Monday, October 24, 2016

Wright Brothers Soho: From Sea to Plate

One of my favourite seafood restaurants in London to indulge in oysters, whelks, winkles and razor clams, Wright Brothers relaunched their Soho restaurant since our last visit, with a major redesign of the interiors by English designer Brady Williams, and introduced a new chef Sasha Diverts, who has given the shellfish emporium's classical seafood dishes a new Asian twist, such as Cornish Mussels with Panang Curry Sauce and Grilled Madagascan Tiger Prawns with Garlic Aioli. Thankfully, the menu still retains its emphasis on serving the highest quality seafood and extensive menu of raw dishes presented as pure and simple as possible, including classic fruits de mer, ceviche and tartare, alongside an extensive variety of oysters served ‘naked’ or ‘dressed’, sourced from their own Duchy Oyster Farm, as well as from Scotland, Ireland, France, the Channel Islands and Canada. Seated at Wright Brothers' opulent new Brady Williams red leather banquette, another design feature is the ‘oyster cage’, a unique private dining area with open kitchen, surrounded by an enormous structure modelled on the oyster cages that Wright Brothers use on their own oyster farm. A family business which started in 2002 selling oysters to many of the best restaurants in London, Wright Brothers now has four restaurants across London plus The Ferry Boat Inn on the Cornish Helford River which dates back to the 16th-century. Hopefully one day, with a dedicated perseverance, I will walk along the Helford River overlooking the beds of the Wright Brothers’ Duchy oyster farm and feast on the freshest fish and seafood straight from the boat — one has to dream.

The new private banquette at Wright Brothers Soho

The oversized candelabra on the stairs beside the banquette

Wright Brothers' stylish new Victorian townhouse conversion with soft leathers 
and ceiling pendants hanging like a fisherman’s catch

'The Cage' is Wright Brothers' unique new private dining area with enormous structure modelled on the oyster cages that the Wright Brothers use on their own Duchy oyster farm

Seafood Mosaic across from our table

Wright Brothers menu with the best seafood in London

Bamboo basket of fresh bread

Glass of Pinot Grigio

Platter of Whelks, Razor Clams and half dozen each of Morecambe Bay Oysters 
and Jersey Rocks from the Channel Islands

Grilled Whole John Dory

Avocado and Microgreen Salad with Asian Wonton Crisps

Light and flakey Asian crisps

Chargrilled Tiger Prawns

Green Beans, Baby Gem and Curly Kale with Shallot Butter

Crispy Squid with Fiery Sea Pepper
Serves 4-6 as starter
Recipe courtesy of Chef Sasha Ziverts, Wright Brothers Soho

2 1/2 lb fresh squid, cleaned; or 4 1/2 lb uncleaned
10 oz cornflour
1 oz Cornish Sea Salt Fiery Sea Pepper
1/3 oz Cornish Sea Salt
1 bunch coriander, picked and finely chopped
1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil for deep frying

Clean the squid by removing the head, innards, body tube and ink sac then remove the skin membrane. Cut the squid in half and then lengthways, into 1/3-inch wide pieces. Place the squid in a colander and rinse under cold running water for five minutes, then pat dry.

Place the cornflour in a bowl and add the squid, liberally coating them and leave for 30 minutes. Heat the oil in a large saucepan to 180°F. Shake off any excess cornflour. If the flour is really wet, re-coat with some new flour — the squid needs to be coated but not caked.

Test the temperature of the oil by dropping a piece of squid into the oil – if it bubbles and fries at an even rate you are good to go.

Deep-fry the squid in batches for 2 minutes until golden and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Season straight away with Cornish Fiery Sea Pepper and Sea Salt. This will ensure the seasoning will stick to the coating. Toss through with coriander and spring onions.

Serve with your favourite chilli sauce and lots of lemon wedges. Or, for a variation, add a small amount of chilli sauce to mayonnaise.

