Kym’s Restaurant, London – a review…

For those of you that know me well will already know I am a big fan of Chinese food and have long loved the diversity and subtleness of this style of cuisine.

We have done a few special dinners with my friend Kam Po But who for many years was the Executive Chef at Ken Lo’s Memories of China.  A couple of years I was introduced to Mr Andrew Wong the chef patron of A.Wong in Victoria (just down Wilton Road beside the station) It was a mind blowing lunch hosted by Ken Hom and I have tried many times to go back to sample what is now deemed to be Michelin star worthy.

I recently had a meeting planned in London with a group of chefs to discuss an upcoming Pop Up in aid of charity that is planned for May 2019 but due to assorted reasons there was only one chef available to make the meeting so we decided to go and try Mr Wong’s new place in the city.

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Kym’s Restaurant is located in the Bloomberg Arcade just across the road from Cannon Street station so for me still hobbling on crutches it was an easy journey.

I met with another chef who was also keen to sample what this place had to offer as there had been some magnificent reviews since opening just 4 weeks previously. I had heard good things from several sources and seen some stunning food pictures on my Instagram feed from assorted trusted diners so had high expectations for my visit.

We arrived just after 1:30 pm a little earlier than we had booked as we were hungry. Greeted at the door we were welcomed by a charming hostess who informed us the table was ready so off we set and sat down literally in front of an open plan kitchen area. Menu place mats got the old gastric juices flowing as we sat trying to decide what to sample. Andrew Wong’s statement centre and proud states they focus on the “Ancient craft of Chinese roasting and on the assorted regions of China”

Well choice was hard and my fellow chef colleague stated he could have eaten the whole menu “but that was just being greedy” Friendly service staff suggested we pick 3-4 dishes from the Small Plates section one from the “Share Section” and one from the “Classics” plus a “Side” and a “Fritter”… what was then fatal was another staff member walked past as we were giving our order with another table order- a “skewer” dish of Tiger Prawns that we decided we also had to try so added this last minute.

So as we sat back with a small carafe of white wine from Crete we soaked up the atmosphere and buzz of a busy bustling restaurant that seemed to have found its feet very quickly.

First dish to arrive was a side of Pickled Daikon… pale yellow in colour decoratively arranged on the plate with a dribble of what was a fiery chilli oil… perfect palate tantaliser! Then almost immediately followed by Pork & Shrimp Bao Bao… a dish reminiscent of “Spanish Eggs” as the light as a feather filled dumplings were surrounded by soft yolked fried eggs and Pat Chun sweetened black rice vinegar and chilli all served in a sizzling skillet pan. An amazing dish.

Next to arrive was what was described as Lemongrass Salad – some skewered little gem leaves of lettuce with thin crispy fried skins and a zingy lime chilly crispy shallot dressing that truly enlivened the taste buds – It not only looked stylish but tasted divine.

Then came our Tiger Prawn skewers that were encased in what seemed like crispy rice coating and a sweet chilli dipping sauce, good meaty and sweet tasting prawns. The small plate bowl of Lotus Root Chips were a revelation of crispy distinctive looking crisps that were coated in a sticky fermented chilli bean, honey sauce that seemed to conclude the first half of our order.

We then moved onto the much lauded French Beans Fritters encased in a light ethereal batter of such delicacy then with the addition of chilli, spring onion and black pepper a nod to Salt & Pepper spiced dishes nestling in its crumpled grease proof paper base.

We could not omit a classic roast pork Char Sui made with delicate and tender Iberico Pork as this came with a Honey and Soy dip for added flavour punch.  With this we then had the  Sichuanese Spiced Aubergine that was totally melt in the mouth.

We then felt we should then sample a dessert or two, or three… they have a choice of three and to be honest as luck would have it they had sold out of one of them… The Sunny Egg Tart!

We therefore just had to try the other two on offer The Hong Kong Bun with Custard and the Raspberry Sorbet with a White Chocolate Strong Cloud. Of the two we liked the raspberry sorbet best with the warm white chocolate and the cold sorbet married beautifully.

