Former Bibendum chef, Simon Hopkinson holds something of a revered status among those who cook or like good food. His cookbooks, including Roast Chicken and Other Stories and Week in-Week Out are considered to be modern classics, that many (including me) regularly turn to again and again, because his recipes are delicious, so well written, so well judged, they almost never fail. That he retired from the professional kitchen in 1995 and I never got to eat his food will always be something of a regret.
Monday, 15 October 2012
The Square is not achingly hip or in any way the latest thing, having opened in 1991; 21 years ago, it’s almost approaching institution status. With two Michelin stars and Head chef Phil Howard having been integral in both the career of star protégé, Brett Graham and the founding of his restaurant, which many consider to be London’s best, The Ledbury (Howard is a partner) . To say there’s an aura of excellence surrounding the place would be something of a frigging understatement.
I was due to be back in London for a day last week and I was fishing around for lunch recommendations, I always try and squeeze in a meal somewhere nice, wherever I can and The Square was mentioned once again. A chef friend of mine described it as the best meal he’d had recently and that was that. I didn’t need telling again. Booked!
Seeing as it was also my Dad’s birthday, and the old man is notoriously difficult to buy for, I thought I’d take him along, by way of a present. Strictly set lunch only, mind. What do you think I am, made of money?
So, striding down Bruton Street on a brisk, yet bright October lunchtime, the old man and I arrived at The Square, for a bit of posh grub. I don’t think we’ve ever been to a good restaurant together, at least not just the two of us, and I was looking forward to this immensely.
Not that this actually bothered me one bit, I’m well used to dining situations like this by now.
My Dad, just retired from a lifetime of working in London, constructing every kind of building imaginable, but mainly exclusive high-end, luxury type pads is a fount of arcane building industry knowledge. I realised he was out to shock me.
“Errrr a couple of thousand, maybe? What is it, polished concrete, marble?”
…Taking a moment to appraise the exact dimensions of the wall with a professional eye…a dramatic pause, a casual intake of breath before delivering the good news…
“That’d cost you at least eight grand”.
The conversation then proceeded with a surprisingly amusing armourcoat based anecdote from a building job he’d worked on years ago. I looked around the elegant dining room again and thought it unlikely that anyone else had ever had the same discussion here. Ever.
Wednesday, 10 October 2012
At ‘The Basement’ supper club I run with ‘E’, we often serve simple granitas or ices as a pre-dessert course. They’re refreshing, act as a bit of palate cleanser and are a nice way of moving from savoury to sweeter flavours. They are also, as you’d expect from me, incredibly sophisticated and posh.
At our most recent supper we served a coffee and cream granita. The coffee part we pinched from Gordon Ramsay’s ‘Just Desserts’ (which is a frigging awesome book by the way), I thought it’d be nice to pour a splash of cream over it, just before serving. It’s bloody nice.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, it actually tastes a little bit like one of those iced coffees available from shitty high street chain coffee shops, but please don’t let that put you off. This is much more intense and über.
Here’s the recipe…
Coffee and Cream Granita
2 Cardamom pods
1 Strip orange zest
500ml Fresh espresso coffee, cooled
Double Cream to serve
Put the sugar and water in a saucepan over a low heat. Stir until dissolved. Add the cardamom and orange zest and boil for 3 mins.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 1 hour before discarding the cardamom pods and the orange zest.
Mix the coffee with the infused syrup and chill.
Once cold, pour into a shallow container and refrigerate for 2-3 hours until partially frozen. Every hour or so, give it a stir with a fork, scraping the frozen crystals into the liquid. After a few hours of this, it will have a nice icy granular texture and be ready to serve.
Spoon some into a glass, splash a bit of cream over.
Try not to suffer brain-freeze.