Tuesday, October 30, 2007

fit for the queen

i sometimes wonder if princes harry and william ever eat pot noodles? as they stumble out of boujis after yet another night out partying and boozing on the house with their mates, do they ask their drivers to stop for a kebab, or do they ring their butler/cook/entire royal staff and order a royal fry-up? do you think the queen likes curry? rumour has it that prince charles has never buttered his own toast. what on earth do the royal family eat?

this nation, obsessed with its royals, was given the opportunity to watch various top chefs in the country compete against each other for the opportunity to cook for the queen’s birthday lunch in the bbc show “the great british menu” last year. it was a tense affair, almost as fun to watch as iron chef without the dodgy japlish voiceovers. the panel of judges – the at times scathing trio of prue leith, oliver peyton and matthew fort could well have given simon cowell and his x-factor gang a run for their money. it was good television to watch though at times the chef’s choices of dishes were a little bewildering. bryn williams won the honor of cooking the fish course, and when he started cooking at odettes, he put this dish on the menu. royal food brought to the people.

I was royally late for lunch. having very wisely decided that I would venture to drive to odettes without the aid of a map and in very logical fashion decided that since I knew how to get to regents park, I imagined huge signs pointing me in the direction to regents park road. I was obviously not taking any account of the fact that london’s bewildering road nomenclature system, the added complications of one way streets and my general lack of direction which would prove this almost impossible. several panicky calls to the restaurant later, motivated only by the prospect of lunch and my embarrassment of having kept jl waiting for the greater part of half an hour, I soldiered on and finally arrived in a fluster. a profusement of apologies later, I finally looked around the restaurant and immediately calmed down. it was absolutely lovely. the wallpaper with its grey vinery pattern, the bright yellow chairs. it was funky with character, an entirely relaxed clean space without any hint of bland minimalist starkness.

the eating procession started with a shot of sweet creamy corn soup topped with a popcorn. jl chose to start with a scallop ceviche – sweet slices of scallop with its panfried brethren, a pea veloute and sweet pea shoots. I started with a roast quail breast. it was accompanied by a quiver of jelly which was surprisingly savoury with a hint of vinaigrette.

the fish course – roasted turbot with oxtail and cockles. I had wanted to eat this dish ever since the first time I watched bryn cook it in the preliminaries when he beat angela hartnett to represent wales. it was inventive – a myriad of layers which demanded culinary curiosity. while the french have regularly done their turbot with bacon – bryn’s addition of the braised oxtail and the cockles made me want to snatch the plate away from prue leith as she ate it all and praised it between each mouthful. jl had gone for the monkfish – it came with a lentil broth and a bed of greens. the disks of fish had a coating of some sort we couldn’t quite identify, but it was extremely delicious.

I’m so glad jl loves pudding because the odette puddings were absolutely brilliant. jl chose the caramelized pineapple with coconut ice-cream – Tropicana on a plate. I had the frozen strawberry parfait with strawberry and mint compote, and the most adorable mini strawberry donuts.

I don’t’ know what the queen eats on a daily basis. I’m sure she has the best of the land (and I imagine the royal pantry to be brimming with duchy originals products). but if she had bryn williams cook the fish course for her birthday, she is one lucky lady indeed.


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