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.

 

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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

 

Do we really love food?

A recent BBC News headline caught my eye as I laid in bed supping my morning cuppa “Chef Angela Hartnett says Britons are not really foodies”

It is quite a bold statement and  I have to say an opinion I would totally concur with as there are many Britons that like to think they are but we really do lack the same food culture as our European neighbours Spain, France or Italy. (they are not without their faults as well)

The Germans are more like us whilst Asian cultures have far more developed understanding of food than we do. I have to say we have become better in the last 40 years but one of the points Angela Hartnett raises is the fact that our food culture is money driven from the “haves and have nots”

We are also so wasteful with food and totally unimaginative in using up those items past their best. The lack of skills in a kitchen both at home and now often in professional environment also means there is a need to develop the skills lost over time on how to manage our resources better. A good business practice as well.

Those BBC programmes “Back in Time” that looked at how families cooked and ate far more left overs and had a connection with food was a fascinating insight into how times have changed over the decades.

Having lived in cultures that appreciate their food, the seasons and their history it seems a real shame we do not teach from a very young age here in this country some basic principals. I fondly remember a few years ago seeing a class of primary school children (All under 5) in France being led into a Michelin starred restaurant where I was dining to come and sample some classic French ingredients like foie gras, snails and chocolate to have their palates educated.

I have for the past six years annually coached a group of young girls at a local school how to gut a fish and bone a chicken and it never ceases to amaze me how squeamish the majority are about the whole process and how unconnected they are from the food they enjoy.

I myself was a fussy child not eating many foods and it was not until I left home and started my studies and travelled more widely that I woke up to food and what it has to offer. It provides conversation, enjoyment and nourishment and is also useful in so many other ways.

If there is one thing we should teach in schools it is how to appreciate the food we eat and how we can cook it properly. I will keep doing my bit but unless we change and become a nation of foodies then alas nothing will change!

I also recently managed to watch a film on Netflix called “The Last Magnificent” about one of the first celebrity chefs in America Jeremiah Tower. It was an eyeopening and thought provoking look at how what we now take for granted is a relatively modern phenomenon. What struck me most was how as a child his parents left him to his own devices (he had a very privileged upbringing and it was this experience that helped develop his passion for food)

So my challenge for 2018 is to keep plugging away at trying to develop young palates and create a different culture towards food. I would challenge anyone who wants to join me on this mission will be most welcome to do so.

Review of 2017…

Well it has been a hectic year at “Covert Towers” during 2017 with a variety of dinners and an assortment of functions throughout the year along with some pretty impressive dining out experiences as well as the odd humdinger as well! Less said about them the better!

We kicked the year off with a new concept for our dinners where we did a “Pot Luck” menu where we literally decided the menu at the last minute and suggested a minimum donation of just £10 per person. We were amazed over two dinners and one lunch we managed to serve a total of 48 diners – a record for us and a great way to kick the year off.

Next up was our Game On dinner where we featured some amazing Game – from venison Pigeon and then Guinea Fowl and this was quickly followed by what we termed our Quirky Dinner as we were deemed a “quirky” food venue on the newly launched Quirky Kent website.

May saw us do an event in a new venue for us on the “Mountain of Crowborough” in the Community Centre where we took over their cafe for the night and popped up with a special four course menu.

We were back there in the summer when we also did another night where we served up our infamous Paella from a single large pan! In fact during this year we managed to serve up Paella a number of times with the biggest challenge, doing a party of 100 using some four separate pans.

Other private functions saw us doing Moroccan Chicken in the pans and even one where we did bubble and squeak so we could serve up Sausages with an onion gravy to about 80 guests enjoying the Tom Carradine Cockney Sing-a-Long. If you are are planning an event in 2018 check out our Man with a Pan service or our @yourhome offer as well.

We also saw events in the Autumn period ranging from our “End is Nigh” dinner to our “October Fe(a)st” and finally just before Xmas our “Ding Dong – Ho Ho Ho” events – one pair of stalwart guests who came along each month commented in our guest book “Turned up trumps again and consistently excellent… delicious food as ever” … makes it all worthwhile for us – thanks David & Brenda!

Our own dining out high has to be the WasTED pop up in Selfridges back in March 2017 whilst we really enjoyed a lunch at Adam Simmonds year long pop up in Soho “The Test Kitchen” and then a new discovery of an Asian Fusion place located in the heart of St Katherine’s Dock run by chef Neil Wager called Dokke – a meal literally just before Xmas was awesome in so many ways – I will return and post a review soon in 2018!

