Saturday, 10 October 2009

Dinner with Gordon (c/o London Restaurant Festival)

That's me with Gordon Ramsay (I'm on the right), who I met tonight. It turns out volunteering for the London Restaurant Festival does have its perks.

A particularly wealthy chap (or chappess) had paid £23,000 at a charity auction to have dinner cooked by Gordon for him and nine pals (including James Blunt) as they were the sole riders of the London Eye. All the money is going to the Starlight Children's Foundation. Tonight was the second event in a series of seven meals on the Eye set up by the London Restaurant Festival.

It really is remarkable what doors a little wrist band can open"Why were you there then?" I hear you ask. Unfortunately I don't have mega rich friends, however, I was acting as a runner for the organisers.

My role was to do all manner of tasks but in particular tell the team from Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (three chefs including Executive Chef Mark Askew) how long until service for each course. Each course was eaten whilst the dinners did a full revolution of the Eye so the timing from kitchen to pod whilst it was briefly stopped at the bottom was crucial.

The evening didn't start too well as it took me ages to work out where I was supposed to be going. However, I eventually did and introduced myself to the Ops manager, Trev, I went through the barrier and I was in. (Trev was quite amused by the fact that I'm a chartered engineer and not in PR trying to get experience or network. This was to prove a common theme for the evening.)

The guests arrived at 8pm and had champagne in the Eye reception. Ramsay arrived soon after that and soon the left the kitchen for a round of media interviews, and to greet the guests. The kitchen was very quiet and controlled. There was an air or nervousness around the PR people and organisers, but nothing from the chefs. They just wanted to know when to cook so that the food would reach the guests in peak condition.

The starter was a lobster, langoustine and salmon ravioli, sauced with a heavily reduced lobster bisque and served with a tomato salsa: a signature dish. One diner was not having shellfish so had a foie gras terrine instead. The starter went off without a hitch, fortunately there were a couple left over. When Mark asked if anybody wanted one, I think I had said "yes" before the question had finished leaving his mouth. It was delicious (and there was no shell in the ravioli as there was in the one I had at Claridges earlier in the year). However, yet again I was left slightly underwhelmed by the lobster. It's an ingredient that's very subtle in flavour, I worry that my palette isn't good enough to fully enjoy it. Nevertheless the pasta was wafer thin and the mouthfeel of the ravioli was superb. Overall I know that I ate something very tasty, if not overly distinct in flavour. (Unfortunately I didn't think to take a picture until it was all gone. However, it was a working kitchen so I would have felt particularly circumspect taking photos of the food.)

It was at this point that the Ramsay circus returned and the calm and collected atmosphere changed. With the kitchen overrun with people there wasn't a lot of space left for the chefs to work. However, with Ramsay centre-stage the atmosphere was jovial. He opened some wine (and even I got a glass) and much banter started (most of which can't be repeated here).

The main was fillet of Aberdeen Angus with gratin dauphinoise, mushrooms á la crème, and spinach. This went off to the pod without a hitch. Although the PR girls were quite nervous that the beef was going "as it comes" (i.e. rare like beef should be). Yet again there were a few portions of beef left over, which Ramsay made into sandwiches for the two security guards. I hope I didn't look too gutted when I didn't get one. Ramsay was keen to point out that there wasn't any olive oil or butter in the mushrooms.

It was at this stage that I managed to get my photo taken with Ramsay before he left. He told me to eat the remaining beef as I needed "to put some meat on me".

Although the beef was well done by this stage it was still tasty and the dauphinoise was rich and creamy. Not bad for left-overs. There wasn't any cutlery left so I ate with a spoon and knife.

The kitchen returned to its previously calm state once Ramsay had left, especially since the dessert was cold and there wasn't much left to do.

Dessert was an apple trifle. The layers were:

crumbled sable biscuit
foam covering a finely chopped apple garnish
ginger cream
apple puree
vanilla cream
apple jelly

The remaining dessert which I got my mitts on wasn't garnished, but I can't grumble. It was a massive dessert. The apple flavour was very fresh and clear but the ginger cream was too thick (maybe even slightly cloying) and frankly didn't taste of ginger.

The dessert was served with what looked like spectacularly ripe cheese and coffee at the same time. The petite fours were impressive too - silver balls which looked like a Christmas table decoration (you can just see them at the left edge of the photo).

That was pretty much the end of the night. 10 diners (and me!) had a one off-meal (only the ravioli is a menu item) in a unique location.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails