Curious thing marketing, you either get most of it or not. The message trying to be delivered can often be lost behind an all too clever and interesting vail of subterfuge. Case in point was the recent invitation I was very pleased to receive for dinner with a friend and chef/blogger That Hungry Chef to The Cube by Electrolux, a pop up restaurant (big white box) atop the Royal Festival Hall which would host a select number of chefs from around the world for a limited period – all supposedly using products from the Electrolux kitchen range to create stunning dishes and ever varied menus. I don’t do food reviews, whisky is my thing normally but that is not to say I don’t appreciate it. After years running Axis restaurant at One Aldwych and many other notable venues, I certainly think I have as broad an appreciation for cuisine as I do alcohol.
On the evening of the booking, London chose to offer up to the 20 guests gathered at the long dinner table, the most glorious of clear blue skies which later, as the meal progressed became an ethereal summer sunset. The nights service sprung from the creative mind of Claude Bosi, owner and chef at Hibiscus in Mayfair. His style is elegant, uncomplicated and often fun as was the case this evening as the tasting menu was delivered along with a splendid selection of wines for each course. The only dish that disappointed, and I do mean disappointed, was the chorizo, garden pea and whelk creation just rather lacking on all areas for me really, except the freshness of the peas but the other “also ran” ingredients really didn’t do much more than add colour to the dish. But one of seven courses not hitting the mark for me is ok right?
The evenings tasting menu consisted of the following courses:
Hibiscus Flower ‘tea’, with a carbonated pineapple foam
Lime and onion ravioli, broad beans
English peas, chorizo, chickweed and girolles (This one could have been skipped off in my opinion)
Wild salmon poached in olive oil, pigs head, and roast artichoke
Chicken breast, Liquorice & Banana with Kaffir Lime
Charlotte strawberries, celeriac jelly and szechuan pepper foam
Pea & mint in a chocolate case with coconut sorbet
Aero chocolates: milk chocolate and coriander seed, white chocolate and mint to finish off with.
Although the Cube is three walls of glass and west facing, the temperature within is ideal and the set up perfect for making new friends. The communal dining arrangement means that from the outset you are involved in conversation with your neighbours and who knows what you will discover. For me, it was the incredible versatility of the barbecue as extolled by MartiniChef, Paul Feeney who is about to embark on catering at the Olypic media centre. Paul assured us that it was going to be a breeze in comparison to some of his other contracted work but we will see when we meet up for a cocktail in a few weeks time how he really fared.
I bang my drum about whisky being such a perfect substance for bringing people together and this event had all the elements to create the type of convivial atmosphere I relish. After the coffee and petit fours of aero chocolate and cocoa nibs I asked if it would be OK to share out the dram I had brought in my ever present hip-flask. An 18 year old Glendullan courtesy of the SMWS which made for an excellent end to a superb evening with its remarkable fresh character of light fruits and vanilla with lingering soft cinnamon aftertaste an overall vibrancy that belies its age. Unfortunately, Claude is allergic to whisky so couldn’t partake and the disappointment was visible on his face, but he did use his considerable Gaelic conk to draw the aroma in. After all, I had to get whisky in there somewhere!. Certainly there were a few at the table who had never tried such a whisky so it was lovely to see the reaction, especially after such a wonderful dining experience.
I had eaten at Hibiscus some time ago, too long ago to remember what dishes I had on that particular visit, but I do remember the food being as good as it was on this evening. The added element of the setting, and the personal attention of Claude throughout the meal made this quite special indeed. The Cube by Elextrolux is only running for four months, (June 1st – 30th September) and it is half way through its appearance already. It is well worth trying to get a reservation before it heads off to another destination.
So will it make me rush out to purchase Electrolux appliances? Doubt it, but I might think of Hibiscus when I next pass a blender in John Lewis. The fact is, we didn’t actually see the preparation of the dishes as most were brought out from the open kitchen and placed in front of us although we were offered the opportunity to chat with Claude in the kitchen as he plated up- strangely no one took the offer up. Perhaps the televisation of celebrity chefs has us all well warned.