Friday, October 21, 2016

London's Borough Market & Fish! Seafood Restaurant

London's oldest and most famous food market, Borough Market is a gourmand's delight with a mouthwatering range of fresh food stalls under its Dickensian wrought-iron roof. Known in its heyday as London's Larder, the market has been a part of London's food culture since the 13th century and has existed at its current location since 1755 — there was even a market here in Southwark at the time of the Roman conquest in the 5th century. Located on Borough High Street, just south of Southwark Cathedral, on the southern end of London Bridge, the Market draws over 70 organic farmers, artisanal producers, world-class bakers, and gourmet food importers from all over the world, in addition to local favourites Neal's Yard, Monmouth Coffee, Mrs King's Melton Mowbray Pork Pies plus a fabulous selection of restaurants such as Wright Brothers Oyster & Porter House, Elliott's, and Iqbal Wahhab’s award-winning Roast in the stunning Floral Hall building overlooking the Market. With traditional British produce sitting alongside regional specialities from around the world, its riot of colourful produce and mouthwatering aromas of Jamaican curries to melted raclette on Poilâne bread, wandering through Borough Market is always a highlight of every trip to London.

Borough Market has existed at its current location since 1755

Fresh baked bread at 'Bread Ahead', a bakery and school which offers a range of baking and pastry skills courses for both amateurs and professionals

A wooden barrel of plump, sweet and juicy Cerignola olives — so delicious that we bought a small pot to take back to our suite at The Draycott 

Pungent wheels of Emmental and little pots of golden hued truffle honey

Shuckers from Richard Haward’s Oysters with heaping mound of Colchester Natives 

Enormous Black Tiger Prawns

Ready to eat — small tubs of Folkestone Whelks, Morecambe Bay Brown Shrimp 
and Poached Pink Shrimp

Massive pan of Seafood Paella at Furness Foods

Authentic Melton Mowbray Pork Pies from Mrs. King's in the heart of the market

Wrapped up and ready to take back to the Draycott to be portioned out as appetizers
with a bottle of white wine we brought back from Prague

Duck Confit served as a sandwich, wrap and served with sangria

Black Pudding Scotch Eggs from 'Scotchtails' which sells artisan scotch eggs at the market

Chef Patrick Williams serving Jamaican Chicken Curry from 'Soul Food'

Beautifully prepared baskets of exotic mushrooms from 'Turnips' which supplies 
some of London’s top restaurants

A spectacular selection of mushrooms from 'Turnips' including Black Trumpet, 
Chanterelle, Girolle and Pied Bleu

Restaurateur Tony Allan’s seafood restaurant, an impressive glass and steel pavilion 
resembling a giant fish tank

Starting life as an old 18th-century Victorian pea-shelling warehouse, celebrity restaurateur Tony Allan opened his first restaurant Fish! in Borough Market in 1999 and soon became a huge hit with businessmen to tourists alike, serving top quality, ‘posh’ fish and chips and fresh reliably sourced fish and shellfish delivered fresh each morning by Allan's long-established fishmonger, Jarvis of Kingston upon Thames. Recently redesigned and rebranded earlier this year, the restaurant’s impressive glass and steel pavilion resembles a giant fish tank with a large heated outdoor terrace open all year with gorgeous views of the market, Southwark Cathedral and The Shard. Executive Chef Nick Melmoth-Coombs has created an outstanding menu with everything from Whole Grilled Lobster, Dorset Dressed Crab and Steamed Scottish Langoustine, to Thai Fish Cakes with sweet chilli sauce, Organic Smoked Salmon, and of course Beer Battered Fish and Chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce. 

Fish! Restaurant's outdoor terrace in Borough Market overlooks Southwark Cathedral

Fish Restaurant's menu of fabulous fresh fish, seafood and of course their famous Fish & Chips

A cold glass of crisp 2015 Gavi di Gavi by Luigi Tacchino from Piedmont, a perfect match with fish

Dorset Rock Oysters with mignonette sauce

Organic smoked salmon fresh from Jarvis the Fishmonger at Borough Market

 Rope Grown Shetland Mussels Marinière with Cream

Grilled scallops with black pudding, bubble & squeak with red wine fish gravy

Southwark Cathedral has been the Borough Market neighbourhood's church since the 1200s

Interior of Southwark Cathedral, the oldest cathedral church building in London

Scallops with Bacon and Bubble & Squeak Cakes
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Tony Allan, owner of Fish Restaurant

12 hand-dived scallops
12 thinly cut dry-cured smokes bacon rashers
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste 

Bubble and squeak cakes:
1 lb leftover roast potatoes
1/2 lb leftover cooked greens, such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts or spring greens
A little semolina or flour, for dusting
2 tbsp vegetable oil