Now we are busy planning 2018 dates and themes. We are already excited about a week long gig in the French Alpes in early February for a long standing Hari customer.

We also have something a little different planned for April – we will publish details soon and we are also hoping to persuade some other guest chefs to join us during 2018 so you can all experience some different styles and unique experiences. We are also hoping to offer a special charity night at some stage as well.

Our first event of 2018 is a joint venture with wine tasting guru Rowena Hawtin so check out the Discover the Vine and Savour the Curd Event for more details… we only have limited spaces left so be quick and reserve your places now.

What a great year 2017 was and wishing you all the very best for 2018…

Cheers

Hari

Discover the vine & savour the curd…

We will kick off our 2018 series of events with a new style event for us. We have done a full blown dinner with associated wines, we have also done a Chinese dinner with specially selected wines included.

This time we will offer a special night of a wine and cheese tasting… We will be joining forces with Rowena Hawtin the brains behind the Discover the Vine, a company that specialises in tutored wine tastings and yours truly who will be selecting a range of cheeses that we will source for this occasion from Maitre Fromagerie Phillipe Olivier based across the channel in Northern France.

Why French cheeses? I hear you all cry, well for me they have a diverse selection and an enviable tradition and history of cheese making and we hope we will enlighten you to some more unusual and lesser know curds…It also leaves us the chance at a future event to showcase our own indigenous cheeses. We will not be biased we promise!

Over forty years ago I worked in a restaurant famed for its cheeseboard of over 40 plus cheeses and the patron was so passionate that every time he reeled off the names and back story of these curds it would sometimes take him over twenty minutes to complete the explanations, only to then be told by the diner they will have the “chocolate mousse”. He would spit feathers at me as he placed the order in the kitchen!

For me though I learnt so much about the diversity of cheeses and the marriage between the curd and the vine is one that is well and truly made in heaven and pleasurable to savour.

So for these two nights we will select 6 to 8 seasonal cheeses that we can then match to appropriate wines and grape varieties to complement them. Whilst the cheese will be French we will select wines from across the globe to go with them and Rowena will provide instruction and insight into the wines chosen and I will provide the back story to the cheeses.

We will feature everything from Goat, Cow and Ewes milk and from mild to strong flavours. We trust you will all embrace this whole experience with an open mind and enjoy the wines we select to go with these cheeses. We aim to open your mind to new sensations and hopefully enlightenment.

Come and be surprised, come and be entertained and also meet like minded gastronomes keen to experience the vine and curd!

Dates: Friday 19th & Saturday 20th January 2018

Arrival: 7:30pm – Welcome Drink & Cheese based nibbles

Cheese & Wine Tasting: 8:00pm – A tutored Wine and Cheese tasting comprising of 6 selected wines and subject to market purchases 6-8 specially selected cheeses from Phillipe Olivier in France.

Suggested Donation: £25 per person  – a £5 Reservation Deposit to secure your place. We then request the balance of £20 cash per person on the night  (N.B. service not included)

Ding Dong Merrily on High…

Ho Ho Ho… our Christmas 2017 Menu is now all decided and we are open for your bookings.

We felt we should be pretty traditional but at the same time in line with our “Quirky” status adopt some slightly more edgy festive ideas.

This year we will have decked our dining area with assorted festive bling. We will then kick the evenings off with a welcome drink and assorted nibbles.

The first course we will serve will be a classic smoked salmon rillettes – a homemade coarse pate that will be served with a horseradish cream and some classic melba toasts.

Main course will be turkey but this we will be done as a thin breast escalope studded with a fresh sage leaf and then a slice of cured ham served with a delicate sweet sherry sauce and then accompanied by a classic potato gratin and the veritable green beans.(Haricot Vert)

Next we will serve a selection of cheeses with our now infamous porridge oat biscuits and then to round the whole meal off we will make a Christmas Pudding Parfait that we will serve with a red berry compote laced with local Anno Sloe Gin – a perfect boozy and indulgent finish to our celebratory meal. 

So why not join us and book your spaces via the booking form below.

Dates: Friday 15th & Saturday 16th December

Arrival: 7:30pm 

Dinner: 8:00pm – Dinner Served

Suggested Donation: £35 per person.