This was a very accomplished meal for a restaurant so fresh on the scene and the staff were really friendly and engaging. I would love to try the Sunday Brunch as this is a way to sample a good proportion of the menu along with limitless wine (for 2 hours) – what better way to spend a Sunday.  Go try it I urge you…

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The Small Holding… a review

I was recently treated to a meal at this restaurant by a friend which was very generous of them, especially as they also had to be my taxi service as well.

The Small Holding had been on my radar for some time as its chef patron Will Devlin had for a period before hand been running a series of pop ups in the area as “No Fixed Abode” and I had heard good things and been impressed by their Instagram feed with some imaginative and stylish modern British food.

Well as the rain tipped down on our way to the place located out in the countryside just south of  Tunbridge Wells in the village of Kilndown with lovely views (on a less inclement day) across the Weald this former pub (the Globe & Rainbow) offers some serious cooking with a great deal of produce grown on site or foraged locally and the rest resourced from local farms nearby.

The menus are divided between what they term ½ Acre or Full Acre the former is five courses and the latter nine courses of tasting plates. Both menus can be paired with wines or craft beers at an extra cost.

The menus offered are a no choice affair that highlights what is in season and at their best from the poly tunnels and working small holding in their back yard and what the hedgerows have to offer. It is imaginative and in places quirky where they use a range of techniques or flavour combinations to test and excite your palate.

We settled at our table in a cosy dining area with wood burning stove for those chilly winter days, wooden tables and chairs and a kitchen that is open to view all adding to the charm of the place. We opted for the ½ Acre Menu as it was lunch time. Some nibbles delivered to us highlighted courgettes, a bhaji style fritter, a batter encrusted flower, and a little filo tartlette filled with a creamy pungent puree certainly whetted the appetite.

Our first course was home cured Bresola that was served with assorted textures of beetroot and some creamy soft burrata cheese, great simple presentation with a balance of flavours and textures.

Next came some bread along with the next course, the bread – sour dough with some local rapeseed oil and basalmic vinegar and a big dollop of local butter. The course it accompanied was a home grown courgette stuffed with some Kentish Blue cheese topped with some puffed bulgar wheat – a really unctuous and full flavoured dish.

We then had a fish course that was a little morsel of freshly salt cured mackerel served on top of shredded mackerel mixed with a horseradish cream sandwiched between two discs of home-grown pickled kohlrabi dusted with some Lovage salt. It looked and tasted very good – just wish it had been twice the size as it was exceedingly moreish.

For the main course we then had some roasted old spot pork literally from the neighbour (the other side of the hedge from them) a couple of slices of a perfectly roasted loin and a crispy morsel of soft pork belly it was garnished with a tasty home- grown carrot topped with a nutty sesame crumb – very accomplished and balanced with their flavour combinations.

For the dessert course we had locally foraged wild blackberries that were with a lovely tart coulis of said same fruit topped with a “rocher” of fennel ice cream topped with foraged wood sorrel – some biscuit crumb added a textural compliment. It certainly hardly touched the sides!

We completed the meal with the cheese a Burwash Rose an unpasteurized cows milk cheese from nearby Stonegate in East Sussex – served with some oat biscuits and thin homemade crackers and a courgette pickle the cheese is washed in rose water so it has a distinctive flavoured rind a perfect finish to the meal.

I was impressed and so glad I had finally made it to try Will’s food – I am now looking forward to quizzing him on the September 4th Scoff Quaff show on Channel Radio and digging deeper into how the venture came about and what the plan is for the future. I will be back and I hope you will tune in at 11-12 on the 4th to hear more about it all. If nothing else try the place out as it is certainly one to watch for the future…

The Small Holding – Kilndown Tel: 01892 890105

https://thesmallholding.restaurant/

In the blink of an eye…

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On June 12th a little incident happened in my home that has impacted my daily routine in a big way.

At about 10:30am I stood up from my desk and walked to answer the front door intercom and in the process managed to slip on a slightly damp tiled floor. What resulted was a left leg at a funny angle an emergency ambulance being called and rushed to A&E

It aspired my already dodgy left leg with a false knee cap ligament and then a previously broken left ankle has a new ailment – namely a displaced fracture of my femur that then required surgery and resulted in a stay in hospital for ten days.

