With London Restaurant Festival underway, I was invited to review one of the star events: the Culinary Carnival, a series of chefs each offering up a menu for a day or two served in the prestigious Fortnum and Mason gallery restaurant. Our chef du jour was Daniel Galmiche, a French creative who has an impressive 22 years of Michelin star cheffing under his belt and now heads up the kitchen at the magnificent gastronomic destination, the Vineyard.
We were the first to arrive for supper and were seated at a quiet table in one corner of the dining room. After a busy day, I was grateful to be sitting somewhere quiet where we could chat and enjoy the surroundings. My last memory of Fortnum and Mason is from many years ago when I came with my best friend from school and her granddad... we had a delicious meal, of which a decadent praline milkshake was the highlight and then we went downstairs to the shop to each pick out our own mini box of chocolates from the glass cabinets, it was a dreamy day.
Galmiche had compiled a healthy but exciting menu; with five courses and lovely wine, it was a special meal... I was impressed to be given the choice of three options for each course (meat, fish, and vegetarian) especially considering the menu is only temporary for this event. First up we were brought eccentric looking glasses filled with intriguing pale green speckled foam: Cucumber Granite, Yoghurt and Lime Espuma, Marinated Salmon with Coriander Cress. It was a refreshing start but although the flavour was intense, the texture was disappointingly airy and wet - I prefer something I can sink my teeth into.
For my starter I chose the Pumpkin Veloute, St Maure Goats Cheese Espuma, and Pea Shoots. The dish was elegantly served in a thick rimmed white bowl, the warm thick orange liquid was smoothly poured around the frothy cheese and pea garnish already sitting in the bowl. The veloute was divinely comforting with wonderfully adjusted flavours but again I felt the ‘espuma’ (a Spanish word for foam or froth) was a tad unnecessary, I would have preferred a chunk of real rich goats cheese. My guest chose the plate of Autumn Game Terrine, Fig Chutney, and Toasted Farmhouse Bread... a large portion arrived but it was polished off without any complaints!
Mains were easily chosen: Organic Chicken Leg Stuffed with Pancetta, Braised Baby Gem Lettuce, Light Poultry Jus, Wild Mushrooms for me, and Pan-Fried Sea Bass, White Bean Ragout with Toulouse Sausage for him. My chicken was delicious, with a sublime stuffing and all cooked to perfection. The vegetables looked slightly unhappy draped over the meat however, the gem lettuce wilted and soggy and the mushrooms left in a heap. I thought perhaps a dish of steamed greens or creamy mashed potato would have worked better. I tasted a little of the sausage that accompanied the fish and loved the full bodied earthy flavour, the Sea Bass looked caramelised and enticing.
The puddings were the grandest of the courses yet, presented with bursts of sauce and dressing splattering the elegant long plates, in that typical Jackson Pollock style. My Orange Savarin with Citrus sorbet, Lime syrup and zesty cream was an interesting mix of fruity and creamy tastes, the cream complemented the savarin sponge cake well and the sorbet was an energizing palate freshener. My friend opted for the devilish Praline Cheesecake with poached pears and chocolate sorbet, a deliciously luxurious dessert.
Just when we thought it was all over, and we drained the final dregs of our wine, a lavish board of cheeses and fruit arrived. Elaborately stacked, it was difficult to know where to start; I also don’t know what cheeses we ate, but I most enjoyed the strong gooey camembert type which oozed from two teaspoons. Just as we were tucking in to the fennel and raison bread that accompanied our cheese, David Galmiche appeared visiting each table to ask how the meal had been. An endearing touch that made the whole evening much more personal.
Leaving Fortnum and Mason, it was a strange sight to see the frozen shop still and gloomy without the lights on. We tiptoed out into the busy Saturday night chaos of Piccadilly reminiscing about the special meal of culinary delights.
More information about London Restaurant Festival and Culinary Carnival here.