FOR any Australian, the stereotype of ‘British food’ conjures up images of stodgy plates of eggs and beans, a roast-laden plate at a local pub or heavily battered fish from the local ‘chippy’. Or, alternatively if you’re in a dessert mood plates of thick doughy scones, jam biscuits and endless cups of milky tea may come to mind.
In any case, the overall theme is probably one of heaviness, or starch – of carbohydrates deep-frying in goosefat, and served under florescent lights.
It is not normally one of locally grown produce or innovative design. You don’t immediately picture ingredients of such high quality they are only sourced from the list of products making the cut of the Great Taste Awards, or meals dreamt up by restaurant critics, chefs and industry experts looking to impress diners with a unique and innovative twist on English classics.
The Great Taste Menu at the Cadogan restaurant is therefore a must for any Australian wanting to challenge their preconceptions of ‘English’ food, and enjoy a true food experience created and served with passion, vision and care.
Described as the ‘epicurean equivalent of the Booker prize’ the Great Taste Awards recognize and reward the highest quality local produce in the UK. Each product making the cut is guaranteed to be of artisanal quality — the crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me of food producers from across the UK.
The Cadogan is touted as a ‘pop-up restaurant’ showcasing these wares, though the word ‘pop-up’ does not adequately capture the elegant and established fine dining room which plays host to the concept. Through a menu specifically designed by Head Chef Oliver Lesnik, in conjunction with guest contributors ranging from restaurant critics, chefs and industry insiders, diners are introduced to a number of innovative dishes, all containing ingredients sourced from the Great Taste list.
It is hard to see how the concept of serving good quality produce in bold and innovative twists on favorite English classics could go wrong. And, in my experience, it doesn’t.
The menu offers two course and three course options, and five choices listed within each course. It’s a difficult decision to choose, not least because the only problem with the use of artisanal ingredients is sometimes it’s hard to know what exactly is in the dish.
However, with the careful assistance of the helpful host, we’re recommended the entrées of Gizzard and Bacon Salad, with guanciale pig’s jowl, soft boiled egg & cider dressing, and Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Marybelle crÃ¨me fraiche & griddled Irish soda farl. There may well be some incomprehensible inclusions in the dishes, but they are incredibly delicious nonetheless.
The soup in particular is amazingly light, perfectly complemented by the parsnip curls giving it a touch of crunch and the fresh crÃ¨me fraiche adding a hint of strength.
Lightness is again the theme with the main of a Rack of Venison, celeriac puree and roasted golden beetroot. It is a perfectly cooked cut of meat, tender and juicy, with a blackberry sauce a welcome tangy accompaniment. For something on the sturdier side the other choice of Fish Pie comprises of a bouillabaisse broth of gurnard, haddock and prawns with a crispy leek and potato top.
Luckily the portions leave you satisfied, but not stuffed, so there is room for dessert. A Gooseberry and Elderflower ice cream shortbread is slightly underwhelming, with no distinctive flavours coming to the fore, but it is more than made up for by the Apple and Blackberry Crumble. Big clumps of juicy fruit, with a ginger and cashew nut crumble base, is the perfect way to finish the meal.
Set in the elegant dining room of the Cadogan in Knightsbridge, the Great Taste Menu is a unique and sophisticated introduction to high quality British fare, particularly for any Australian looking to challenge their palate beyond roast day at the local pub.
The Great Taste Menu is available for £23 for two courses, and £28 for three. The Cadogan restaurant is located at The Cadogan Hotel at 75 Sloane Street, Knightbridge.