Tag Archives: Local Produce

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.

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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 

Just 99 days left in Twenty Seventeen…

So for our September pop up event we thought we would do just the one night as we have had a mega busy month so far and well we need to recharge our energies a tad.

We will do just the one night on Saturday September 23rd which believe it or not will then be just 99 days away from the end of 2017… where has this year gone we hear you all say.

We will kick the evening off with a welcome drink and some seasonal nibbles and then our first course will be a autumnal favourite of a freshly made risotto with roasted butternut squash, goats cheese and some toasted Kentish cob nuts.

Main Course will be another firm favourite of a pink roasted Barbary Duck Breast served with a plum sauce and served alongside a classic Gratin Dauphinoise and some ubiquitous Haricots Vert…

Cheeses

Next in true Hari tradition a selection of cheeses… our infamous porridge oat biscuits and some chutney (we have been making a few recently and will see which fits the bill best)

Finally to finish another autumn classic an – Apple Tart Tatin served with a generous dollop of creme fraiche and we will also include a snifter of Muscat de Rivesaltes – our stalwart dessert wine from the south of France!

Tea or Coffee will finish it all off with a Petit Four (or five) …

We are taking bookings now and request a £5 deposit per person to secure your places with a balance of £25 per person required on the night.

We 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.

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

Dinner: 8:00pm

Suggested Donation: £30 per person service not included

Menu

Risotto of Roasted Butternut Squash, Crumbled Goats Cheese & Toasted Cobnuts

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Magret of Barbary Duck with Plum Sauce, Gratin Dauphinoise, Haricots Vert.

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Hari’s Cheese Boards, Porridge Oat Biscuits, Homemade Chutney

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Apple Tart Tatin,  Creme Fraiche & Glass of Muscat de Rivesaltes

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Coffee or Tea, Petit Fours

Menu Subject to Market Purchases and Ingredient Availability 

Our next dinner event…

Well with only just less than a week left to book your places for our July Pop Up we thought we ought to explain a little bit more the thinking behind this dining event.

Back in late March just before it finished I joined up with chef Peter Pickering and a few other chefs for a lunch on the roof of Selfridges in London where we were to sample the WastED concept by Dan Barber where the menu highlighted foods that were wasted inspired.

From cod’s heads to kale trees, broccoli stems to reconstituted stale bread or juice bar pulp it was a feast made out of food that would have been wasted and was totally thought provoking.

So fast forward to now and our plans for the upcoming dinner. Hari & Peter are busy sourcing products of waste to put together a menu to delight the diners.  We have just 30 spaces and we need all these spaces sold to proceed as it is a mammoth task that will take a great deal of planning and creativity to excite you all.

We have plans for those cheese scraps in everyone’s fridges, overripe fruit that goes in that compost bin to even the whey from a local cheesemaker that gets fed to their pigs or is just flushed down the drain… If you are intrigued as to what we are going to be serving up just reserve those places as  soon as possible as without those reservations we cannot start making those commitments to the suppliers and put the final touches to the menu. It will be a veritable feast that will we are sure be a real equally thought provoking and hopefully get you all talking about food in a new light…

We might even have the odd bottle of HP Sauce to embellish it all and make it that bit more palatable… #justkidding

More details and Book Here

 

TWYard Sale…

Well this initiative by the  “Popes of TW” is a really simple and great idea. Nick & Ingrid saw something similar whilst on holiday in the US and thought it would translate well to the their local community in Tunbridge Wells.

The have tirelessly put together a simple website where an “X” marks the sellers pitches and allowed now some 100 plus to easily sign up and take part. They have both leaflet dropped the town and distributed some 10,000 of them to spread the word and now with just a few days to go there is much excitement and anticipation.

I felt I somehow had to take part in this and am pleased to say I will be joining up with a couple of pals on their pitch at TN1 1JP where I will rock up with my paella kit and cook a fresh big pan of the stuff and serve up to anyone who fancies a refuel whilst they browse the assorted sellers stalls.

