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Our recent dinners... some thoughts

Spring has sprung…

Well we have just completed our fourth round of dinners and we have to say these have been our most successful yet.

Well how do we measure success? Satisfied customers could be one way but we hope all our customers leave satisfied and pleased by their experience.

Or are we a success because we served a large number of customers? Well on this occasion I guess we are doubly successful. Customers left happy and we filled every available space.

Just over two weeks before the dinners we had taken our final reservation. Both nights full, that is to say available tables and seating were being fully used.

For me though the most gratifying part of it all this was the fact that just four months ago we had no customers but just an idea and now we had a full house.

How have we achieved this? Well I guess firstly as one friend recently commented it is my (meaning Hari) most perfect restaurant. Namely I cook what I want and serve it to whom I want – well almost.

I certainly do get a kick from putting together a menu that I hope excites the diner. It’s a challenge to me to balance the dishes to ensure from a cooking point of view it is enough to keep me occupied but not so much that weeks before hand I am slaving and spending an inordinate number of hours cooking as much as I love it!!! It’s all a matter of balance.

For me though the biggest challenge has been how do we tell people about our restaurant? Friends and family have been informed but the biggest factor has been how to tell the wider public in an affordable cost effective way. The answer has been what is oft described as “viral Marketing” using the Internet and social media networks of Facebook and Twitter. Six months ago no fans on Facebook now some 30 plus and getting to nearly 100 followers on Twitter. These modern phenomenons are spreading the word and with just a little effort it spreads even more. Without it things would have been much harder.

I hope however the food and wines chosen are also a major factor in our success and this time we felt we got a menu balance right. We kicked the meal off with a little toast topped with some sautéed mushrooms that included some morels and cepes in a sherry cream sauce.

We then served a dish that holds fond memories for me… A pressed leek terrine garnished with saffron vinaigrette with crabmeat and a garnish of little balls of potato that had been poached in saffron infused water. These little balls had been cut using a Solferino cutter… a chefs piece of equipment that had caused much mirth and frustration as our last “what is it?” competition!!! The fond memory is a similar dish served by three star Michelin chef Pierre Koffmann who apparently is coming out of retirement to cook once again at the Berkeley Hotel London in the Boxwood Café – I can’t wait…

Main course was a roasted chump of lamb from Glovers Farm Longfield, simply roasted and rested and then simply served with a crumb laced with foraged wild garlic. This spring herb is an abundant and oft overlooked freebie that can often be found alongside old roman roads as was allegedly spread by the Romans on their travels. I once had a meal in Switzerland that used this item at every course… a salad with torn leaves, a soup of it and then a bowl of spaghetti with a wild garlic pesto dressing… I am glad to say they drew the line at wild garlic sorbet to finish!!!

We then moved onto some local cheeses…as promised the Winterdale Shaw from the top of Wrotham Hill, a Wealdway Goats log rolled in ash (not volcanic by the way) from Nut Knowle Farm Horam Sussex, a tangy Kentish Blue and a Sussex Camembert and then an impostor from across the channel a Tomme de Montagne. We served them on little individual wooden boards and with it gave some of our special oat biscuits. A batch of porridge has the addition of sea salt and Szechwan peppercorns and thinly spread onto parchment paper and baked till dry a crisp. Simple but very moreish.

The dessert was a cake but totally flourless one… it was a made with boiled fresh oranges and then these once chilled are blitzed in a food processor and then added to eggs sugar and ground almonds and chopped hazelnuts. It is baked and left to cool. I served it with a marmalade coulis and a vanilla scented cream. With it we served once again our Muscat de Rivesaltes. It is one of my favourite wines and is from a region of France that is diverse as its wines. Others from the region of Languedoc Roussillon include a Maury a red sweet fortified wine or a Banyuls a similar wine from around the villages of Banyuls, Collioure and Port-Vendres.

There was a real buzzy atmosphere in our restaurant and it was great to see our guests relaxed and obviously enjoying themselves… We are now planning the next three events so watch out for more details.

For the moment you can check out the photos here

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