A Sense of Taste

Tasting menus are a talking point for a whole range of reasons. For some customers they represent the ideal – turning a regular meal out into a special event. After all, a tasting menu provides an opportunity to enjoy a wide range of ingredients, flavours, textures and techniques in a way that could only usually be experienced by multiple visits to a restaurant. Best of all they achieve this without any of the risks of palate fatigue that come with the larger platings associated with a la carte. 

For the chef, tasting menus are a win-win scenario (unless you count the extra work involved, of course). Beyond the obvious fact that they afford a chance to showcase a wider range of skills and produce, they also make it possible to better control the supply chain. In comparison to the unpredictability of a la carte, there’s less wastage (and so greater freshness), more opportunities to adapt to the changing seasons, and an ability to construct a meal with a greater sense of flow and progression.

There is, of course, a downside or two. Not everybody wants all the bells and whistles, for one thing. Sometimes people simply want to be fed well and in a timely manner. Tasting menus also inevitably reduce or even eliminate choice for the diner. Not everybody wants to place themselves wholly in the hands of the chef. People have preferences. They like to choose.

With all this in mind, we’ve been working to develop a new approach to our menus. The aim is to offer an ideal middle ground, with a trio of multi-course menus that combine a customer-chosen backbone of starters, mains and desserts, with a series of chef-selected ‘inter-courses’ that link everything together. Changing on a seasonal, often even daily basis, these additional courses will be just as crucial to the overall meal as those primary elements… just as they would be in a more familiar tasting menu format.

We’re not reinventing the wheel here. It’s not something that hasn’t been tried before. But we’ve spent a good deal of time over the last few months (hence the lack of blog updates) developing something that gives will hopefully deliver the best of both worlds… for both the kitchen and our diners. In doing so it will also give us the freedom to push our style of cooking even further. To that end we’ve been hard at work tweaking a few old favourites, including Skate on Ice, Pork in Orchard and Beef on a Drystone Wall, as well as developing a good number of innovative new dishes equally inspired by our fantastic local produce and its natural environment.

The new tasting menus, dubbed allium5, allium8 and the allium12, are set to launch in the next few weeks. Watch this space for further details and a sneak peek at some of the exciting new dishes we’ll be offering. The evolution continues…

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Website Launch

At long last our brand spanking, sleek and minimal, Flash-powered new website is live. Visit us at restaurantallium.co.uk. We’ll be migrating the old alliumfood.co.uk address to the new design shortly. And, of course, getting back to blogging about our latest fun and games in the test kitchen…

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Webbed Wonder

Once again it’s time to ‘fess up about the lack of blog updates. Truth be told our out-of-kitchen efforts have been focused elsewhere  – specifically on the development of a brand new website for the restaurant.

Most restaurants are happy to outsource such things.  Given that Mark, our research and development chef and chief blogger, is also a publishing veteran with his own writing and design studio, digital jam, it only seemed natural to take a more hands-on approach. After much planning and building, we’re just putting the finishing touches to a shiny, new and streamlined site that better reflects the current state of play at our restaurant. Here’s a quick peek. Look out for the site launch soon.

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The Morel Of This Story

Either we’ve placed these mushrooms alongside an especially small apple, or these morels are crazily huge. While chef Nick’s foraging skills and knowledge of the local countryside are unmatched, he actually found these not-so-little beauties over at Great Farm, supplier of all our chickens and guinea fowl. More on those wonderful animals and farm owner Leonie McIntosh in a future post…

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A Royal Celebration

Jersey Royal, that is. No kitchen cleverness required to enjoy these Spring beauties. Boil or steam and simply pair with butter, a little seasoning, and – at a push – a few fresh herbs. A marriage made in heaven…

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Not Your Daily Grind

Aaand we’re back. Busy times in the restaurant kitchen, technical issues, and the dog eating our homework… all conspired to keep us offline for much longer than intended. Please accept our apologies for the interruption. Normal blogging service has been resumed… kicking off with a little bit of nitro-grinding.

Nitro-grinding – the process of chilling foods to super-low temperatures using liquid nitrogen, and then pulverising them with a food processor, pestle and mortar or other grinding device – provides a great way to create powders or coarser grains from ingredients that traditionally wouldn’t stand up to such extreme measures without substantial structural change.

Herbs and nuts are the most obvious candidates for nitro-grinding. The former can be turned into powders without turning to mush, the latter ground finely without releasing their oils. So, we figured, what about utilising nitro-grinding for a recipe that combines herbs AND nuts? The result is Nitro Pesto. All the flavour and aroma of the original, but with a noticeably fresher, cleaner taste, and a very pleasing texture.

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Good Will Hunting

The true story behind that over-used phrase ‘from nature to plate’ isn’t to everyone’s tastes, but it’s only when you take an active part in the sourcing of meat – and all that this entails – that you can fully appreciate its value. Making the most of the raw ingredient ceases to be an option. Instead it becomes a duty.

Above: Venison ham with compressed melon, cucumber sorbet, walnut puree, fir oil and microgreens.

Below: The months’ long process of hunting, cutting, curing and hanging, that leads to this final dish.

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