A £5 Reservation Deposit by credit/debit card will be taken on confirmation of  your booking. We normally call you within 24/48 hours

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

Menu

Festive Welcome Drink & Nibbles

🎅 🎅 🎅 🎅

Smoked Salmon Rillettes, Horseradish Cream, Melba Toasts

🎅 🎅 🎅 🎅

Turkey Escalopes “Saltimbocca”

Green Beans, Potato Gratin Dauphinoise

🎅 🎅 🎅 🎅

Hari’s Selection of Festive Cheeses

🎅 🎅 🎅 🎅

Iced Christmas Pudding Parfait,

Red berry & Anno Sloe Gin Compote

🎅 🎅 🎅 🎅

Coffee or Tea served with Mini Stollen

🎅 🎅 🎅 🎅

Pot Luck 2…

We had a highly successful event earlier this year when we ran a sell out series of dinners and a lunch where we decided the menu subject to market purchases. The menu was only revealed when diners sat down to eat.

We also set the minimum donation of just £10 per person and suggested diners pay what they thought it was worth.

With Christmas fast approaching and everyone thinking about the festive season and counting their pennies, we have decided to repeat this offer next month.

We hope we can tempt you all to come and try us out.

We have some exciting food ideas and plan to serve a seasonal three course dinner. This time cost will be £5 per course (making it a minimum of £15) with customers able to decide what they feel the meal is worth! – a great way for you to experience what our supper club is all about!

So if you are feeling brave and want to partake of this event then please do complete the booking form below.

Please note this will be very much a “first come first served” on the booking front so do not delay in booking. You can, at that time, let us know if you have any major allergies or dietary requirements as this will help us in the planning of the whole menu when we come to make our purchases.

pot-luck-2So who is up for a bit of “Pot Luck 2” secret dining? If you have never been now is your chance to be surprised!

To reserve your places just complete the form below and we will contact you within 48 hours to secure your booking by taking a credit/debit card payment deposit.

Dates: Friday 17th & Saturday 18th November

Arrival: 7:30pm 

Dinner: 8:00pm – A three course menu will be served

Suggested Donation: A £5 Reservation Deposit per person secures the first course.

We then request a minimum £10 cash per person on the night will ensure you get the other two courses  – we will happily accept more if you think it has all been worth it. (N.B. service not included)

The Butchers Block, Burham – a review…

Well it has been many a year since I have visited this establishment in its previous incarnation as the Toastmasters Inn.

About three months ago it reopened its doors following a major refurbishment and renamed the Butchers Block… a reference to its provenance of being owned by a butchers family.

I have to declare at this point I have a big affection for this place as I spent some of my earlier culinary years at this place and worked alongside the proprietor who was something of a mentor to me and instilled a real passion for cheese if nothing else.

The place has been beautified and decorated in a pleasing way but it is the menu that for me speaks volumes about their aspirations and aims. It is obviously and rightly very meat centric (considering their connections) and features a meat cabinet in the dining areas entrance that displays some really good looking hunks of ageing beef.

The menu highlights for both lunch and dinner are steaks and prime cuts from a T Bone to a Cote de Bouef or Fillet with the classic accompaniments. These all come with a price tag that whilst not eye watering expensive they are not such good value as perhaps lesser known cuts would be. Why not feature a Jacobs Ladder or a bavette. Especially on a lunch menu where a diner wants to eat more quickly as they are time constrained and also price sensitive.

It is a continual debate even in high end restaurants in the big metropolis that you can eat a highly accoladed meal for far better value for lunch than dinner.

The Butchers Block is really missing a trick here and need to rethink the offer. It should be a shop window for what to expect for the more formal dinner service and in particular special occasion diner.

So what did we eat – well we did not fancy a paddle (wooden board) Ploughmans, charcuterie board or fish platter but craved something a little more substantial and the burger whilst tempting had been our menu choice the day before on a visit to Windsor.

So we opted for Fish & Chips a pub classic and then a Steak and Ale Pie – both priced at £12.90 seemed to be the choice of the majority of all the other diners as the Steaks were all prices at double this amount.

A wait of just on one hour from when we had entered the place was our experience before our food arrived. It was not busy and I felt the kitchen was struggling to cope to produce what was pretty basic fare.

