Thursday, 3 January 2013

Most memorable meal of 2012 - Tom Kerridge at The Cube by Electrolux

I'm not sure if I believe in fate, but my most memorable meal of 2012 was certainly serendipitous.

Casually scrolling through my Twitter feed during a break on my last day at work before Christmas, my heart practically stopped beating when I suddenly spotted a tweet advertising tickets for a £50 charity dinner that same evening catered Tom Kerridge.

I'd fallen in love with Tom's food after celebrating my birthday at his two Michelin star restaurant The Hand and Flowers, and literally only days before had discussed with my boyfriend the need for a return trip, after watching Tom's magnanimous coaching of the Professional Masterchef joint-winners.

Given the opportunity I would have willingly paid for Tom to serve me a slice of marmite on toast, but on closer inspection this offer became so incredible that it was impossible to ignore. The tickets were for a seat at Electrolux's exclusive dining experience The Cube positioned on top of the Southbank's Royal Festival Hall, and included a six course tasting menu with wine pairings, plus a champagne and canapé reception, normally costing £215 per person.

Without pausing for breath I frantically phoned the number listed on the tweet, and couldn't believe it when I was told that there were still a couple of spaces available for me and my man. In fact, the evening was so wonderful that if it wasnt for the photographic evidence below I would still fear that I dreamt the whole event, Inception-style.

Arriving at The Cube that evening, we were stunned by how intimate it was - literally one long table with 18 seats, in the centre of a glass box. Of course, the transparent diner was made even more impressive by the panorama of London's most infamous landmarks surrounding us, lit up by the winter night's sky. Whilst my boyfriend took in the view, I hovered anxiously around the head of the table at the kitchen's pass, where the great chef himself was plating up canapés for his hungry guests. Tom was even more genial and jovial in person than he appears on TV, merrily chatting about his Christmas meal plans and willing to pause for photos with us all. Unsurprisingly, I chose the image of Tom and I together for Day #349 of #Project366, and it also features on my new iPad case!

Crunchy croquettes filled with lightly whipped potato and cheddar cheese, served on a truffle mayonnaise to accompany our generously-filled champagne flutes

Once all the guests had arrived and we had eaten an ample number of canapés, everyone sat down and Tom explained the menu. The Hand and Flowers doesn't offer a tasting menu, so the meals we were being served were a combination of popular dishes from the restaurant and other sharing plates that he had devised especially for The Cube, which he hoped would recreate the feeling of a family dinner. This is a concept I'm familiar with from attending various supperclubs, and it was even nicer that the nature of the ticket sales for this particular evening meant the other diners were all fellow foodies and bloggers - it was great to finally meet Nicky from Every Meal Matters after exchanging many tweets!

At the start of every course the waiting staff kindly explained the geography and tasting notes of the specific wine that had been selected to accompany each dish. My wine consumption has diminished significantly since moving in with someone who's tee-total, and I was already feeling slightly tipsy after knocking back enough champagne to summon up the Dutch courage to quiz Tom during the reception. So I must confess that I didn't pay a huge amount of attention to their descriptions of our drinks, but they certainly tasted delicious and even dry wines that I normally avoid worked perfectly with the richer foods. I still have the pairings list so please contact me if you're interested, and before you ask, no I didn't drink my boyfriend's wine samplings as well as my own...!

The first course was a vibrant pumpkin soup, brought to the table en croute in a vast tureen. The pastry lid was excavated and portioned out between us, and the soup was poured on top of a blue cheese and garlic butter which instantly melted and gave an extra nutty tone. Each bowl also had an individual portion of king oyster mushrooms, which I tried my hardest to like but still couldn't cope with their rubbery texture.

Next up was a crispy cube containing shredded meat from a pig's head, served on a layer of pancetta and Jerusalem artichoke puree, with a fantastically chewy stick of crackling. The rich meat jus combined perfectly with the creamy artichoke, and you can see from this Instagram photo how tender the crumbed cube's filling was!

The fish course was Tom's modern twist on the classic dish Sole Veronique, which had also proved popular with the latest intake of Masterchef contestants. A hake fillet had been cooked wrapped up in vine leaves and topped with a shallot and grape sauce, providing a delicate balance of flavours that I enjoyed but my boyfriend felt didn't have quite the impact of the rest of the menu.

In my view the main course showcased exactly why the Hand and Flowers is the first pub in the world to be awarded two Michelin stars. Each of us was given a hearty portion of lamb shoulder had been salt-baked for hours until it melted in the mouth...

...and was accompanied by boulangere potatoes, buttered Brussels tops, a sharp salsa verde and lashings of rich gravy...

Each component of this main course looked completely appetising when brought out to us, and yet the sharer serving style meant the finished dish wouldn't have felt out of place at the dinner table in your own home. When my family visited the Hand and Flowers previously we had been pleasantly surprised by the relaxed atmosphere, and I think Tom demonstrates how exceptional cooking can taste even better when some of the presentational affectations are removed.

Sadly there was no more space in our savoury stomaches for a second helping of lamb, but thankfully dessert was en route for some sweet relief. This was arguably the best creme brûlée we had ever tasted, yet again showing how something simple can be remarkably effective in the hands of a skilful chef. I've now been ordered to try and recreate in our little London flat using my Christmas gift of a blow torch, but I'm not hopeful!

Just when we thought we couldn't face even a "wafer thin mint", we were offered a bonus glass of my favourite Amaretto liqueur and a plate of gooey warm dark chocolate, hazelnut and seasalt cookies. Somehow I managed to squeeze in a few bites...or perhaps a few whole cookies...the alcohol had lessened my willpower by this point!

The combination of the spectacular setting and Tom's outstanding dishes made this meal unforgettable, and the ideal early Christmas present. This event really was a truly happy accident, which I feel very lucky to have stumbled upon!

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a really fabulous meal! I'm drooling!!!

    I was lucky enough to be invited to The Cube twice, when chefs Bosi and Rogan were cooking, and really enjoyed the experience. I liked the intimate setting and the views, but also the opportunity to watch the chefs, chat with them about what they were doing and even participate in plating up. Was fun!