This is my first My Week in Food for ages. It’s a short one but prompted by the realisation that I cook far more than I post on the recipe section of the website and I have tips and ideas that I’d like to pass on. This post is really a teaser, more of a long weekend than a week but I’m in the mood to put myself under starters orders again. So, normal service is about to be resumed.
Earlier this week I had a series of messages from my dear friend Jeremy Lee, chef proprietor of Quo Vadis, the grande old dame of Soho’s Dean Street. Like so many other restaurants, particularly top-end ones, QV has decided to offer a restaurant at home service. This translates as a short menu of dishes that are either completely prepared or just need to be finished in the oven or over direct heat. Nothing too demanding, no chef skills required. J asked if I’d try everything on the short festive menu and report back with the honest truth about the experience. Naturally, I said yes. Yippee yes. It will be arriving on Friday I was told. The last time I visited QV, was in August for a grouse dinner with friends, dining pandemic al fresco style at a ‘terrace’ of tables in the road. It wasn’t the greatest occasion but one of my suggestions was to dress the tables, upgrade the mood with tablecloths adding a bit more glam in the style of this gracious restaurant. So, when I was asked to test run the QV restaurant at home, I was delighted and extra chuffed to find a beautiful illustrated paper tablecloth at the bottom of the big white box delivered to my door by a friendly masked driver. Opening the box was a delight; brown card boxes stacked and sealed with stickers illustrated with one of John Broadley’s (www.john-broadley.co.uk) distinctive illustrations. I decided we would share all the food, making two meals for two instead of one meal for two. We kicked off with one of my favourite QV snacks; two salsify with Parmesan wrapped in fresh pasta (baked at 200C for 10 minutes), the pasta crisp and golden, eaten with a generous dusting of very fresh finely grated Parmesan. I cut them into bite-size pieces, making it easy to eat as we milled around the kitchen. This was wolfed down with a glass of champagne (www.leaandsandeman.co.uk) followed by thick D-slices of cured salmon with pickled cucumber and a mustard and dill cream. My, it was good. The salmon, soft and melt on the tongue, the cucumber juicy and sweet, the dill singing through the cream; a perfect combination and very good with a glass of champagne. We shared turkey and bacon pie with its egg washed pastry that glistened when brown and golden (200C for 20 minutes) giving onto a generously stuffed filling with carrots and plenty of gravy (a tad thin if I were to be picky, but richly flavoured). We had mash (added to a little milk in a pan; I added butter and cream) and sprouting broccoli (an either or) boiled from scratch. The Barrister dug deeply into his wine stash and came up with a bottle of 2017 Lirac, Domaine Maby, a smooth mix of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. Our meal was complete with a shared St Emilion au Chocolate – I divided it equally on separate plates, knowing I wouldn’t get a look in if we shared it in the white china pot it arrived in. With crème fraiche alongside, this was heaven indeed. Tip: this is not a pud to share. This meal gets top marks and is possibly the best restaurant at home meal we’ve had (that includes River Café, Orasay, The Garrick, Indian Zing and humungous crabs from Oystermen Seafood Bar and Kitchen, which have all been superb).
Lunch is another feast courtesy of the Quo Vadis at Home Festive Menu, Lockdown 2, 2020; three courses for one, shared between The B and I. We kick off with goose and pork rillettes, a generous, deep ramekin filled to the brim and sealed with a thin layer of fat. We smear it on hot toast (2 thick slices of sourdough provided) and try to eke out the pickled figs and cornichons although I have extra cornichons at the ready. Delicious though it was, I found it under seasoned and flavours more delicate than I would have expected (I buy the most wonderful goose rillettes from www.bayley-sage.co.uk, and love its strong flavour). The main course was winter vegetable cannelloni, Parmesan and herbs. Now that doesn’t sound particularly enticing but reader, I can assure you that QV has nailed the vegetarian option. It arrives (like the pie) in a highly desirable white china pie/gratin dish, two plump cannelloni awaiting a pot of cream poured over the top. After 15 minutes in a hot oven (200C), the pasta is golden and in my case blistered with some of the grated Parmesan that comes with it (we weren’t told to do that). It is served with chopped parsley and Parmesan and oozes with soft, delicious gooeyness; spinach, turnip tops, Cavolo Nero, pumpkin, Parmesan, ricotta, herbs and olive oil. Bravo! It is fantastic; in fact I almost prefer it to the pie. The second pudding, which we share for lunch, is almond tart with berries, custard and cream. Wow! Another excellent pudding. The tart is rather like Bakewell tart but without the jam, so ground almonds, eggs and sugar. The berries had been turned into a molten, just-set smooth red/blackcurrant coloured goo; a slightly tart, very berry-fruity foil to the sweet tart, delicious with custard and cream to pour over the top. All this wonderful food costs £95 for two and there is the option to keep the china dishes or take them into QV in exchange for a Negroni. It’s a hard call. Delivery is about to go nationwide, quite how that will work I am not sure but delivery is extra. There is also a range of booze available too. Read all about it on: https://quovadis.bignight.app/.
During Thursday, when I still wasn’t certain that the QV delivery would materialize, I marinaded chicken with prunes, green olives, garlic, wine vinegar, olive oil and capers with Chicken Marbella in mind. This is an extraordinarily wonderful dish to know about. It’s simple to prepare, requires no chopping and fussing and then cooks in a single layer in the oven with a splash of wine. Served with a garnish of chopped flat leaf parsley or coriander, it looks wonderful, tastes unusual and interesting and leftovers are very good cold. I’m ashamed to admit that we ate it greedily in front of the fire, tucking in as if we hadn’t eaten well for days. I served it with jacket potatoes. Tomorrow, The B and I have decided to have a proper Sunday lunch; roast pork with crackling, apple sauce, roast potatoes, sprouts and gravy. Read all about it when I properly resume My Week in Food 22 Nov 20.