Red wine vinaigrette:
8 tbsp good-quality vegetable oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 small hard-boiled egg, shelled and chopped
2 tbsp capers, rinsed, drained and roughly chopped
2 cocktail gherkins, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped mixed tarragon, parsley and chervil
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Pat the scallops dry with kitchen paper, then remove the corals and set aside. To make the bubble and squeak cakes, finely chop the scallop corals and put them in a bowl with the roast potatoes and greens. Mash with a fork until the mixture begins to hold together and then season well to taste. Divide the mixture into four and shape into cakes. Dust lightly with semolina or flour and chill for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette, by whisking the vegetable oil and red wine vinegar together. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and season with salt and pepper. Set aside until ready to use.

Wrap a bacon rasher around the edge of each scallop and secure with a cocktail stick, then set aside. Heat a frying pan, add the vegetable oil and fry the bubble and squeak cakes for about 5 minutes on each side, until golden and crisp. Keep warm until ready to serve. Heat a ridged griddle pan until hot, put the bacon-wrapped scallops in it and cook until the bacon is golden all over, rolling the scallops over with tongs to colour it evenly. Then lay the scallops flat and cook for one minute on each side. Put the bubble and squeak on 4 serving plates and arrange the scallops on top. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Theo Randall Italian Cuisine at The Intercontinental

One of London’s best Italian restaurants, Theo Randall is also one of the most famous chefs in England. Inspired by the trattorias and wood-fired pizzas of his childhood trips to Italy, Randall developed a life-long passion for Italian regional cuisine. Randall's restaurant career began at Chez Max in London, where he trained in classical cuisine for four years, then moved to California to work at Chez Panisse under chef Alice Waters for a year, upon which he returned to the UK and spent the next 17 years as head chef at London's celebrated River Café where he gained his first Michelin star - and also trained a young Jamie Oliver. During that time, Randall was credited with creating many of the restaurant's celebrated dishes and made The River Café an establishment that "changed Britain’s restaurant culture for good". Always wanting to open his own restaurant, Randall left when a space became available at The Intercontinental Hotel on Park Lane. Opened in 2007 as part of a £60 million refurbishment of the hotel, his eponymous restaurant celebrated its 10th anniversary this year with a refreshed sleek modern light wood aesthetic, including a ‘kitchen table’ and updated menu to complement Randall's signature dishes. 

The chef is a master of selecting the finest ingredients at the peak of in-season freshness and showcasing them in simple assemblies that transmit the essence of Italian cooking where an appreciation of ingredients can transform a simple pasta course into something sensational. Authentic pasta dishes such as Taglierini al Piscatore and Agnolotti di Piccione are made fresh every day using Italian tipo 00 flour and eggs sourced from Genoa, where the chickens are fed a diet of carrot and corn resulting in a stronger coloured yolk and a pasta of rich yellow. As we browsed the menu, a platter of picture-perfect bruschetta with vibrant red roasted Campania tomatoes and warm squishy rosemary focaccia were brought to the table, and without a doubt the best I've ever enjoyed. The Sformato di Fontina, a baked Fontina cheese soufflé with spinach, cream and Parmigiana, was light as air and absolutely heavenly. Having received Theo Randall's cookbook as gift earlier in the year, it provided the impetus to savour his cooking first hand, and we were so very glad we did.

Chef Theo Randall

The modern bar at Theo Randall

In keeping with the Theo Randall colour scheme, a chartreuse candle on our table at the bar

A bowl of juicy ripe Cerignola olives and salted almonds

Our bartender mixing our Martinis

Ketel One Vodka Martini with a Cerignola olive

Hendricks Martini with a slice of cucumber 

The stylish new modern interior of Theo Randall at The Intercontinental

A linen napkin set with the TR logo

The dinner menu featuring classic Italian cuisine

Grilled oven roasted Tomato Bruschetta and warm squishy Rosemary Focaccia

A Vigneti di Belisario Verdicchio di Materica from Le Marche

Soft and full with a golden hue, the Verdicchio was delicious

Sformato di Fontina, a baked Fontina cheese soufflé with spinach, cream and Parmesan

Minestrone verde with fresh borlotti beans, carrots, celery, basil, tomato and swiss chard 

Pojer e Sandri Rosso Faye Vigneti delle Dolomiti from the Trentino-Alto Adige

An elegant Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Ligroin blend 
with notes of blackcurrant and ripe fruit 

