is very different with a differing dynamic at the dinners. This time the Friday night we had mostly two’s which meant there was a more rowdy feel to the room whilst the Saturday had one larger party who had their own table and then the other table of four and two seemed to all get on like a house on fire.

We are always fascinated to see how our guests get on and enjoy the experience. We have had some admit to us they were so nervous about where they were coming to etc,

Moodley’s Braised Beef Steak

they drove past the day before to just check us out. Others have said they love the whole mystery of coming out for a meal not knowing whether they will like the food, company etc, to find themselves going home having made new friends and eaten food they would never have dreamt of eating!

We like to try and slightly challenge our guests to try something new and for many they might find it a big ask but this is all part of the fun. Our recent Chinese nights were for one party a big eye-opener as they admitted to me afterwards they were not normally keen on Chinese but we had converted them… then we had one guest admit at a dinner he did not normally eat pork but he loved the main course that was pork done three different ways!

Panga Fish Fillets with caper & lemon butter sauce

The best way to enjoy a secret supper is to enter into the spirit of the evening… be open minded about the food, company and the whole event and you will have some real fun. One guest at the last dinners even admitted realising my name was not Hari Covert had dreamt up a complete new persona for herself and was thinking of becoming a high class hooker for the night making out her husband, who she thoughtfully was dining with, was her pimp. It caused much mirth and merriment amongst her fellow diners on the table when she admitted it had been her plan but she ended up just being “plain Jane from Tonbridge” (not her real name or abode).

For us it never ceases to amaze us how guests gel and my side kick commonly known as  “the hands” is oft confused as my wife but has been a friend, former neighbour and work colleague over a great many years, she seems to relish meeting each new and returning guest.

She perfectly seems to put those nervous ones at ease and make them relax whilst the

Cheese Selection

more boisterous and cheeky guests (you know who you are “Terry”) are dealt with aplomb and wit. Her normal day job would make many a toe curl as she works with much of societies detritus in a secure environment and has many a tale to tell that certainly keeps me in stitches… she will take no prisoners…so be warned!

So yet another couple of dinners, are complete and, as is now our policy, to open bookings the day after completing that months dinners. We posted on the next day our November In Vino Veritas dinners and booking form and by the Monday morning we have had 40 people clambering for just 24 places – a first for us and a very humbling thought that there are so many wanting to sample what we offer.

Iced Strawberry Parfait with warm shortbread

We have also been thinking hard about what our plans will be for 2013 and we have just the December dinners to now put the final touches to.

There is much planning go on behind the scenes as we have also been helping a local business open a “pop up” shop for the Xmas period – more on that soon  and we are also hoping to announce something a bit different for the Xmas period that might appeal to some of you out there keen to become better cooks. More on this soon.

If you have never tried a supper club then give them a go… they are fun, different and a real social challenge for those that are a bit shy but we think we will convert you. Check out the following site for more information on where to find them and remember if you want to book Hari you will need to be quick when the booking opens (or ask us about your own exclusive night here at HQ or even in your own home).

Just remember to be open minded and you will find the experience will be rewarding and

yummy….

different and not like your normal dining out adventure.

We hope to see you soon…

Hari Covert

covert by name, covert by nature.

The Goudhurst Inn… a review

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Well following on from a very busy week I had the opportunity of a lads night out and as the designated driver we did not want to wander too far but just far enough for somewhere we could get a good glass of ale and a tempting nibble.

I had heard good things about a refurbished hostelry called The Goudhurst Inn on the outskirts of the village. It was a warm summers night and I had been out and about all day so in need of some relaxing conversation and something tasty to whet the appetite….

With the fellow gents we headed up to the TGI and we have to say it was a very pleasing hostelry with a cheery welcome and a delightful relaxed atmosphere.

It was a Wednesday night and it seemed quite busy as we supped our assorted ales. We then chose some rather tempting dishes. The final offerings of this years local English asparagus came with a crispy fried egg and a homemade scotch egg with its own little jar of piccalli were a couple of the starters we sampled whilst we then tucked in to a half pint of shell on prawns and a pair of fish cakes served with a good sized dollop of tartar sauce and some jolly good crispy chips.

A chicken liver pate also came served in its own little kilner jar and some generous hunks of toast. Overall it was simple food well executed and filled a good need for what otherwise would have been a rather dull weekday night – it suddenly became allot more convivial.

I have to say I look forward to another boys night out as I think we have found somewhere we will be happy to frequent again!

Look out for the grumpy old men chewing the fat in the corner!!!