Fish & Chips arrived on a wooden board (a modern trend that needs to be discouraged) and was duly sent straight back to be put onto a plate as Mrs HC wanted to eat it off a hot plate!

My Steak & Ale Pie came served in a bowl shaped plate – better than a board but again not my favourite receptacle shape as the cutlery has a tendency to fall into the centre if ever you rest it on the rim! Much was made of the fact the pastry case was short crust and the top was puff pastry and whilst tasty with a well cooked inside filling the gravy boat with extra sauce was much need as it required some extra lubrication, the accompanying  mash and vegetables with it were not so pleasing.

Gritty baby carrots and then sugar snaps were nestled alongside a mash potato that had a stale flavour that was close  to turning.  The pie was I suspect not made in house which for £12.90 was not really good value. I was hungry so ate it and did not fancy an hours wait for a replacement.

Overall I had and expectation that this place would deliver something far better than it did. It could be described as very average and the fact they have access to high quality produce they could execute it all with more flair and imagination.

Service was also lacklustre and in need of polish. There seemed no urgency and classic example of lack of communication between the husband and wife team resulted in us being overcharged for our two small glasses of wine. Quickly rectified when pointed out however the landlord did not seem to posses the social skills to back it all up.  Not a natural front of house so left us feeling it was all a bit amateurish.

It had been many years since I had been in the place and I guess it will now be many more years before I will want to make a return visit… says it all really.

Fancy a dinner on us?…

It has been sometime since we have held a competition so we thought we would have one now.

It is very simple to enter, we want your recipe for your favourite Autumn dish.

What for you epitomises this lovely season? It can be anything you like.

To enter all you need to do is email us your recipe at covert.hari@yahoo.co.uk with the phrase Recipe Competition in the subject line.

We will then look at them and test the best ones and then pick a winner which we will share with you all in our November Newsletter.

All entrants will then go into a free draw to win a free place at our next event in November where they will be invited to attend and have  their dinner on us!

So simple – just send us your recipes as soon as possible

Closing date is Friday 20th October at 5pm

You can also send more than one recipe and increase your chances!

 

October Fe(a)st…

Well, we thought for our October event we would highlight a few of our favourite dishes and try something a bit different as well.

It will take place in our home venue only on Saturday 14th October so spaces are limited.

We will kick the evening off with a welcome drink and some seasonal nibbles… We love the challenges of providing something tasty and topical to our diners and seeing them explore some new flavours or experiences!

Bang Bang Chicken Salad

We will, for our first course,  do a classic Chinese inspired starter… Bang Bang Chicken Salad. This is cold poached shredded chicken that is dressed with a peanut butter and sesame dressing. My friend Chef Kam Po But has taught me well (Please watch this space – for a return visit from him… we are working on it)

Next course is a bit different…instead of our normal cheese course we thought we would serve a fish course so will be serving a pan fried salmon fillet garnished with roasted beetroots and a beurre blanc (butter sauce) flavoured  with horseradish – a simple combination that should provide some great complimentary flavours!

Beef Olives

The main course will then be a dish we have done before – a classic beef olive… a slowly braised, rolled & stuffed top rump steak served in a rich stout sauce. We will serve this with some creamed potatoes and a classic braised red cabbage – a truly comforting flavour combination with the beef olive!

Finally, an Orange Polenta Cake served with Greek Yoghurt and runny local honey will be the way to round off what will be a great autumnal feast.

We do hope you will join us for what we are calling our “Fe(a)st” and we will also have soon our plans for November and December to complete yet another year of “Covert” dining.

We are now taking bookings and request a £5 deposit per person to secure your places with a balance of £30 per person required on the night.

We just ask you to complete the form below and we will call you within a 48 hour period to take your booking deposit over the phone and confirm your places.

Time : 7:30pm Prompt for welcome drink and nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm

Suggested Donation: £35 per person service not included

Menu

Welcome Drink &  Seasonal Nibbles

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Bang Bang Chicken Salad

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Salmon Fillet with roasted beetroots and a horseradish beurre blanc

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Slow Cooked Beef Olive with Stout Sauce

Creamed Potatoes

Braised Red Cabbage

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Orange & Polenta Cake with Greek Yoghurt & Local Honey

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Coffee or Tea with Petit Fours

Menu Subject to Market Purchases and Ingredient Availability 

Kent's first Underground/Secret Restaurant…