London in early August was so hot and humid it could easily have been Singapore. But the extremity of the weather didn't put off 60 Caterer readers from hotfooting it to Knightsbridge for the third of 2004's Chef Eats Out lunches, held in association with the English Beef and Lamb Executive.
The lure? A meal at Marcus Wareing's renowned Pétrus restaurant. Well, the heat wouldn't put you off, would it? To walk into the grown-ups' bonbon room that Pétrus is - all rich burgundies accented with delicate cut glass and oversized pearlescent abacus baubles - is worth the journey alone.
But the real enticement was the opportunity to taste the food of a chef at the top of his cooking powers - and the lunch didn't disappoint. Wareing is renowned for the precision of his cooking, for the cleanness and depth of flavour in his dishes, for their strong technical French base; so the visiting chefs might have expected a modern French masterclass on the plate. In fact, there was a distinct contemporary Med feel throughout the meal.
Canapés included crispy arancine-style risotto and Parmesan balls, and black olive and anchovy bread sticks ("Very good," enthused Chris Wheeler, executive chef at Stoke Park Club in Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire). A fresh, zingy gazpacho amuse-gueule was just right to counterbalance the sticky summer's day outside.
The construction and balance of the lunch was masterful, with the first and second courses - a carpaccio of beef and foie gras, followed by baked mackerel served on beetroot - successfully building up to the central dish: a duo of lamb - roasted fillet and braised leg - served with pommes mousseline and niçoise vegetables.
The carpaccio (made from beef sourced by butcher Nigel Fredericks from a grass-fed suckler herd in Shrewsbury, which was matured on the bone for 28 days) received a particular thumbs-up from everybody. Garnished with Parmesan shavings, summer truffle, a wild herb salad and Pommery mustard dressing, it achieved the feat of being both summery and luxurious. The trick of making a carpaccio ballotine with the foie gras inside was pronounced "very clever" by one visitor, while Stuart Busby, of Chef's Connection, was impressed by Wareing's contemporary use of tahoon leaves in the salad to give a kick on the palate.
The central lamb dish aroused a bit of debate - some people naming the leg as their favourite element, some opting for the tender pink fillet draped over its slower-cooked brother. And the mini-kebab of niçoise vegetables (superbly clean-flavoured) brought an element of street-food funk to the day.
Wareing had fun, too, with the pud. His own take, he admitted, on Snickers bars - only a bit more sophisticated. Peanuts came in parfait form and in a few candied nuts dotted around the plate, chocolate in the shape of a Valrhona mousse.
Rounding off the meal was a visit from the famous Pétrus bonbon trolley. Honeycomb and chocolate, fruit jellies, banana macaroons and marshmallows took up where the parfait left off - in the sweet-shop. It's no wonder the last guest didn't leave until 4pm.
- Amuse-gueule: gazpacho
- Carpaccio of Shropshire beef and foie gras with Parmesan shavings and summer truffle, Pommery mustard dressing and wild herb salad
- South Coast mackerel baked with chervil on beetroot, caper raisin purée, cauliflower beignets and anchovy vinaigrette
- Duo of lamb, roasted fillet and braised leg, pommes mousseline, ni‡oise vegetables and rosemary jus
- Pre-dessert: rhubarb and strawberry crumble
- Peanut parfait with rice crisp crunch, Valrhona chocolate mousse and candied peanuts
- Bonbon trolley
The Wines - Laurent-Perrier Brut L-P - a 45% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier blend aged over three years. Pale gold with a delicate nose - hints of citrus and white fruit. Fresh on the palate with full flavours and plenty of fruit. Good balance and length.
2003 Terra Barossa Pinot Gris - 100% Pinot Gris. Pear drops, peach skin, herbal undertones with a crisp finish.
2001 Shotfire Ridge Quartage - 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, 8% Petit Verdot. Aged for 14 months in French and American barrels. Ripe and lush red fruits, macerated strawberries, blueberry and raspberry with hints of cedar wood on the nose and layers of caramel and cassis on the palate. Rich tannins highlight the length and elegance of the wine on the palate.
Wines supplied by Thorn-Clarke
Chef Eats Out provides a unique opportunity for chefs to experience at first hand the commitment to quality, quest for innovation and passion to achieve the highest possible standards that are the hallmark of outstanding restaurants and caterers.
The English Beef and Lamb Executive is delighted to have been associated with Chef Eats Out at Pétrus in the Berkeley hotel, which presented the ideal opportunity for Marcus Wareing to serve up English quality beef and lamb to some of the country's leading chefs.
We welcome the continued endorsement by chefs of quality beef and lamb and their support in helping to keep quality meat in its rightful place at the centre of the menu.