My previous hospital incarnation 25 years ago with the knee ligament was a period I had tried to erase from my memory as the lasting memory was the food was so dire and inedible.

Well I can report even after the intervention of the likes of celebrity chefs James Martin and Llyod Grossman and a host of foodies and a plethora of consultants the food is still shit. In fact I will go further and say totally inedible with no attempt to make it in any way tasty or exciting.

Three days prior to me finally going down for an operation I was ‘Nil by Mouth’ from breakfast till dinner so hunger was setting in and even a simple sandwich or a so called ‘Cornish Pasty’ were abominations of culinary skills. Dry stale sandwiches shipped in from Bradford and a pasty with under-cooked pastry and filling with more resemblance of dog food.

On the fourth day I had to resort to a local chef friend popping in from his place of work with a plate of something edible as the thought of the NHS offer was so depressing. His Roasted Cod Fillet with Brown Shrimps and some seasonal vegetables was a real treat that was eagerly consumed.

I can honestly say over the ten day period there was only one palatable meal that I could say was edible – namely a chicken curry with rice and peas.

Breakfast was repetitive – toast of bread or a bowl of cereal – never eggs – toast always cold and cardboard like.

So where is this leading – I have nothing but praise for all the front-line staff who cared for me or were responsible for my surgery etc. The catering however was not in anyway worthy of a good word. I appreciate they have to cater for large numbers in a challenging environment and with assorted dietary needs – as one Vegan/Vegetarian pointed out to me no chance and if you were Coeliac. I reckon prisoners get better food than was dished up to me.

I feel the whole food issue within hospitals needs a total new approach and  thought process – It requires radical change and an innovative approach. In fact as an organisation the NHS expertise lies in well being, medical etc and simply not providing nourishment. So why even try ?

Our Government demands the NHS becomes more efficient with the resources it gets I wonder what impact it would have if catering was removed totally from their remit and given to external providers? A discussion worth having perhaps – what says you?

Happy Friday the 13th…

UPDATE: Due to an unlucky accident on June 12th and ending up hospitalised for ten days and a broken femur this event is now cancelled. Will update in due course on future events


Paraskevidekatriaphobia sufferers need not attend…

Well for our July event it will take place on Friday 13th July – we are not superstitious and hope you aren’t either!  We are planning weather permitting to make it an alfresco meal down the bottom of our garden – please note if weather is too unsettled it will be done indoors.

We felt for this dinner we would make it a memorable four course meal that showcased some interesting techniques and flavour combinations. (Not that all are dinners are not so intended!)

We will kick the meal off with a welcome dink and nibbles of a seasonal nature and then serve as a first course a homemade coarse terrine that will incorporate pork and chicken… I love making a terrine as there is a skill to keeping it moist and full of flavour and it always excites me when I cut into it for the first time. I will serve it with a homemade butternut squash & cranberry chutney that has been maturing now for a good while!

Next a challenging dish for some will be a Ceviche of sea bass and salmon. This is raw marinated fish served with a thinly sliced salad of fennel. The addition of mint in the Ceviche also adds a zing to the citric marinade that cooks the fish. Perfect for a summer evening.

The main course will be roasted beef fillet served with a “Pepper Club” sauce – this is a piquant green peppercorn and port soaked raisin cream sauce – we will serve some fresh green beans (as always) and pommes dauphine little deep fried mashed potato and choux pastry pillows… perfect to mop up the sauce.

Finally we will basically serve a jelly & ice cream dessert that will showcase Marden based cider makers Phil & May Turner and specifically their elderflower cider – we will also stud it with fresh local raspberries and when we serve it some homemade strawberry parfait and warm butter shortbread biscuits.

