Chris Galvin, Private Dining by Galvin – “London has such a thrilling restaurant scene, one that really rivals New York with outstanding cuisine, somewhere I took much inspiration from when I worked there back in the 1980s. I used to think that we would never come close to that food mecca. But I now feel that same excitement right here in London; there is a sense of electricity, vibrancy and passion, one that is spreading at an unstoppable pace. It’s a foodie’s nirvana, one I am proud to be a part of.”
It would seem that London’s vibrant, growing restaurant scene is definitely on the up and getting a table at top restaurants can prove pretty impossible. So when an invitation arrived to spend an entire Friday afternoon touring some of the best restaurants around London’s square mile, tasting Michelin standard dishes as well as learning a few cooking techniques, I jumped at the chance of this unique opportunity. Who wouldn’t like to learn a thing or two about preparing the perfect tuna tartare, slicing a Peking duck and cooking the perfect steak? Oh yes, and trying one or two cocktails from one of London’s best viewpoints, The Gherkin. Heaven! All this was made possible by Ten Group, whose personalised lifestyle concierge service brings truly unique experiences to life (their ability to get you into places others can’t is second to none).
First Stop – Angler Restaurant, South Place Hotel
Angler is South Place’s Michelin-starred seafood restaurant on the top floor, where Executive Chef Tony Fleming’s menus offer a unique take on British seafood paired with the best seasonal and local produce. We were in the semi-private dining area known as the Chef’s View. A real bird’s eye view of the kitchen, which is always fascinating. We were shown the art of mixing the ultimate tuna tartare with yellow fin tuna, apples, pickled and root ginger, red chilli, lime and salt.
The art was in the dressing of ginger syrup and oils. My display wasn’t quite Michelin presentation but it did the trick. Sadly, we had to leave all too soon but I am definitely coming back with high summer around the corner to sit on their terrace. With great views across London and delicious surroundings, this is great food not to be missed.
Angler Restaurant, South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, London EC2M 2AF – www.anglerrestaurant.com
Second Stop – Galvin La Chapelle
This has got to be one of London’s most historic and unique locations. Situated in a Grade II Victorian school chapel with high-vaulted ceilings, this is no ordinary school dinner! This extraordinary experience came courtesy of London’s top Michelin-starred brothers, Chris and Jeff Galvin. We met Chris, who told us that his grandmother was probably the instigator of his passion for ethically and traditionally sourced food, which began with her amazing fruit and vegetable garden.
A mix of French technique mixed with English ingredients such as fresh mackerel and rich marrow is definitely not dull. We tried their signature fish dish with shallots, Champagne and Noilly Prat, washed down with three types of Laurent Perrier. Delish! Then it was back on the Luxury Mini Bus – we were all getting the hang of this quite nicely and there was certainly enthusiasm for our next experience.
Galvin La Chapelle, 35 Spital Square, London E1 6DY – www.galvinrestaurants.com
Third Stop – HKK
Described as a banquet-style, modern Cantonese menu for sophisticated foodies in the heart of the city, this one certainly didn’t disappoint. The décor is very sophisticated and the food looked utterly delicious as it passed in front of us. As part of the Chinese New Year of the Goat, we were given a bespoke cocktail called Yang Walker made with Johnny Walker Black Label, Ume Shu (plum sake) and Baijiu, a unique Chinese spirit made from wheat, which the Chinese traditionally consume with their meal during the festive season to bring prosperity and good fortune. Delicious. This was followed by a dim sum trilogy – goji berry and prawn dumpling, chicken and truffle dumpling, and king crab puff.
Armed with what looked like a small machete, we were shown how to carve the cherry-wood roasted Peking duck – HKK’s signature dish. It was marinated with Chinese five spice and red wine vinegar, then hung to dry for 16 hours and cooked for nearly an hour and a half over cherry wood in their custom-made glass oven. The duck melted in our mouths and was no ordinary Peking duck, believe me! Matched in heaven with their 2013 Pinot Noir from Pfalz, Germany; a wine produced exclusively for Hakkasan.
HKK London, 88 Worship Street, Broadgate Quarter, London EC2A 2BE – www.hkklondon.com
Fourth Stop – Hawksmoor
From Asian duck to British beef, this was a lesson on how to cook the perfect steak, which I was certainly looking forward to. Hawksmoor is reputably one of the best steak restaurants in London and after sampling every type of steak you can imagine, I certainly agree. The art of cooking a great steak, said the Head Chef in the kitchens, is done in several stages. Firstly, buy good meat. Secondly, buy big, as a good tasting char is only possible with a thick piece. Thirdly, when you take the meat out of the fridge, pat it dry. Fourthly, make sure your barbeque or pan is very hot. Finally, don’t use any oil as the heat should stop the meat sticking. Flip it every couple of minutes until it’s cooked to your liking, then rest for 5 to 10 minutes. The proof was in the eating, as they say! Delicious.
Next time I am there, I am going to try their Power Breakfast – although when I have no appointments! Hawksmoor has crammed in as many bits of animal as possible into its sharing breakfast: pig’s trotter in baked beans and short-rib in the bubble and squeak to go with mammoth-sized bone marrow and smoked bacon chop, black pudding and sausages (from pork, beef and mutton). Vegetarians, stay away – this is meat-worshipping at the highest level.
Hawksmoor Guidhall, 10 Basinghall Street, London EC2V 5BQ – www.thehawksmoor.com
Final Stop – Searcys The Gherkin
As the afternoon was drawing to a close, I must say my appetite was flaying and I needed reviving! Arriving on top of the world at Searcys The Gherkin, looking out at one of London’s most majestic views certainly is inspirational and revives you in seconds, with the city spread in all its glory just as the sun was setting. Occupying the top three floors, Searcys The Gherkin is home to London’s highest private members’ club, with an exclusive lounge, restaurant and bar with private dining rooms, the finest menus and the best 360° views over the City (I am told, however, this may be changing and the rules on private membership may be less strict).
We were given three childhood treats, which I must say sent me to heaven and back again. As a welcome, we were firstly offered a unique take on afternoon tea and ice-cream lollies. Beefeater gin infused with pomegranate tea was mixed with tonic water crafted with citruses, spices and flowers and then served in a smoking iron-casted teapot with dry ice. The ice-cream was made whipped in a kitchen aid with dry ice, which makes it a silky smooth, albeit very cold ice-cream. The cone was made with bric pastry dusted with granulated sugar. This was served alongside mint, sour apple, strawberry and bubblegum syrup pipettes, vanilla and cinnamon aroma bottles, popping candy, coconut crumble and 64% manjari dust.
Carrot and beetroot lollipops were made with fresh juices and sherbet using various sugars, citric acid and lemon zest. The fizz reminded me of my childhood with Barretts sherbet lemons. Served on a bed of moss with dry ice underneath, the hot beetroot juice gave a fog effect as well as releasing some of the aroma to enhance the flavour of the lollipops. Goody gum drops, I say!
Searcys The Gherkin, 30 St Mary Axe, London EC3A 8EP – www.searcys.co.uk
To complete this fantastic day, I swear there’s no better way to enjoy the sunset and views at this unique spot than with one the Gherkin’s own cocktails – vanilla-infused Absolut vodka with homemade cinnamon syrup, biodynamic Poiré Authentic cidre by Eric Bordelet and a rim coated with cocoa butter and popping candy.
The whole day consisted of picture-perfect moments of aromas, unique tastes and fine dining, all within a short distance. As Chris Galvin says, “London is a foodie’s nirvana, one that I am proud to be a part of.” I am proud to be part of it, too.