Gastro Boast…

About two years ago I was involved with a very enjoyable charity fundraising dinner over in Essex with a group of other chefs… It was a hugely successful evening and we managed to raise some significant monies for two smaller charities close to the lead organisers heart.

One of the chefs involved (there were five) was a hunk of man in name and stature by the name of Jack Boast. He was at that time working for the Galvin brothers at one of their central London places.

Jack has now moved out of London to the depths of the Essex countryside. He is now based in Chelmsford and he is now heading up one of the Galvins latest ventures a Gastro Pub called The Green Man in the village of Howe Street Nr Chelmsford.

This former derelict pub believed to date back to the 1300’s in parts has undergone a major refurbishment and extension that is thought to have cost circa £1 million.  What has resulted is a bright and airy building that can serve in excess of 200 diners on a busy day before they even start to open the extensive gardens in the summer months.

Jack has put together a menu of some tried and tested classics such as Fish and Chips or Sausage and Mash. But equally there is much more on offer from this talented guy. Locally reared pork, wood fired oven dishes to grills. There is much on offer to tempt…

We visited on what we thought was a busy Saturday lunchtime… Jack assured us it was relatively quiet this day but can get very hectic. The place was buzzing when we arrived and as we sat down at our table our friendly waitress and young staff were working full pace to serve all.

We were on our way to Colchester as we had tickets for the theatre that evening so this establishment fitted the bill perfectly as a stop off on the way up…

We tucked in to some really good grub… Mrs HC was in raptures with her bowl of Wild Mushroom Soup that was unctuous and full of flavour whilst I myself went with the roasted heritage beetroot that were served with mixed salad leaves and a creamy & generous garnish of crumbled local Goats Cheese. Tried and tested combination that got us both salivating for more!

Mrs HC on the set menu had chosen the smoked haddock fish cake topped with poached egg and some creamy leeks… perfectly balanced and well executed.

I myself went for Grilled Calves Liver and Bacon… this was a generous slab of liver that was perfectly grilled still pink and tender – some crispy rashers of streaky bacon and crispy fried fresh sage leaves all nestling on a compote of onions… just perfect with a little
bucket of triple cooked crispy coated fries with floury centres!!!

Dessert from Mrs HC’s set menu was shared with two spoons… a classic arctic roll of vanilla ice cream encased with a light sponge and gratinated Italian meringue and some segments of blood orange with candied peel.  A perfect finish…

We sat there thinking why had we not got something like this more local to us… Mr Boast stuck his head out and then showed me round quickly his domain… it was amazing to think they had just had a relatively quiet lunch service (it seemed busy to me) but were expecting to do in excess of 200 customers that night  – there was a real calm and focused intent from the kitchen and elsewhere around the place…

Something they can “Boast” about is they have got things pretty well right since opening and already have got a loyal following … we certainly are looking forward to going back… just wish they were this side of the Dartford crossing!!!

Galvin Green Man – Howe Street

 

Officially Quirky… our April Events…

qkWell we thought we would celebrate the recognition of being deemed “Officially Quirky” by hosting a quirky dinner featuring some unusual ingredients and flavour combinations.

Having met with the owner of “Quirky Kent” recently we felt it was only proper and fitting to offer the chance for all those lovers of things quirky the chance to sample a Hari Covert event of the same name!

So for two nights (Friday April 21st & Saturday April 22nd) we will serve up a four course supper at our secret venue for the all inclusive price of £30 per person.

Wild Garlic FlowersSo what is on the menu… well following from a welcome drink (we are dreaming up something Quirky) and some quirky seasonal nibbles on arrival we will kick the dinner off with a panna cotta… now I know you all think why start with dessert well we are turning it on its head and starting with a savoury one infused with the flavour of wild garlic and we will garnish with toasted Kent Cobnuts and some crispy Ikan Bilis the Asian dried salted anchovies I have imported especially from Singapore. This will be a interesting combination of flavours and textures.

