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)


  1. Ha you call yourself a foodie and you don’t know what “petit-pois millefeuille with Ibaiona ventreche, black radish vacherin and foie gras Mamia” is? HA!

    Er what is it?

    Great post Rej

  2. Great post Rej, and what a great night. Thanks again for being one of the chosen few. Funnily enough was just thinking I hadn’t heard from you for quite a while…check your blog and there’s an update.
    Hope everythings good with you and yours!

  3. “However, this just didn’t curry my goat”… ha ha! Sorry I’m going to steal that one!

    This seemed like a really fun evening. Really can’t get my head around rabbit Bolognese with cuttlefish tagliatelle. Neither did the people eating it from all that I have read about this dish. But the rest made up for it!

  4. Was the book originally written for the North American market? Because pitta is spelled pita over there and arugula and cilantro are used there too.

    All those desserts sound fab though!

  5. i agree with Su-lin, the books is probably targeted for a N. American market. damn those bleddy N. Americans! 🙂 he he I live there.

    sorry for the digression-love the write-up had been looking for it on your blog.

    you had some “unique” dishes it seems, but all in all looks like a gorgeous eve with the other foodies.

  6. gastrogeek

    Danny, Dan – cheers my dears.. Yes, been super busy with my secret projects!

    Grafoo – it really didn’t! Hope you can make the next one.

    Su-Lin/Shayma – yes, that was my exact point, it wouldn’t be a problem if I lived in America, but I don’t. It just always brings out the English teacher in me and reminds me of all the times I had to correct my Japanese students who’d been mis-taught…Desserts were gorgeous though!

  7. Cookbook analysis is spot on – bedroom versus kitchen reading! Love connecting with other foodies…something about being with a group with ‘inherent’ understanding!

  8. Mr Teaspoon

    I was given two cookbooks for my recent birthday. The first, The Fat Duck Cookbook, definitely falls into your “beautiful coffee table tomes” category. The second, Nose to Tail Eating, is trickier to categorise; I really want to cook from it but very few people I know share my zest for offal. Perhaps I will knock up a roast bone marrow and parsley salad for one!

    I had the rice pudding soufflé with raspberry ripple ice cream when I visited Launceston Place and it is a truly stunning dessert. I must go back soon.

    • gastrogeek

      thanks for dropping by, I’d be interested to hear whether or not you actually cook anything from The Fat Duck Cookbook! 🙂

  9. Lost

    Your evening sounded amazing. I have this book and you sum it up wonderfully. Mine has been traveling from by the side of the sofa to the kitchen table for the past couple weeks now, though I haven’t made anything from it yet. It is vast but whiles away the hours. Great post.

  10. Just found your site and love the way you write/see the world… the pitta world!

    Look forward to more….

  11. Very interesting your blog!

  12. Wow, what a marathon eating session! It sounds amazing. I adore raspberry ripple ice cream. You have reminded me to make some. The whole of the dessert platter does look stunning.

  13. *Still* gutted I couldn’t make this, and all for a job I left a few days later. GRRRRR! Love the book though, must set aside some time to go through it properly soon. Lovely post!

  14. Hi Gastrogeek,

    Lovely to find your blog, and thanks for following me on Twitter! Most impressive resume, and I am rather interested in learning more about your graduate studies, I will look it up at City Uni website.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

    • gastrogeek

      Hi again Luiz, sadly they have stopped doing that course at City. I’m so sorry about the civil partnership mix up by the way. I think you should blame young Rich for that.

  15. Wow, what an amazing foray into London’s finest this sounds! I love that you have smart cookbooks and scruffy ones too. Always nice to find a scrap of a food memory between the pages I think. Love the post.

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