Cookbooks for me fall into two categories. There are the filthy ones, veritably Pollocked in grease and thumbprints with gossamer whispers of ancient garlic skin embedded in their very vertebrae. Lovingly frayed around the edges, these are the ones you want to cook from time and time again; or at least until they fall apart.
Then there are the beautiful coffee table tomes, the more pristine creatures you carry into the bedroom rather than the kitchen and lazily leaf through, inspired by the recipes but knowing deep down you’re not really ever going to traipse all over town looking for loquats and teal.
Coco manages to cleverly bridge that tricky gap between the two; it’s a handsome, meaty globe-spanning tome. It showcases the work of future chefs, chosen by the likes of Fergus Henderson, Alain Ducasse and Mario Batali. Alongside the requisite mmmm-inducing photography are recipes from these talented protégés; some of which I cannot wait to try (Skye Gyngell’s Carpaccio of salt cod with preserved lemon, chilli, capers and mixed cress for example). and some of which I know I will never, ever attempt (i.e. petit-pois millefeuille with Ibaiona ventreche, black radish vacherin and foie gras Mamia – whatever that is). Thankfully, it features a lot more of the former. There’s a section at the beginning on “world-leading masters” and a fantastic but sadly limited section at the back listing “classic dishes by master chefs” including Fergus Henderson’s roast bone marrow and parsley salad and Alain Ducasse’s Provencal garden vegetables simmered with truffle.
My only real criticism of the book is the use of terms like “arugula” or “cilantro” or spelling “pitta” with only one T. The measurements at least, are all in grams and tablespoons, and not cups. Other than that I found much to like about it.
So when Sauce PR contacted me to ask if I could let them know of five other food bloggers to come along on a gourmet jaunt around some of the featured restaurants I was delighted.
We kicked off the evening at the fantastically revamped House of St Barnabas in Soho. The canapés were by Lyndy Redding and included intensely flavoured pea, feta and mint tartlets and beef skewers with horseradish cream, parmesan haddock goujons with a caper aioli, tuna tataki with radish, apple and mustard, steak tartare served on a game chip and extra long cheese straws. All very tasty, apart from the cheese straws which were a little under-seasoned.
Then onto the minibus to Maze for the starter of Cornish red mullet, rabbit Bolognese, cuttlefish tagliatelle, squid paint and asparagus. I really wanted to love this dish. I’ve been to Maze before, the chefs table when it first opened was a groaning table of plenty and Jason Atherton is a very smart and likeable guy. However, this just didn’t curry my goat. I found the bunny ragu jarred rather aggressively with the seafood. We then went to Theo Randalls which was markedly different. The monkfish with prosciutto, artichokes, capers, parsley and charlotte potatoes was a gorgeous dish, well executed and deftly balanced.
Finally to Launceston Place for afters. I was particularly excited about this as I’ve been meaning to try their lunch menu for some time now. I was not disappointed, we were all fairly gobsmacked when presented with a stunning platter of desserts including a rice pudding soufflé with raspberry ripple ice cream, lavender cream with violets and raspberry, apple parfait with toffee and walnut, dark chocolate, iced milk crumble, set custard cream, caramel and praline, malt ice cream, apple tart with home made clotted cream and banana sticky toffee pudding with Guinness ice cream. All washed down with a 2004 Jurancon “Syphonie de Novembre” Domaine Cauhape, rich with the essence of peach, apricot and ripe Comice. A perfect end to a gastro-fabulous evening.
(Thanks to Jenny from Phaidon and Danielle and Laura from Sauce for organising)