Book review: Core by Clare Smyth

13 September 2022 by
Book review: Core by Clare Smyth

The Core recipe book is immaculately presented, highly detailed and technically brilliant dishes

As the first and currently only British female chef to hold three Michelin stars, Clare Smyth needs no introduction. But in case you didn't know, before opening Core restaurant in Notting Hill in London in 2017, Smyth was chef-patron of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, worked for Alain Ducasse in Monaco and staged at Thomas Keller's the French Laundry and Per Se, all of them three-Michelin-starred establishments. So, it's no surprise to flick through the gold-lined pages of this book to find immaculately presented, highly detailed and technically brilliant dishes.

Each of the 60 recipes (and a further 70 for stocks, sauces and breads) is an elegant work of culinary art. A ‘Caviar Sandwich' is a perfect, tiny wedge of buckwheat pancake layered with sieved egg white and yolk bound in mayonnaise, crème fraîche, puffed buckwheat and caviar served on a beautiful bespoke wooden sphere, and a pear and verbena Eton mess is a Faberge-like construction of upturned meringue dome filled with lemon verbena cream, pear purée, verbena jelly, compressed pear pearls and pear sorbet, topped with miniature discs of pear and meringue.

Smyth calls her style "British fine dining", eschewing "excessive reliance on imported luxury ingredients" and instead celebrating world-class produce from the British Isles such as Scottish langoustines and Lake District hogget. In Smyth's hands, even the humble potato (from a secret supplier she won't reveal) is transformed into a signature dish of astonishingly intense flavours. Cooked sous vide with kombu and dulse, topped with trout and herring roe and homemade salt and vinegar crisps and served with a dulse beurre blanc ‘Potato and Roe' is an homage to the food of Smyth's Northern Ireland coastal upbringing.

With a forward by Ramsay, introduction by journalist Kieran Morris and essays on subjects such as Smyth's suppliers, there's plenty to read, while the photography is stunning. It all adds up to an unmissable package any chef will find inspiring.

Core by Clare Smyth (Phaidon, £45)

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