Have you ever exclaimed ‘How on earth do they do that’ whilst eating stunning food in a restaurant? Yep me too. Often when we eat out at places where chefs are at the top of their game I spend the evening not only enjoying every morsel of food but racking my brains trying to work out how it was achieved. I love the mystery and intrigue of well crafted food.
For Mr F’s birthday I decided to plan a special surprise. Mr F loves Simon Rogan’s philosophy of food and we still talk about the meal we had at Fera in 2014! Rather than book the same again I planned a special treat and booked in to Aulis, the development kitchen of Fera. This time not only would we eat skilfully crafted food but we would see it being cooked right in front of us.
We arrived and enjoyed a glass of Davenport at the bar. I mean why wouldn’t you? It’s a special occasion after all. I’d forgotten how stunning the dining room of Claridges is. The Art Deco design mixed with Simon Rogan’s ‘natural’ look is a sight to behold.
Once the other 4 guests arrived ( Aulis can only seat 6 people) we were guided through the working kitchen to the Aulis test kitchen. Just wasking through a bustling kitchen was excitement for me. I wanted to break free from the group and explore!
Our chefs for the evening explained how Aulis is used as a development kitchen and then got to work preparing the first of our dishes. The evening was typical of Rogan’s style with snacks, starters, fish, meat and desserts coming together to create a diverse tasting menu. It was fascinating watching the chefs at work, being able to ask questions about the ingredients and processes as well as having conversations with the chefs and other dining guests about the restaurant, food and life in general. We were completely immersed in a food bubble and fascinated by the range of kitchen technology on show.
Our first snack was buckwheat tart, mylar, almond, blackcurrant. I’ve never had mylar prawns before and they were wonderfully sweet alongside the sharpness of the blackcurrant.
Our second snack of Seaweed wafer, bergamot, smoked eel was a particular favourite of mine with the smoked eel really celebrated in the dish.
Next we had Goats cheese, Jerusalem artichoke, stout in a ceramic egg. I’m a huge fan of Jerusalem artichoke and this dish was bursting with flavour. The twice dehydrated artichoke crumb that topped the egg added a lovely texture to the dish.
The next dish was really creatively presented with raw scallop, barley koji, buttermilk on a ceramic dish with a red chicory and roe dish hidden underneath. It was fascinating to chat to the chef about the process of making the barley Koji and how this was used to marinade the Isle of Mull scallops.
The celeriac, cured yolk, creme fraiche taco style dish was one of my favourites of the evening. Surprising as it was one of the simpler dishes but the flavour and different textures of celeriac were delicious and the grated cured egg yolk added another dimension.
The Portland crab, oyster, carrots, black garlic, burnt chives was fascinating to watch being put together. The crab was delicious and the carrot juice consommé, made from barbecued carrots was a revelation.
The torched deer, semi dried beetroot, lovage dish was Mr F’s favourite of the evening. The saddle of roe deer was blowtorched to ensure it was still rare in the middle.
The mushroom, whey sauce, calcot onion, truffle was a fascinating dish. The Calcott onions were barbecued on the big green egg and the savoury mushroom custard was sublime. The addition of a little winter truffle really brought this dish to life.
For the monkfish, brown butter, baby leeks, coastal herbs dish the monkfish was cooked on the bone and the butter had some marmite added. The parsnip purée was the smoothest and silkiest purée I’ve had and added a lovely richness to the dish.
The lamb saddle, chervil root, quinoa, cocoa nibs used Cornish lamb and was served with a chervil root purée that had three types of quinoa running through it giving a lovely crunch to the dish. The 100% chocolate in the sauce gave a lovely richness and the barbecued white kale finished the dish beautifully.
For the last three dishes we moved to desserts.
The first of forced rhubarb, honeycomb, sheep’s yoghurt, rose looked fascinating. The large piece of what looked like white chocolate was actually aerated frozen sheep’s yoghurt and much lighter than expected and it was great to see Yorkshire forced rhubarb on the menu.
The chocolate, sweet clover, Jerusalem artichoke, earl grey dish was the biggest surprise of the evening and the flavour of the Jerusalem artichoke worked beautifully.
Our final dish of Goldrush (Apple), caramel, hazelnut was accompanied by coffee prepared and served by a coffee sommelier in front of us. Served without milk it was interesting to taste the fruit notes in the coffee accompanying the apple ‘snack’
Being so immersed in the preparation, the ingredients and plating of the food really made us appreciate the skill and creativity of the Fera, even more that we had appreciated already. This was a unique experience, not one you would be able to do often, but definitely worth every penny. The memories of the evening will certainly last a long time.
(By the way if you go, make sure you visit the toilets. A thing of beauty. It’s not often I say that in a food blog but well, its good advice on this occasion.)