Dates: Friday 13th July

Time : 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm prompt

Price: £40 Per Person (service not included)

Menu

Welcome Drink & Seasonal Nibbles

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Homemade Pork & Chicken Terrine served with a homemade Butternut Squash & Cranberry Chutney

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Sea Bass & Salmon Ceviche with a fennel salad

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Roasted Fillet of Beef served with a Pepper Club Sauce

Pommes Dauphine,  Haricot Vert

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Turners Elderflower Cider Jelly with Local Raspberries,

Strawberry Parfait and Warm Butter Shortbread

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Coffee or Tea, Petit Fours

Menu Subject to Market Purchases & Ingredient Availability 

 

Food for thought…

We love a great TV Foodie programme and there seems to be many on our screens at the moment to cover all tastes.

The BBC currently has a series with Mary Berry looking to find the best Home Cook – it is pretty innocuous and you think why have some of these cooks never prepared certain foods or done some fairly basic tasks.

There is also a new series on BBC 1 that has recently started that has Front of House Supremo Fred Siriex hosting a competition for new start up restaurants looking for funding for their concepts “The Million Pound Menu” is filmed in a Manchester restaurant that strangely enough I went to just over a year ago when it first opened

Beastro is the brainchild of a young lad by the name of Richard Brown who just happens to be one of my former men tees from Oxford Brookes University – they took over his place for about three weeks last November and filmed the whole series then.

It is a programme that illustrates well the skills required to succeed in today’s modern restaurant world but at the same time illustrates the need for a good idea /concept

Masterchef can be gripping when you watch amateurs embark on their journey and then the professionals seem to go to jelly when they stand in front of Monica or Marcus when they have to complete a skills test.

The professional version of Bake Off has Cherish Finden and Benoit Blin giving the contestants what for many seem like harsh criticism but in fairness is just honest opinion. Tough if you find criticism is hard to accept.

All of this glamorises the industry in a way but one thing that is very evident at the moment is the demise of many of our high street brands as they struggle to attract our wallets and spending.

Mixed with this is the lack of chefs entering the industry and what is being described as the Brexit factor where our European work force are leaving in their droves or now not keen to come to the UK to work.

I predict many more closures and less choice on the high street. The independent will flourish as we crave something more individual but it will come with a price. The paying public needs to realise the effort required to produce their favourite dishes.

I have just finished reading an article in my Waitrose Food Magazine about Chef Jason Atherton – a chef I really admire and agree wholeheartedly with – the attributes required by all good cooks is passion and a desire to cook – not to be star as quickly as possible.

I will always frequent a place that displays a passion for what they do and I hope you will too as mediocrity is not worthy of our custom.

Paella comes to the “pequeño toro”

For our June events we are excited to announce we will be returning to the village of Brenchley and in particular we are preparing two nights of Paella at the “Little Bull” Cafe & Bar in this picturesque village.

We will be cooking alfresco a large pan of classic mixed Paella at 6pm and 8pm on the two nights and this can be reserved directly with The Little Bull by calling them on 01892 724985 or you can complete the booking form below and someone will call you back to confirm your reservation.

We are also subject to availability offering the Paella for takeaway for those wishing to experience a freshly cooked Spanish classic in the comfort of their own home.

We will be serving at 6pm and again at 8pm so why not reserve your places now to ensure you get your Spanish fix and come on down to the “pequeño toro” and say hola!!!

Dates: 8th & 9th June

Times:19:00

Price:  £15 per Adult £9.50 for Children (under 10)

Takeaway £10 per Adult £6.00 per child (subject to availability)

Menu: 

Table Snack: Pipas al Punto de Sal

Freshly Cooked Paella – Chicken, Chorizo, Prawn, Squid with Peppers, Green Beans and Peas 

Vegetarian Option available (please request when booking)  

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Fresh Local Strawberries & Cream 

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May you join us…

“To invite people to dine with us is to make ourselves responsible for their well-being for as long as they are under our roofs.”

– Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

This quote sums up our supper club perfectly – I have long been a fan of french gastronome and food philosopher – his aphorisms  have often rung true on so many occasions. This is no more so than the one above…

For our May event we will feature those in season foods such as Asparagus, Lamb and Strawberries with some novel combinations and some well tried marriages.

We will kick the evenings off with welcome drink and seasonal nibbles and then start the meal with a risotto made with fresh local Asparagus, Gorgonzola cheese and toasted  hazelnuts – creamy and unctuous.