The pan holds circa 40 portions so it will be very much a first come first served situation and all profits from the sales will be donated to local charities. I will even take payment with a credit card if you have used up all your cash on other sellers stalls so no excuses on not selling out.

Lets hope the weather stays fine and warm and this will become very much an annual community event for the town. Well done to Ingrid & Nick for such sterling work… now just form an orderly queue for your paellas!

Flaming June…cooking with fire

So we must be a bit mad in the height of summer moving our Pop Up concept to Rochester and the showroom of The Stove Hub where we will be converting their showroom space into a Pop Up space for two nights!

On June 16th & 17th we will be using their Charnwood wood fired stoves to demonstrate their cooking potential as well as cooking alfresco in the front of the showroom over our gas fired pans as they have no kitchen for us to cook with! We do so love a challenge.

We will have to rent in tables, chairs and crockery to set this dining space up so it will be a major undertaking but we think something a little different…

To kick the evening off we will welcome all with a complimentary drink and some simple seasonal nibbles – some of which will be cooked on the wood fired stove top!

The first course will be a simple salad that will be topped with a piece of marinated fish (that we will cook on top of the wood stove)
Next we will then serve up a dish cooked alfresco in our large paella pan… Moroccan Spiced Chicken will be married to some green olives and home preserved lemons and served with some minted cous cous and bowls of dressed salad leaves… All will be prepared before your very eyes to ensure it is all fresh tasting and in true pop up style with an element of theatre!

Next we will then serve our little individual cheeseboards with a selection of cheeses and our now infamous porridge oat biscuits.

To complete the meal we will then serve up a classic summer dessert of Eton Mess… homemade meringues with Kent strawberries and cream… a perfect summer pudding.

With the coffee we will then griddle some shortbread biscuits on top of the stoves and garnish with a dollop of homemade lemon curd and a fresh raspberry… a great way to finish what we think will be a truly unique event in a very “quirky venue”

Guests are invited to bring their own drinks to consume with their meal and we will provide glasses, ice buckets and water on the tables.

You can reserve your dining places via our ticketing site here

Dates: 16th & 17th June 2017

Where: The Stove Hub, 86 King Street, Rochester, Kent ME1 1YD

Time: 7:30pm Welcome Drink & Nibbles

Dinner: 8:00pm Prompt

Suggested Donation:  Early Bird Tickets before May 30th £30 person after this date -£40 per person (service not included)

Menu

Griddled Marinated Fish with Dressed Salad Leaves

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Moroccan Chicken, Green Olives, Preserved Lemons

Minted Cous Cous

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Hari’s Cheese Selection with Porridge Biscuits

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Eton Mess with local Kent Strawberries

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Coffee or Tea, Griddled Shortbread with Lemon Curd

Menu subject to market purchases and ingredient availabilty

May Madness… Pot Luck again

Following on from the success of our dinner events back in January with what we called “Pot Luck” we are going to repeat the format at our May 13th dinner that will take place at the Crowborough Community Centre in their Gallery Café.

It will be a seasonal menu that will kick off with a welcome glass and some simple nibbles and then we will serve up a three course menu that will also involve an element of theatre!!! You will only find out the menu on the night! We will however aim to cater for any dietary needs like Vegetarian/Gluten Free wherever we can and as long as requested when making the booking.

We are requesting a £10 per person reservation fee when you book and then on the night a minimum donation of £10 per person – however if you feel it was worth more then please feel free to leave more in the table envelopes (cash preferred)

As with all our events you are invited to bring your own wines/drinks to have with the meal and we will provide glasses, ice buckets and water on the tables.

We hope you will come and join us for this “Covert” dining experience… just look at some of the comments left in our guestbook from our last visit to this venue…

To book your places just head over to our ticketing site here

We look forward to welcoming you all to our Pot Luck again event that will be a little bit of May Madness…

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.