That Julie Andrews is a bloody idiot. She has no clue about the finer things in life.
‘Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens’ Copper kettles can inflict 3rd degree burns and mittens are a prison for the hands, leaving you unable to do anything other than flap your arms around like…
‘wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings’. I used to live next to a nest of Canadian geese; they are loud, inconsiderate little buggers who do not abide by conventional noise restrictions.
Her list of favourite things is a load of old codswallop. Not one mention of sparkling wine; warm slippers? Ignored. Her food of choice? Schnitzels with noodles. She deserved to get captured by the Nazis.
For my birthday, the hubby treated me to a meal comprised of all my favourite foods. Here is where I show Julie how it’s done.
We’ve been to Etrop Grange numerous times; Chef Ernst Van Zyl loves to put on a show and so jumped at the chance to make me a bespoke menu with the ingredients of my choice. He’s recently completed a stage at Frantzén Lindeberg and we were intrigued to see how this would influence his cooking.
I started the evening off in my usual style, by falling down the stairs. I do this so often that I think I’ve found a certain grace to my topple. I was left with a grazed ankle and the inability to talk to anyone that evening without informing them of my tumble. A glass of prosecco and a hug from Chef helped to ease my burning limbs and cheeks.
We were seated in the conservatory, which is beautiful. Plush seats and surrounding windows (I was pleased of this, in case somebody walked past who I could tell about my fall) add a certain elegance.
Spelt and rye crackers were a little harsh on the palate at first, but once enveloped in the chicken skin and chive cream it was all perfectly balanced. The hubby pinched more than his fair share and I was furious.
The sourdough loaf was as good as always but this time served with an incredible smoked butter.
Chef blow torched cured mackerel before cleverly reconstructing it to look like a tart. The crisp skin and pork scratchings added a meaty crunch with the apple puree bringing its wonderful sweetness. Pancetta cubes and a bacon dashi made this dish strictly not suitable for vegetarians, but who cares what they think (no offence, vegetarians).
Danny the sous chef brought out the still live langoustines for us to inspect. I felt like the emperor of Rome. I heard a roaring crowd baying for blood as I looked into the crustaceans’ eyes.
My thumb went down.
The langoustines were so fresh you could practically hear their heart beats. Topped with an incredibly smooth and delicious celery cream; crispy fish scales added crunch and pickled fennel, sharpness. Wow.
Danny was back again wielding a blow torch. He was beginning to look more and more like a baddy from a horror film. This time he was menacingly searing our venison.
This made the meat incredibly smoky which worked beautifully with the smoked cheese; mushrooms were pickled and pureed to give an earthy depth; little jewels of grape added a sweetness which brought the dish back from being too smoky. All topped with a delicious dried scallop fascinator.
Cooked at 42C, giving it the texture of the smoothest smoked salmon. It was paired with rhubarb served in a variety of guises which gave it a citrusy zing; sprinkled with a sourdough and ash crumb and grated dried egg.
LAMB WITH SWEETBREADS
Lamb loin was roasted until nicely pink, served with (my favourite) chicken nugget-esque sweetbreads. A rainbow of carrot textures added sweetness and new potatoes bulked it out; a wild garlic sauce contained a lovely fizz.
A pre-desert of baked apple with honeycomb was one of my highlights. Topped with an almond and pumpkin seed crumble, apple granita, rosemary jellies, lemon crème and apple powder. It was like a herby sprinkle of hundreds and thousands.
Black Forrest Gateau
Almost burnt cream ice cream, warm 70% bitter chocolate mousse. Bitter chocolate oil, bitter chocolate crumble and powdered milk chocolate. Brilliant, just brilliant.
After Eight and bitter chocolate macaroons. Soft and flavourful.
Ernst really excelled himself. His cooking has taken another turn since his time in Stockholm and I loved every bit of it. He’s had a bit of a tough time recently; a couple of bad reviews among the plethora of positives left him doubting himself. He had a break from twitter and has come back stronger than ever. Our third meal with Ernst was his best yet. Lethal Weapon 3, not Home Alone 3.
My mum always says ‘Life would be boring, if we all liked the same things.’ This is so true. I know of people who have eaten at No. 1 restaurant in the world Noma and hated it; my Mum thinks Breaking Bad is boring (WRONG!), hell, my Dad doesn’t even like cheese. We all have contrasting loves and hates and that doesn’t make us wrong (apart from my Mum), it just makes us different.
Ernst is a real talent. His flavour combinations are always unusual but in my view, totally successful. He so understands the importance of texture and his plates are beautiful. It’s no secret that I’m a fan.
Thanks to Ernst, Dan (who is far too lovely to ever be menacing) and the forever-charming Mark for another wonderful evening. I can’t wait to make this trilogy into quadrilogy.
Disclaimer: Chef knew we were coming, but we paid for all elements of our meal. As we have on all occasions.