Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Caxton Grill (London)

If you're in the UK and you're remotely interested in food then you probably watch Masterchef and you probably know of Adam Handling - the finalist on the last Masterchef Professionals.  Only 24 years old and he is the head chef at Caxton Grill.  Actually, he was a head chef at Esperante at the St Andrews Fairmont Hotel in 2011 when he was only 22.  That's when I first met him, hell, he could've been head chef there at age 19 for all I know.  Talk about a way to make you feel inadequate, right?  24 and his food is amazing.

I'm just going to boast about him a bit more before I get onto my dining experience -- the other great thing about him is that he's humble.  He's humble and down to earth and will chat to you if you're at his restaurant, if you like his food, and if you're a nobody with the dreams of becoming a chef like him.  He's nice, and I like food cooked by nice people.

Now I can go onto the dining experience.  The restaurant's lovely.  Everything was pleasant, service was good, the atmosphere was nice, nothing extraordinary but things were lovely.  

So you're first greeted with three types of breads served with two types of butters - "gingerbread" and "olive".  The gingerbread is interesting, though not my favorite.  The olive was amazing.  Both made in the restaurant.  The breads were also fantastic, there was rye, focaccia and brioche, but they were the only things not made in the restaurant.
 Adam Handling said that his favorite things from his menu are the starters, and boy was it difficult to choose. 

I got the cauliflower and here it is.  Just like the rest of his food, it's just so beautiful and elegant.  Roasted cauliflower with pickled cauliflowers, a curry sauce, a cauliflower puree, raisins cooked in curry, coconut and almond flakes.  It's absolutely amazing how he can turn a humble vegetable like the cauliflower into the star of a vegetarian dish.  When people think of vegetarian dishes, they think carbs - pasta, rice, grains, or they think cheese or they think stuffed vegetables, they don't think of just a vegetable. 

My friend got the salmon.  First they serve it to you with smoke and any dish with smoke is just fun. It adds to the dinner.  It's beautifully presented once again and the fish was incredibly soft and smoky, and the best part was the fact that it was served with goat's cheese and beetroot.  Yes, I was so intrigued by this combination, and you know what, surprisingly, despite the rules written before the times of man of never ever serving fish with cheese, a touch of goat's cheese with salmon is really good.  I mean beetroot and salmon go well together, beetroot and goat's cheese go well together, so you can see how all three, balanced in the right way, go well together.

Then the mains were even more exciting.  I had a halibut that was cooked to perfection and melted in my mouth.  It was sitting on top of a layer of thinly sliced octopus that was, again, incredibly tender.  It must've been cooked in duck fat or something.  Then there were these delightful surprises - the halibut was actually sitting on top of a sauce and on top of a deep fried mussel and a pickled mussel.
Then there was this - Beef fillet (ashed), burnt vegetables, ricotta & duck ravioli, and truffle.  In all honesty, the halibut dish was nice, but it wasn't wow for me.  This beef was wow.  Very wow.  Excuse my poor choice of vocabulary, but that's honestly the only way to describe the pure astonishment, joy and amazement I felt when I bit into each component of that dish.  The little duck ravioli, the truffles, the beef - oh the beef.  The smoky beef wasn't actually chargrilled or anything as you might suspect.  It was wrapped in a mixture of ingredients that give it that distinct smoky flavor and then it was cooked in a water bath twice, I believe. 
If you've seen Adam Handling on Masterchef, you'd know that he is a genius when it comes to desserts. Here's the poached pears and fennel.  Most of his dishes are just too pretty and delicate to touch, really.  The fennel ice cream was the star of the dish.  The little spheres you see there are the poached pears, and they're nice, maybe I would've liked them to be cooked a bit more as they were a bit too hard for my taste, but they were good.  There were these meringues, which were some of the best meringues I've ever had, there were pomegranates, there were candied walnuts there was an incredibly nice pear sorbet.. then there were these jelly-like caramel sheet things that you can see from the photo that...kind of stuck to my teeth... but that fennel ice cream was phenomenal.
Then there was the damson crumble and creme brulee.  That was honestly the best creme brulee I've ever had.  It was just the lightest thing imaginable.  Some creme brulee's can be a bit heavy, after all, it is just cream.  I have no idea how he made it so light. The crumble - the damson was sour and the topping was sweet and everyone loves a good contrast.  It was, in all honesty, perfect. 

His food's approved by Michel Roux Jr, Monica Galetti, Gregg Wallace and Jay Rayner.  If this post hasn't convinced you, then that should. 

Caxton Grill
2 Caxton Street, London, SW1H 0QW, UK
0800 652 1498
Mon-Fri 12.00pm - 2.30pm
Mon-Sun 5.30pm - 10.30pm

Square Meal

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