We met up at Euston where we survived a lively encounter with some Blackpool fans on their way to the Championship play-off final at Wembley (I had no idea who they were at the time, but have subsequently done my homework). They were clad in orange shirts singing "Where the fuck is Leicester Square?!" at the tops of their voices at 10.30 in the morning, so moving swiftly on we made our way to Brook Street for a quick whirl round Fenwicks before arriving at Claridges. Here we were shown through to the Foyer area for coffee and biscuits. There was no patisserie, which was a shame as I'd skipped breakfast to enable me to pig out on pain au chocolat. Oh well. We met the other people on the course - there were 7 of us altogether, including two blokes - and a lively conversation about bell-ringing ensued before we were whisked downstairs to the butchery room (the irony! but there was no meat in evidence) and seated round a rectangular table.
Once again the demonstration was given by Martin Nail, who's the head chef of Claridges. I remember being confused last year as the restaurant at Claridges is a Gordon Ramsay operation, but it's completely separate from the hotel kitchen and Martin isn't in the least bit shouty. There followed about three hours of lovely foodie discussion as various dishes were cooked in front of us. This included a demonstration of how to make a foam using a soda siphon, and the foamy pureed peas were indeed delicious. A lot of time was spent making pasta with a pasta machine, which was of less interest to me as there's no way I'll be making my own pasta in the near future, but it tasted jolly good. There was an opportunity for audience participation at this point but Mum and I preferred to watch, which was fine.
Throughout the various demonstrations, ingredients were passed round for us to look at, and occasionally a plate and teaspoon would appear and we would get to taste something. Martin gave us lots of tips and I made plenty of notes in the recipe booklet. I was interested to hear his experience of visiting Noma, who are coming to do a pop-up restaurant in Claridges for 10 days during the Olympics. I got an email about this a few weeks ago and G and I dithered about booking but eventually didn't - anyway, we wouldn't have got in because Martin said they were fully booked within an hour of the email going out. A snip at £195 per head!
After the demonstration, we were served lunch which was 2 courses with a glass of vino (a choice of red or white Rhone) plus coffee and petits fours. Eventually, aware that Dad was waiting for us, we made our excuses and left shortly before 5.00. Not a bad way to spend five and a half hours. Maybe it was because the mix of people was different and included some who had been to almost all the different classes, but this year the atmosphere seemed more relaxed and I was able to whip out my phone to get some photos.
|Asparagus with almond puree (secret ingredient: amaretto!)|
|Aubergine tart with a courgette lattice - a real showstopper|
|Pasta thing with pea puree|
|Lunch is served!|
|Petits fours (these weren't all for me, honest)|