Food and Restaurants

The Potting Shed

The Royal Triangle is like a sort of reverse Bermuda Triangle – so instead of aircraft and ships disappearing under suspicious circumstances, tasteful Highgrove daisy grubbers, maple-handled planting trowels, traditional Sussex trugs in which to collect your earthy organic carrots and wooden apple crates simply appear. Just like that. And everything is painted that sautéed sage colour. It’s like living in the brain of Lady Bamford of Daylesford fame, the high priestess of this sort of aesthetic.

Our Man on The Ground, 18/08/2014

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The Restaurant at Cowley Manor

The Elder Daughter and I arrive an hour late – after driving into several hedges. The satnav doesn’t like the idea of going there and keeps ordering us imperiously to “perform a U-turn when possible” on roads the size of my little finger. When we get mobile reception – which isn’t often – we call to say we’re running late. Which might be as good a way as any to alert the staff to our table reservation. Wrong.

Our Man on The Ground, 18/07/2014

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Picasso, Caviar and Mojitos

Sometimes you find a place so good you don’t want to tell people about it. The Samling is one such. But its restaurant has just won a Michelin star, so it’s too late to keep schtumm…. The hotel can accommodate 24 lucky guests – in rooms and six cottages – in a gabled 1780s house in Windermere, the Lake District. All set on a steep hill and in 67 acres of gardens with giant genera, lavender and hemp. You may inadvertently walk past ‘reception’ – simply a bureau desk in the hall – but soon enough you’ll encounter the young, smiley, ever-solicitous staff. They’re doing great things. Since changing hands in 2011, The Samling has been snapping up awards. (‘Best boutique dining hotel in the world’ type monikers.)

Lusso, 11/11/2013

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The spice is right

Coconut with everything. That’s how my youngest daughter happily sums up our culinary tour of Kerala, south India. Our first lesson takes place in the kitchen of a colonial bungalow overlooking the Arabian Sea. Wearing a blue sari and apron, our cookery teacher, Faiza Moosa, stands next to 16 dishes of pungent spices, from fiery chillies to local cloves. A fan redistributes the breathless heat. Sandalwood incense burns and a lizard crawls up the wall. We’re a long way from the sanitised industrial kitchens and cookery courses of Europe.

Evening Standard, 06.01.10

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Heston Blumenthal: The big cheese of the Fat Duck

The former debt collector has some extraordinary kit in his kitchen. A rotavapor machine that distills natural essences, a water and oil bath, a canister containing liquid nitrogen and a gleaming machine that turns purees into edible shaving foam. There’s a desiccator and pump to suck moisture out of chips, test tubes, overhead stirrers, mini filtration units and magnetic mixers. And now he falls delightedly upon Fishers laboratory catalogue. “Heat pads! You put them in a beaker of water with magnets underneath and it keeps it stirred. Can you see the vortex it’s creating?” he asks ecstatically.

Financial Times, 31.01.04

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The boil-in-the-bag dinner party

I’ve dusted the Kitchen Aid with flour and switched on the Gagenau steam oven, both accoutrements of the serious cook. But in this instance, they’re simply the mise en scene for pretending that I’ve cooked dinner for my expected guests. Tonight we’re dining on salmon artare and delicate scallop terrine, then prime tuna steak with spicy Italian sauce and aubergine “cake”, followed by tarte au citron and a chocoholic fest of triple chocolate dessert. Yum. “Serious food for serious gourmets,” in the words of the Cornucopia Foods catalogue.

We’re feasting on ready-prepared food, ordered online or by phone.

Financial Times, 22.01.05

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Lunch isn’t for wimps

When Faith MacArthur was a child, she’d pluck chickens and pick potatoes during the harvest. She lived in “Cow Town” - Calgary, Alberta - in the Prairies. Her mother, a minister’s wife, would hang home-made noodles around the house to dry. Sitting on her mother’s knee, four-year-old Faith would pummel bread dough and make carrot curls for garnish. Now Faith, 42, is standing in her fashionable Notting Hill kitchen, knee-high in ingredients for soups: cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, chickpeas, chillis. Rows of saucepans are steaming on an industrial oven and scribbled, half-complete recipes litter every surface.

Faith is half of the husband-and-wife team behind the EAT chain of cafes.

The Times Magazine, 05.06.04

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