For the main course we will then serve shredded pork cheeks that

Pork Cheek with "Mole" Sauce
Pork Cheek with “Mole” Sauce

will have been slow braised in a rich Mexican inspired Mole Sauce with just a hint of chocolate. Some freshly cooked Spätzli (pasta) and red cabbage will garnish what will be a flavour packed dish.

We will then serve what many consider to be a quirky way with the cheese course  (it is in fact the French way so very quirky by English standards) – just the one,but one of our

Winterdale Shaw - Picture @TWFoodie
Winterdale Shaw – Picture @TWFoodie

favourites… Winterdale Shaw Cheese from the top of Wrotham Hill, an unpasteurised carbon neutral cheddar. The milk comes from 200 yds down the road from the Friesan dairy herd and a 1000 gallons needs little heating using their solar panelled heat exchange pumps! Some 10 months later the cheeses matured in their flint lined cellars are ready for eating! Homemade Porridge Oat Biscuits and our homemade Banana Jam will be served with it.

Finally to complete the quirky nature of our dinner we felt it should be chocolate beer and sauerkraut… in a cake form… yes you heard right we combine chocolate, beer and pickled cabbage as a cake – we promise you it really does work!

Coffee & Tea (thinking of getting a Quirky Blend for the night) will complete the evening.

To reserve your places just head on over to our online box office 

Dates 21st & 22nd April 2017

Time: 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm Prompt

Suggested Donation: £30 per person (service not included)

Menu 

Wild Garlic Panna Cotta, Toasted Cob Nuts, Ikan Bilis

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Braised Pork Cheeks with a Chocolate Mole Sauce,

Spätzli & Red Cabbage

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Winterdale Shaw Cheddar, Porridge Oat Biscuits, Banana Jam

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Sauerkraut, Beer & Chocolate Cake

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Coffee, Tea & Petit Fours

Menu Subject to Market Purchases and Ingredients Availability. 

Is Brexit to blame?

Oooo getting all political here but there was recently a great deal of press surrounding “Jamies Italian” closing a number of its restaurants brexit-1that basically were under performing and the reason given was the “Brexit Effect”

One said establishment is local to me in central Tunbridge Wells. Now I have to say I have not eaten at this said establishment but looking at the local reviews and Tripadvisor feedback there seems to have been some local animosity to this place and generally negative feedback and when it was announced many said “no sad loss”

A touch harsh but what intrigued me was the reasons given by Jamie Oliver himself was “the Brexit vote” There has been much press recently about how the uncertainty of labour movement will effect the hospitality industry and an already struggling industry with regards to staffing will therefore suffer even more.

I know of one hotel close by to me that is fundamentally staffed totally in the kitchen by a plethora of foreign labour (EU and beyond) another local pub to me has possibly 50% of its brigade as ex prison offenders (a very noble gesture by the employer but perhaps out of more necessity as recruitment is so hard)

The biggest issue the hospitality industry faces today  operationally is staffing… I was recently at a meeting at one of the UK’s leading Hospitality Schools and was staggered to learn that their intake of new students in particular for post graduate programmes was dominated by international students and on their undergraduate programmes a pretty high proportion come from within the European Union… another likely pressure post Brexit on our labour pool.

The hospitality industry fails to attract youngsters committed to a career in it. It’s often seen as unsociable and poorly paid. In fact  I have been involved in the past with several school career fairs and been so frustrated by the lack of understanding of both schools and parents as to what the hospitality industry actually involves.

As the UK’s 4th largest hospindustry it is about time people wake up to what it can offer in employment not just in the UK but globally and more importantly the effect that our lurching towards an even more insular and inward looking approach will impact their future.

Jamie’s comments for me are not without foundation, someone like him with such a global profile to be concerned by the “Brexit Effect” needs to be thought about more deeply.

hosp2Why is it when I eat out the staff that serve me or cook for me are more often than not from overseas and display far more passion for the job they do than their British counterparts?

I fear the future post Brexit does look a shade bleak, I am however optimistic that passion will surface and ever the optimist the future will be brighter…  so what do you think?

 

Farmers Markets… are they worth the money?

photo (177)Now I am always keen to feature top notch local produce at my dinners. I love a good market and relish wandering around trying to find some new inspiration or quirky new product that I have not come across before.

