Thursday, 9 October 2014

Wormwood Restaurant

Without wanting to sound too gushy, this place is a real 'find'. One you should have on your radar for sure. From a design point of view, it won't blow you away. It's simple without fancy table linen and plump upholstery; but the food and service are where it's at.

From the front of house team - lead by Christophe Cavaille, a mean cocktail mixologist and a man passionate about organic & biodynamic wines, hence their impressive cocktail and wine list - to the kitchen, led by Rabah Ourrad, a seriously accomplished chef - it was faultless, from start to finish.

Every box was ticked on our visit, from the personable way they looked after us and the superb wine recommendations; to the stunning dishes that galvanise the senses - every mouthful making a lasting impression. This food has been so carefully thought out and produced with such passion and finesse, that it surely won't be long before the Michelin man comes knocking.

Dishes are small and designed for sharing, although that's a tough call once you get started, so be prepared. Divide the portions equally or run the risk of squabbling over how many mouthfuls you each have. There's a strong urge to scrape the plate clean, something that I was taught you never, ever did when you were 'dining out'! Scraped or not, I can't imagine plates returning to Rabah's kitchen with any signs of remains.

Wormwood has already been reviewed and given the thumbs up by several highly regarded food critics; and when one of those is Fay Maschler, you're chuffed to bits. I'd put a lot of that down not only to the skill and passion applied here, but by their humble approach and attitude. This place is not pretentious and ponsey - which when you come from a Michelin star background as both Christophe and Rabah have, could be an easy mistake to make - it's genuine and enticing for all the right reasons. 

This humble chef, (they're not always easy to come by) clearly injects real emotion into his cooking, combining Moroccan, Spanish and French styles and flavours, and spends time talking to his customers, explaining his dishes in such a gentle, engaging way, you find yourself mesmerised. And a manager whose love of wine and spirits is so transparent that you sit back, relax and just leave the choices for him to make on your behalf. I gave him a guideline on price and he went way under it. I like that. It taints the experience if you feel your trust has been abused.

This kind of dining is effortless. Hand yourself over to Chris and Rabah and they'll take you on a gastronomic journey that you'll never forget.

Notes on the food:

The portions aren't generous, but they are priced accordingly. The idea is to order 2 to 3 plates each and share, which is what we did. Perfect if you want to experience lots of different flavours and textures.  

What stood out: Everything stood out in its own way but these dishes in particular....

Bavette D’Aloyau  
Grain fed beef bavette, pomme fondante, roasted onions & béarnaise.  

When the quality of the beef is this good, the least expensive cut can taste like the finest, which this did. It was tender and succulent, oozing those meaty flavours that you crave from a good steak.

Wild Sea Bass    
Green peas, new potatoes, bacon & romaine lettuce. 

Sea Bass never disappoints if cooked well, and this dish, although a fairly obvious marriage of ingredients, was uncomplicated and packed with honest flavours and lovely textures.

Pulled Pork                                                                        
Baby spinach, spinach velouté, sunflower seeds & black olive crumbs.

The pork was unctuous and moorish, piled prettily on top of the spinach velouté with a hat of spinach leaves and olive crumbs. The whole thing looked so delicate and structured, it almost felt wrong to eat it!

We finished off with a Beetroot and Cherry Soufflé - it sounded so original, you couldn't ignore it. What it lacked in looks and vibrancy, it made up for in flavours - the cherries providing the sweetness and the beetroot adding balance with its earthy tones. The texture....well as light as Soufflé should be and the final Touché from Rabah, finally, a master in his own kitchen.

16 All Saints Road,
London W11 1HH

Monday, 17 March 2014

15 Minute Meals - Recipe 2

It's a struggle to find the time to cook new recipes these days, let alone blog! But, cooking and writing are two of my favourite things so I do make the time for the them.  I'm not that special at either, but you know what, that's not going to stop me! So, here's my 15 minute meal number 2 - an idea inspired by a Sainsbury's recipe card and a cracking little dish for all the family. 

I say 15 minutes, but that's once you're familiar with doing it and then you've got to add 10/15 minutes cooking time on realistically. Still quick and easy though and if you want to eliminate the bacon to keep the calories down, the flavour will still be great.

Spaghetti tossed in a Pea & Mint Pesto

with spring onions, bacon and poached egg.

Serves 4What you need:

  • Food Processor
  • Saucepan for spaghetti
  • Frying pan

  • 300g spaghetti
  • 200g baby spinach (optional)
  • Pack of smoked back bacon
  • 5 spring onions
  • 300g frozen petit pois peas
  • 3 large sprigs of fresh mint
  • 40-50g  pine nuts
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 40-50g of parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of white wine vinegar (for the egg poaching)
  • 4 large 'happy' green range eggs

What to do:

Boil some water in your saucepan and get your spaghetti done. When draining, hold back 150ml of the water to use later. Toss your spinach, if you're using it, in the spaghetti so that it wilts.

Meanwhile, start frying your bacon and spring onions in either a little olive oil or butter (naughty, but nice!). 

Grab your food processor and throw in the garlic, peas, mint, pine nuts (toast them a little first to maximise the flavour) parmesan, pasta water and oil. Once blended, set aside in a bowl ready to use.

Now get some water boiling/turning in a pan for your poached eggs and add the wine vinegar. Gently crack in your eggs, two at a time and cook gently for 2 minutes. Repeat with the other two and place them on kitchen paper to absorb excess water if you need to. 

Now your bacon should be crispy and spring onions soft and gooey, so throw them in with your pasta and spinach, then gently turn the pea pesto in to the mix too, so that everything is nicely combined and ready for you to pop your perfectly poached egg on top of and serve.