Controfiletto di Manzo: Chargrilled sirloin of Hereford beef with fritto mist of delicata squash, zucchini, violet and Jerusalem artichokes with fresh red chilli and parsley 

Chef Theo in the kitchen

Handmade Taglierini al Pescatore with monkfish, trout, squid, prawns, clams, mussels, 
tomato, fresh chillies and parsley

A cup of Darjeeling Tea

Theo Randall's signature Almonds, Pistachio and Hazelnut Biscotti and 
Chocolate Truffles

A Birthday gift from my husband, Theo Randall's 'My Simple Italian' cookbook was the impetus we needed to go to his restaurant while we were in London

Minestrone Primavera
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Chef Theo Randall

5 1/2 oz asparagus, chopped
3 1/2 oz shelled fresh peas
3 1/2 oz shelled fresh small broad beans
5 1/2 oz fine green beans, chopped
extra virgin olive oil
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1/4 head celery, finely chopped
7 oz waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm/½in cubes
18 fl oz fresh chicken or vegetable stock
2 fl oz double cream, optional
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3/4 oz fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, finely chopped, crushed with a little salt
2 fl oz olive oil
2 tbsp pine nuts
4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese 

For the minestrone primavera, blanch the asparagus, peas, broad beans and green beans in a pan of boiling salted water for a few minutes until cooked but with a crunch. Drain and set aside on a tray. Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a saucepan, add the spring onions, celery and potatoes and fry for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally. Pour in the chicken or vegetable stock, then add the blanched vegetables. Stir in the double cream if using, and season with salt and pepper. Blend with a hand blender, but leave it chunky. For the pesto, place all the ingredients into a food processor with a tablespoon of water and blend to make a smooth pesto. Serve the minestrone in bowls with a drizzle of fresh pesto on top.

Ravioli with Butternut Squash, Marjoram, Sage and Butter
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy of Theo Randall

4 large eggs
150g of 00 flour
50g of fine semolina, plus extra for dusting

Ravioli filling:
1 small butternut squash
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 tbsp of fresh marjoram, chopped
125g of unsalted butter
1/4 nutmeg, grated
100g of mascarpone
salt and pepper

1 bunch of sage, roughly chopped
100g of Gorgonzola dolce latte

For the pasta dough, add 3 egg yolks and 1 whole egg to a blender with the semolina and flour. Gradually pulse the mixture until it forms a smooth, firm dough ball that is slightly sticky to the touch. If the dough is a little bit wet, add a little more flour. Split the dough into 2 portions, wrap in cling film and store in the fridge to chill.

Meanwhile, make the ravioli filling. Peel and de-seed the butternut squash, then cut into a small dice and add to a pan of salted boiling water until cooked through. Once ready, drain and set aside in a colander to cool.

Heat half of the butter in a pan until foaming, then add the garlic. Cook until soft, then add the butternut squash and chopped marjoram. Cook for about 10 minutes, gently mashing the butternut squash with a wooden spoon as it cooks. The mixture should dry out as the liquid evaporates; at this point, add the nutmeg, mascarpone and salt and pepper, stir well and leave to cool.

Remove the pasta from the fridge at least 1 hour before rolling out. Use a pasta machine to roll the pasta out as thinly as possible, ensuring the sheet is no larger than 12cm x 60 cm in size.

Place a heaped teaspoon of filling down the length of one side of the pasta, making sure there is enough pasta to fold over the mixture to seal the ravioli and leaving a 1-inch gap around each portion. Brush some water between the piles of filling to help the pasta seal, then fold the length of the pasta over the filling to meet the other edge. Using your 2 little fingers, gently press down the pasta around each ball of mixture to make a seal. Ensure there is no air trapped in the ravioli, or they will explode. Using a ravioli cutter or knife, cut out the ravioli and press each individual raviolo so the seal is tight and all the air has been pressed out. Set aside and repeat the process with the other ball of dough.

 Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add the ravioli, cook for 3-5 minutes until al dente. Meanwhile, melt the rest of the butter in a frying pan until lightly browned. Add the sage and Gorgonzola and stir though to form the sauce. Drain the ravioli, add to the pan of sauce and toss to coat. Divide the ravioli and sauce onto plates and serve immediately