I do however ask the question have the “Farmers Market” had their day?

My biggest gripe is that often a stall holder is not first and foremost a particularly good sales person or customer focused. I have seen too many hide behind their stall looking at their phone seeming totally disinterested and non-engaging with their customers…

Harsh you may think but something I feel is ripe for a discussion /poll.

I often feel there are some stalls that seem to think that their chosen product is worthy of grossly inflated prices and substandard production. I have seen many a cupcake or even a loaf of bread look like an abomination of baking prowess at an eye watering price that even a supermarket would be hard pushed to justify.

Fish that pongs or not looking its best and a dirt encrusted vegetable that makes out it is better because of it…

Thenphoto (17) there is the snobby customer who also makes out they are more than righteous for supporting the market and are a dedicated foodie because they do so!

Well I for one will happily support a Farmers Market but I have to say the stall holder has to up their game to get me to part with my hard earned cash and have a product worthy of it.

Good imaginative food is worth it but alas a lot of it is not… what says you?

All loved up…

hearts1Well that date is fast approaching when couples habitually inhabit those tables of two’s in a restaurant and look lovingly into each other’s eyes across the dinner table!

You can tell I am a fan of this night of romantic love big time – Not!

It is generally hype to fill perhaps a quiet week night (a Tuesday this year) and dreaded by restaurants when it falls on a weekend night as they fill up in under capacity!

I have such strong memories of a “Valentine Night” in a restaurant I was working in when a couple came in for dinner who had obviously had a row and I think the guy was there under duress.

They ordered two” well done” fillet steaks and requested they be served with peas (we were upmarket and served a medley of vegetables)

confusciusI sent the waitress back with the message “Old Chinese Philosopher Confucius says Man who eats “Meat and Peas” on same plate is very unhygienic”

The waitress thought for moment and then giggled and said I can’t tell them that… I said please try!

Some restaurants get all creative with overpriced pun induced menus using not in season produce – e.g. Asparagus, Strawberries etc or pink coloured foods! I even tried one year doing a Valentine themed dinner here for my Supperclub and found it a tortuous night so vowed never again!

cooking2I am much more in favour of seeing you all cooking something special at home and perhaps pushing the boat out with a meal lovingly prepared for a loved one. It makes much more a statement than splashing out on a substandard meal in a restaurant.

So this would be my suggestion on a good seasonal menu

Ceviche of Smoked Haddock with a Celeriac Remoulade

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Chicken Bhuna (cooked in a Slow Cooker)

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Tangy Lemon Posset

with homemade Shortbread Biscuits

cookingYou will note I have provided links for all the recipes so why not give it a go and impress a loved one and cook them up this special treat… it will not break the bank and I am sure it will impress the other half!

Failing that why not come along later in the month for our February dinner event that we are calling “Game On as we will be featuring assorted Game dishes from Venison to Guinea Fowl.  You can book the dinners here on our dedicated ticketing site!

Alternatively if you what to learn how to prepare these or any other dishes there is always the Covert Cook School where we can help you build your confidence and assist those untapped wooing skills…

Far better than going out with all those other sad ones!!!

It’s official we are Quirky!!!…

qkWe were surprised and rather chuffed recently when we had an email from a newly established web site called QuirkyKent. The site is the brainchild of a former military person who we will call “QK”. (As like us they wish to remain covert for the time being!)

It is basically a labour of love and has taken a fair bit of time just to research and set up. “QK” tells me it is also a work in progress as they are currently working on a revamp and ensure the site works as well on mobile phones and tablets.

Since its launch in just a few weeks it seems to have had in excess of 5000 visitors and is increasing rapidly but it is the content that is what makes this site rather fascinating and for me it seems like a lifetime of trying to be “Quirky” is finally being recognised.

The site has assorted sections e.g. Quirky Dates & Adventures everything from the Panic Room in Gravesend – my daughter has been several times and absolutely loves it to what “QK” informs me is a real bargain from Lydd Aero Club where you can take a private plane with pilot and two friends (Subject to weight restrictions) and have a half hour flight from as little as just a tad over £30 per person depending on time of year and who your pilot is!!!

