The Oxo restaurant: midweek meal

I have a strict rule of thumb since I’ve started cookery school; no late nights/drinking during the week. Since I am commuting from Oxfrd to London on a daily basis I can’t afford to get tired or turn up hungover while wielding a knife. But then again rules are made to be broken, and what a way to break my rule. Remember the amazing dinner at Le Manoir I blogged about a few weeks ago? Le me refresh your memory. 7 course tasting menu, fantastic conversation, caught up with Raymond Blanc?  Well when the same line up invited me out for dinner again at the OXO tower in London I wasn’t going to turn it  down. 

    
 I have been to the OXO tower once before, but not to eat. Since my sister moved to a London we’ve gone out of our way to find fun, quirky things to do in London together, preferably cheap, in order to spend time together (apparently my scintillating conversation isn’t enough….) one of our favourite things to do is a treasure hunt . We might both be suffering from Peter Pan syndrome but there is just something about walking around and discovering London (new for us Oxford-folks) through a series of cryptic clues sent to your phone. http://www.inthehiddencity.com/london-treasure-hunt/ I sound like I advertise for them, I don’t (I wish, maybe I should….please let me!! ) go anyway. One of our hunts we ended up on the top of the OXO tower. I can’t exaggerate the view enough. It is phenomenal. You can see the entire line the river, St Paul’s, the Shard, Buckingham palace, and guess what, it’s even better at night. 

  I arrived 15 minutes early and twiddled by thumbs at the bar. Normally I am never so impolite (although seriously- who really believes you should never be on time for a dinner party, clearly someone who has never cooked a dinner party) but storm Jonas was raging outside and I was cold. So consequently I stared at the view for 15 minutes. I probably could’ve stared at it for 30mins and it would’ve still been as mesmerising. I know we go to restaurants for the food, but actually for me (a major foodie) if the atmosphere isn’t there, the restaurant falls short. On the other hand, if the restaurant has amazing atmosphere I might forgive it a few food points. It might have been necessary here, but I can’t complain, I lucked out. I started with a melting salmon confit on a sweet potato pancake, beetroot and horseradish cream; other table dishes included the addictive salty langoustines with garlic butter and a platter of duck for two with Jerusalem artichokes and gingerbread. 

  Then. What a main course. I reluctantly agreed to share the Chateaubriand, just to help out a fellow foodie. It was cooked perfectly, a dark pink centre, complemented by melting buttered girrolle mushrooms and an intense beef jus. The Gruyere cheese mash was also something special. I apologise for not getting a photo, I was too busy savouring the meal. My only complaint would be that the carrots, while beautifully presented as whole baby carrots complete with tops, were hard as rocks, a little hard to eat. Unfortunately the Venison Wellington (shared by one set of father/son) fell short. Restaurants really ought say if they include such a dominant flavoured blue cheese in a dish. The beef fillet with cauliflower and walnut dressing promised a lot but seemed a little dull and small for its price. Again the vegetarian at the table commented that whilst ok, her butternut squash dish was nothing special, a shame when vegetarianism is being explored in such an exciting way at other restaurants currently. 

 Despite being rather full from the main, my pudding stomach was fairly excited by the array of desserts. So of course we decided to split a few. The Rhubarb mousse, gin sorbet and earl grey meringues boasted some impressive flavour in the meringues, less so with the sorbet (honourable mention to the octopus inspired presentation plate). The lemon meringue pie and cardamon ice cream melted in the mouth and the chocolate plate lived up to its reputation. It was rich (probably a good thing we were sharing) but the smoked white chocolate mousse alone was worth it. Finally a quick mention about the drinks. Well worth a try is the martini menu. A perfect martini should be ice cold, but not watery, biting and either salty or faintly sweet and the Oxo tower had something for everything on the spectrum. I enjoyed tantalisingly labelled 1953 or the Vesper (yes I do think I’m James Bond) gin, vodka and aromatised wine with a lemon twist, shaken not stirred. I could easily come back just for the view and another martini. The Atmosphere gets a 9 from me, the food a solid 7, the drinks push up to an 8 and the company is always a 10. 

Advertisements

Cookery school: a first glimpse

So it finally happened. I finally have begun training to professionally trade as a chef! I can only describe it as a mix of Masterchef and Saturday Kitchen. Mornings we cook recipes and are critiqued, afternoons we watch demonstrations and take notes in lectures. There’s homework, a lunchroom, uniform, parents evening…. Who’d have thought school the second time round would be so much fun?  You’ll be pleased to know that I indulged in a totally new set of stationary,labelled clearly and my locker is already as messy as it was in sixth form. Moren the experience later, because cookery school is exhausting (as is the 6am commute) so here is just a taster (gettit!!!!)

 

Mackeral with miso marinated soba noodles

  

Pan fried sea bass, clam pernod sauce, sauteed spinach

  

Pan fried Guinea Fowl, wild mushroom risotto

  

Eggs Benedict – 2nd hollandaise of the day, free form poached eggs

  

Bread, classic

 

Twas the Season: The Gingerbread house

I know this is a little late but as christmas is my favourite time of year I can be indulged into stretching out the festive season. I can come up with more excuses. Feel free to take your pick: I’ve been busy as cookery school has just started, I’m feeling grumpy because of the cold weather and I’m rebelling against the usual view of January as the month of abstinence. 

The Gingerbread house my friend and I made might just be the antithesis of abstinence. I believe we covered most of the major food groups: chocolate, toffees, marshmallows, sweets and of course plain old sugar. Even the centre of the house contained a hidden treat of all the sweets leftover, the windows were boiled sweets and the ‘snow’ was marshmallow frosting. Of course this wasn’t so much a cookery session but rather a challenge in architectural design. Using an adhesive icing, similar to the consistency of superglue we gingerly (excuse the pun), tried to join together pieces of gingerbread meticulously measured with rulers and templates – and still then we didn’t get them straight….. -. I’m not sure whether the icing had drunk some of the mulled wine we were enjoying as we put this together but it was definetly touch and go for a bit as we held it together whilst it dry. The chimney was definitely drunk.  However it was all worth it. Other than an excuse to dance around the kitchen to christmas music (hghlights included Buble’s album and ‘Christmas goes Baroque’) whilst consuming excessive amounts of sugar there was actually a more targeted purpose. 

Throwing myself into my short lived career as a babysitter this autumn wasn’t as smooth sailing as I hoped. Babysitting in sixth form had been a doddle. The children were generally old enough to practically take care/amuse themselves or they were asleep in bed and I watched tv. However, try amusing a 3 year old for the whole afternoon and you will begin to understand why nannying is so well paid. There is only a certain amount of ‘lets pretend’ game situations I can enact. So I decided to approach babysitting with ales son plan approach. We made cards, went to see the ducks and of course my personal favourite; cooking. Turns out the three year old is rather keen on it too. Plus she is excellent at washing up. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a three year old, standing on a chair in marigolds singing her own washing up song. So with Christmas approaching we embarked on our most ambitious at; the gingerbread house, along with her older sister. We baked it, she got bored and watched CBeebies while I cut it out and then we all decorated. Out it this way. Some sides were decorated by the 3 year old, some by the 11 year old and some by the 23 year old….but it stuck together and we were rather proud of our efforts are more than a little intoxicated by sugar. The next day I receive a text from the parents of said children asking for a photo. They explained that they had misunderstood the purpose of the house and eaten it… The 11 year old hadn’t spoken to them for a day. All in all I couldn’t have found a more deserving recipient of the house my friend and I made, the kids faces were probably what Christmas is all about. Can’t wait till next year now.