The main course will be roasted lamb served with a foraged wild garlic crumb, the new seasons jersey royal potatoes, peas and charred lettuce all bought together with a redcurrant jus.

Our cheese selection will reflect what is best and in season and finally what could be better than a soft chewy meringue topped with cream and fresh local strawberries that will be well and truly coming into season.

We hope you will come and join us and we welcome old and new customers to come and sample what “Covert” dining will all be about…

Please complete the booking form below, we will then email you an invoice to confirm your reservation with a small deposit that can be paid securely online.

Dates: Saturday 19th May

Time : 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm prompt

Price: £30 Per Person (service not included)

Menu:

Asparagus, Gorgonzola and Toasted Hazelnut Risotto

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Roasted Lamb Rump, Wild Garlic Crumb, Jersey Royals, Charred Lettuce, Peas & Green Beans, Redcurrant Jus

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Hari’s Selection of Cheeses. Porridge Oat Biscuits

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Fresh Local Strawberry Pavlova

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Coffee, Tea & Petit Fours

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

Time for Tea (and Cake)…

Well we are always keen to provide our supper club attendees with a unique covert experience with our events.

For our April event we are pleased to announce something very different and quite unique.

We are linking up with a Master Tea Blender – Alex Probyn – he is brains behind a highly successful company called Blends for Friends and his HQ is located on the edge of the North Downs in a purpose built Kentish Barn that now is a very busy operation.
Alex blends many teas for assorted companies worldwide, they will produce on average one million plus tea bags per week as well as loose leaf tea blends shipped to locations throughout the world.

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Who’d have thought we have such a company within our midst…
Part of the barn has been turned into a swish state of the art bespoke tasting room which is known as the “Blendatorium” where Alex will tutor you through the many vagaries of tea blending – he has a wall of some 500 plus infusions that can create a unique blend.
He will provide attendees with a tutored tasting and this will then be followed by you being able to create your own very unique blend to take home with you.

Finally once this is all completed his in house catering team with some assistance from yours truly we will then serve you with a delightful afternoon tea at their in house café, this will include a selection of sandwiches, homemade cake, biscuits and pastries.

We have also invited Pastry tutor Jonathan Deddis who was a contestant on the last series of the BBC series “Bake Off Crème de la Crème” to also produce some unique high end patisserie where his artistry and skills will also encompass some of Alex’s teas.

This will be a truly perfect way to finish off this event. The café is not open to the public so it will be a truly exclusive and must not miss event. This is a unique way to learn more about the world of tea in a fun and informative way.

The event is a one off we have secured an exclusive all in discounted price for this event of £65 per person that is a saving of £10 per person on their normal tea tasting prices. There are just 12 spaces available on a first come first served basis and the event will only take place if all places are sold so why not get a group of tea enthusiasts together and let’s make a party of it!

To book your places we request you complete the booking form below and we will then invoice you with an online credit/debit card payment link and this will be fully refunded should we not get sufficient numbers for the event.

We request the full payment up front and cancellation by attendees seven days before the event will garner a full refund but thereafter no refunds can be offered unless we can find replacement attendees.

Date: Friday 20th April 2018

Venue: The Barn, Coney Shaw Farm, Kemsing Road, Kemsing, TN15 6NN

Start: 14:00

Tutored Tea Tasting :  with Alex Probyn – a Master Tea Blender followed by your chance to create your own bespoke blend from over 500 assorted infusions…finally you get to sit down to a sumptuous set tea that will include freshly made sandwiches, homemade cakes, biscuits and tea inspired pastries by pastry supremo Jonathan Deddis.

Finish:  5:30pm

Price:  £65.00 per person inclusive of your own tea blend to take home & set afternoon tea.

Please do let us know of any allergies or dietary requirements when booking.

Covert Secrets Revealed…

We thought it is about time we offered a structured cookery demo so instead of a dinner event in February we are offering a very special lunch preceded by a live cookery demo.

We will have just four spaces and Hari will demonstrate a full three course menu that you will all sit down to eat. It is a great way to learn some new techniques and tips and Hari will be more than happy to answer any questions along the way.