There is also a section on Quirky Accommodation that has everything from sleeping on Safari at Port Lympne Zoo to a Romantic Tree House at Blean complete with Hot Tub!

We sit in the section Quirky Bars & Eating Out, I love the idea of Playopolis Cafe in Rochester where you can choose from over 500 different board games to a bang on trend converted shipping container Spitfire Cafe located in Hythe where there is a very personal collection of WW1 & WW2 memorabilia.

Speaking at length to “QK” they have some great plans for the site but are keen to only highlight  the very quirkiest of places within the county… we are proud as punch to be featured and we are keen to develop a further relationship with them and look forward to qk2actually meeting with them and perhaps even hosting a totally exclusive “Quirky Event” with perhaps some rather “quirky food” so watch this space… do head over to their site and explore a little further as we aim to do just that as well!

www.quirkykent.co.uk

 

Toast can kill you…

Now that is not a headline I expected to wake up to and when I saw the BBC news site headline that toast & potatoes are a “potential cancer risk” – this was yet another piece of sensational journalism letting us know that our food had yet another risk. toast

There is hardly a day that goes by that we are not bombarded with another health scare related to our food. I take them all with a pinch of salt (now that is something else we are supposed not to consume!)

In fact salt is something I wish more people would use as under-seasoned food is something that winds me up no end as salt enhances a foods natural flavour and lack of seasoning in cooking results in bland unappealing food.salt

We seem to be constantly under attack not to “eat this” or “drink that”… I have adopted the policy if I enjoy something I will eat it and get the pleasure I seek but I am cautious to eat in moderation where I can.

I do however have very fond memories of consuming a whole “salt cured” fresh foie gras with a delightful bottle of vintage Krug champagne with a long time friend in a back street restaurant in Toulouse over 40 years ago… I still lived to tell the tale!

toast2
Toast as art… whatever next…

So I wonder what will be the next food scare – I know for sure it will not be something I will loose too much sleep over…Life needs those pleasures and food delivers on so many fronts – I reckon you are more likely to die from choking on a piece of toast if you ask me… Bon Appetite!

Game On… our February Menu

So it has been six years since our last “Game On” dinner when we dedicated the menu to a “Game” themed one.

We felt it was long overdue as winter months are a perfect time to enjoy this much forgotten and often not appreciated culinary treat. So this months menu will feature heavily three types of game.

We will kick the meal off with a Carpaccio of Venison, this is thinly sliced slivers of raw venison loin that we will marry to slices of pickled beetroot and some walnuts all dressed with a horseradish cream.

Next we will serve up a classic risotto that will have the addition of creamed sweetcorn that will then be topped with slivers of roasted wood pigeon breasts and roasted baby corn.  I am drooling just thinking of this!

The main course will be a breast of Guinea Fowl that will be studded with a force-meat of the legs mixed with Prunes. The breast will then be roasted off and served on top of a potato rosti and garnished with a red wine & prune sauce and some wilted spring onions. Then of course green beans will also feature.

To complete the meal we will then serve up a warm bread and butter pudding laced with chocolate and orange marmalade. We will keep it simple by serving it with some pouring cream – just a few extra calories.

Dates: Friday 24th  & Saturday 25th February 2017

Venue: Hari’s Secret Location

Time: 7:30pm Welcome 8:00pm Dinner Served

Suggested Donation: £40 per person (service not included)

Menu

Welcome drink and seasonal nibbles

🌽 🌽 🌽 

Venison & Beetroot Carpaccio

🍽 🍽 🍽 

Roasted Wood Pigeon & Sweet Corn Risotto

🌽 🌽 🌽 

Breast of Guinea Fowl, Prune & Spring Onion

Haricots Vert

Potato Rosti

🍽 🍽 🍽 

Chocolate & Marmalade Bread & Butter Pudding

🌽 🌽 🌽 

Coffee, Tea & Petit Fours 

Menu Subject to Market Purchases & Ingredient Availability 

To book your places please click here

Kent's first Underground/Secret Restaurant…