A Taste of Relais & Châteaux
Edited by Shirley Marshall
Network Publishing £30
This book is the result of an ambitious project: to muster together into one volume recipes from every chef within Relais & Châteaux UK and Ireland.
In numerical terms, this equates to 29 chefs, 97 recipes and 320 pages. In food terms, it means contributions from chefs of the pedigree of 2009 Catey Lifetime Achievement Award-winner Raymond Blanc, Alain and Michel Roux, Lucknam Park's Hywel Jones and Colin Akrigg from Sharrow Bay.
It's hard not to sense that its compilers were torn between target markets. From its classy, black and gold dust jacket to the silk page-marker sewn into the spine, production values are high and amateur foodies will no doubt drool over its well-shot food images and fawn over its culinary name-dropping.
And its postcard-perfect shots of R&C hotels and their estates also make it a pleasing memento for the departing guest.
Although it claims to have recipes for every ability, the level of craft skills required to pull off some of the dishes is leagues above that of your average domestic chef.
It's amusing to imagine rookie chefs attempting to negotiate the two pages of instructions for John Campbell's organic salmon mi-cuit, spiced lentils and foie gras; or replicate Heston Blumenthal's saddle of venison, whose four-page recipe calls for such domestic kitchen staples as cryogenically frozen foie gras, frankincense dilution and gellan LT100.
In truth, this is a book by chefs for chefs, and if you can bear to crack its immaculate spine and get its glossy pages a bit spattered, you'll find enough high-quality signature dishes to put your mind into a spin.
A Taste of Relais & ChÁ¢teaux will be appearing at the 2009 Caterer and Hotelkeeper Chef Conference on 28 September.
Whatley Manor's Martin Burge and Michael Caines of Gidleigh Park and Abode Hotels will be demonstrating together on stage; and Heston Blumenthal will be introducing the concepts behind some of the Fat Duck's latest recipes - including the Sound of the Sea as featured in this book.