What Lies Beneath

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you Skate On Ice…

Rock stars have an annoying habit of claiming that their latest hit ‘seemed to write itself’. Sadly the gap between true inspiration and completion is rarely so easily bridged in the real world, particularly the culinary one. Our new Skate On Ice starter is a rare exception to that rule. Some dishes have been in development in the restaurant allium test kitchen for several months now, as we tweak ideas and flavours and refine the techniques necessary to realise them. By contrast, this one really did write its own script.

Inspiration initially came from those quirky kinds of plateware used to deliver a two-tier dish to diners. Why not, we wondered, make the divide between top and bottom edible, something that could be broken with a satisfying tap of cutlery… not only as an interactive way to bring the two layers together but to also provide vital flavour and texture.

That logically led to the idea of making this surface barely opaque, in order to offer a tantalising glimpse of the food below. Practically, an edible ‘glass’ seemed appropriate for this, while conceptually such a device seemed to bring to mind the frozen surface of a pond or rockpool. And that in turn made us realise this really needed to be a fish dish. Ice? It just had to be skate. Sometimes corny wordplay is just too good to pass up.

Into our ‘ice’ notion went ground seaweed, to add a big flavour hit as well as visual excitement. And then under the ice a liquid sphere, alongside a cauliflower puree and some fragrant gnocchi ‘pebbles’. It’s easy to get carried away with the use of alginate spheres, but here it seemed to make perfect sense – giving us another element with an organic appearance, which would break and release a fragrant broth of mussel stock and miso into the bowl as the ice is broken.

Finally, back on dry land, some crab crumbs, salmon caviar, and microgreens to frame a piece of perfectly butter-poached salmon. We did, for a moment consider shore herbs, but with an astonishing umami hit already provided by the combination of fish, miso and seaweed, that really would have been overkill.

This entire thought process took all of 30 minutes, which immediately made us suspicious. Surely it couldn’t be that easy? And so we set about creating the dish, fully expecting some elements and flavours to fail. But no. The results massively exceeded our expectations, looking even more elegant than we could have imagined, and delivering an incredibly harmonious burst of flavours. We love it, and – despite worrying that some of our customers might find this one simply too challenging, are pleased to report it’s going down a storm front of house, too.

This one’s a keeper.

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