We will ask all attendees to arrive at 9:45am for a welcome coffee and biscuits. The demo will kick off at 10:00 am prompt and then lunch will be served to all around 1:00pm (or basically when ready)

The dishes that will be demonstrated will be as follows

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Date: Saturday 24th February 2018

Arrival: 9:45 am

Finish: Circa 2:00 pm

Price: £55 per person includes Recipe Sheets and  3 course Lunch


Starter: Ceviche of Smoked Haddock, Celeriac Remoulade & Apple

Main Course: Supreme of Chicken with a Prune & Bacon Stuffing, Red Wine & Prune Sauce

Gratin Dauphinoise & Vegetable Medley

Dessert: “Damian Allsops” Water Chocolate Mousse served with Blood Orange Segments

N.B. Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability

If time allows Hari will also demonstrate his Beer Bread and the demo will also show how to bone a whole chicken and the process of making a red wine stock. He will endeavour do everything from scratch (where possible) and will also demonstrate the presentation of the finished dishes. Attendees will also be provided with recipe sheets to take away so they can replicate at home.

This event will only go ahead if all four places are filled so why not get a group together and come and enjoy a live demo followed by a lunch.

To book  your places please complete the form below and we will then confirm your booking with an online invoice for credit card payment to secure your places.

 

The Long March…

I always like to give my monthly events something of a title and a theme and as the years go by it seems to get a little harder to come up with something pertaining and relevant.

This time for me the month of March sees the beginnings of the end of a long winter as we head into Spring and also we see the clocks spring forward as we head into Summer.

So “The Long March” will see us opening for two nights on the 16th and 17th of the month. The 17th is St Patrick’s Day and we thought shall we go all Irish with the menu but have decided just to in places on the menu have the odd nod to the Emerald Isle.

We will kick the evenings off with a welcome drink and some seasonable nibbles. We have no idea what as yet but we normally serve a soup shot, one cold and one hot “ameuse bouche” so will start researching some ideas.

To kick the meal off we thought we would start with a starter we have done before many years ago… a custard set chilled Cauliflower Terrine. This time we propose to serve it with some freshly poached King Prawns that we will then dress with a sweet chilli dressing and a sliver of roasted cauliflower. The earthiness of the cauliflower should marry well with sweet prawn and dressing. It will also have quite some “eye appeal” as well so a great way to start our food march!

For the main course we thought we would do a roasted pork tenderloin/fillet served with our veritable green beans and the addition of some Chinese Pak Choy. A sauce made with dried apricots and a red wine jus will be a great marriage.

Garnished with some crispy “Pommes Dauphine” a mix of potato and choux pastry that is deep fried will give it all a desirable textural element and something to soak up that sauce.

We traditionally serve cheese following the main course (the French way) and here we hope to introduce an Irish element ! We have also been experimenting recently with some new style biscuits – a totally gluten free version using a mix of ground seeds including hemp, chia and linseed. We of course will also have our now much sought after Porridge Oat biscuits as well.

Finally to complete the meal we will serve a very much in season fruit – Rhubarb as a pastry slice married with the classic combo of custard. This will complete a fun night of good seasonal food with some classic combinations.

Coffee and Petit Fours will finish it all off along with your comments on the event in our guest book or as a review on our Facebook page.

Dates: Friday 16th & Saturday 17th March 2018

Arrival: 7:30pm – Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm 

Suggested Donation: £35 per person  – a £5 per person Reservation Deposit by emailed invoice with a secure credit card payment link will secure your places.

We then request the balance of £30 cash per person on the night  (N.B. service not included)

Water & Glasses provided on the table – guests can bring their own drinks to consume with their dinner. 

Menu

Welcome Drink and Nibbles

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Cauliflower Terrine garnished with Poached Prawns in a Sweet Chilli Dressing

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Roasted Pork Fillet, Apricot Jus

Pommes Dauphine

Haricots Verts & Pak Choy

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Hari’s Cheese Selection with Porridge Oat Biscuits

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Rhubarb & Custard Cream Slice

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Coffee & Petit Fours

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availability