• Roxii Hoare-Smith

Le Petit Chef: A Culinary Adventure

Written by Kirsty Braik-Scivyer‏

Our adventure began on an unseasonably warm April evening. In fact, it wasn’t just us that had come out in search of something truly awesome to do, indeed, it felt like the whole city was buzzing! Once inside Shoreditch’s oh so hip TT Liquor we were seated, then asked if we wanted our complimentary cocktails to be alcohol based or booze free – a sentence I wasn’t expecting to hear! However, it gave us a tiny insight into what was about to come. A short while later, we and the other twelve guests were invited upstairs and took our places at a long, communal style dining table.

The atmosphere was one of unbridled excitement, and actual wonder as we exclaimed over the stylish tableware, fish shaped water decanters and the super shiny, sleek private bar in the corner as staff flitted around making sure everything was perfect. Immediately, my attention was drawn to the heavy bronzed book in front of me emblazoned with the words ‘Dinner Time Stories!’. Now, as a lifelong book lover I was thrilled that there was a story book element to this experience. But as the staff asked us to turn the page we were all greeted with empty, white space. Except, no it wasn’t empty anymore and those numerous lights weren’t just for show. Turns out, they were actually mini projectors beaming down the image of our guide for that evening, the one, the only Le Petit Chef!

Charming, knowledgable, a bit of a grandstander and undeniably French we all instantly warmed to our digital companion.Through excited hand gestures, and fun sound bites he told us all about his dream to be the world’s greatest chef as he travelled the globe looking for amazing new ingredients and trying never before attempted recipes! Yes, unbelievably we’d all been invited along on his culinary journey and would be tasting dishes from different countries chosen especially for their flavours, textures and colourful appearance.

If that wasn’t enough, each course would be accompanied by a bespoke cocktail infused with exotic promise and more than one surprise! We were even encouraged to write in mini notebooks, share our feelings on the food and see what other diners had thought of the event which was really fun!

First up was a nautical themed Amuse Bouche, which arrived in adorable little treasure chests that really encapsulated the sense of us embarking on this wonderful journey together. Inside, nestled amongst the dark, glossy wood, were these heavenly bite size canapés:

French Course:

‘Truffle Goat’s Cheese & Slow Roasted Tomato on a Gruyere Sesame Seed Biscuit.’

‘Tuna Nicoise Tartlet With a Soft Boiled Quails Egg’.

Paired With:

A Le Chat Noir, consisting of Old Tom Gin, Lillet Blanc, Henry Bardouin Pastis, Fresh Lime Juice, Syrup and Tarragon.

It was a feast for the senses, as creamy Gruyere met crunchy sesame and sweet tart tomato and the mini Nicoise tartet was a fresh take on a well established classic. Our first cocktail was delicious too, the kick of lime juice refreshing the palette nicely after consuming rich quails egg. Then, as we said goodbye to Marseilles, the scene changed and we found ourselves heading towards the hot, desert sands of Arabia and a truly sweet tasting sensation.

Arabic Course:

A slightly bigger box appeared this time and, as the wait staff slid the lids open, we all collectively gasped at the contents within. The one thing I do have to say about Le Petit Chef is that their presentation is truly magnificent. Out came brightly coloured Shisha pipes, tiny woven bags containing pistachio nuts and miniature plates featuring traditional Middle Eastern designs. It felt like we’d been magically transported to a Souk in the old town and had just sat down at a pavement cafe to enjoy some light snacks before browsing the wares on offer in the marketplace!

‘Lamb Tagine Croquette in a Pistachio Crumb served with Harissa and Lemon Dip’ ‘Smoked Aubergine Caviar in a Filo Cup with baby ratatouille garnish’ ‘Vine Leaves filled with Rice, Mint, Parsley, Tomato and Onion cooked in Lemon Juice and Olive Oil with a Spicy Cucumber & Tomato Dip’ ‘Zaatar Flatbread with Thyme, Herbs , Sesame Seed and Oil’ ‘Corn Fed Chicken Kabbah’

Paired With: Magrabi TT

Gin, Spicy Honey Syrup Lemon, Verbena Tea And Mint.

If the following sounds delicious, well, that’s because it was! The Magrabi TT was actually one of my favourites tipples, a warm, sweet drink that complemented the herby chicken and suffer vine leaves beautifully. Another pleasant surprise was the Zaatar, or traditional flatbread that was suffused with herbs and melted in the mouth. We also loved the little bags of pistachio nuts too and the cucumber dip was superb with the crispy chicken pieces.

All too soon our plates were cleared, and as I licked the last few drops of honey liquor from my lips, I wondered how on earth they were going to top that course. I shouldn’t have worried though because for £95 per ticket people were expecting magic and that’s exactly what we got! The ‘movie’ as it were continued as we were whisked away over the mountains towards India and our next culinary destination…

Indian Course:

‘Butter Indian Chicken served on a mini Poppadom with Mint Raita’ ‘Cauliflower Pannacotta with a Gobi Aloo Tartar’

Paired With: Pineapple Mango Cobbler

Vermouth Bianco, Fresh Pineapples, Fresh Mango and Kaffir Lime Cordial.

Do not adjust your glasses or zoom in to see if you read it right. Yes, I did just say a Cauliflower Pannacotta and I’m not joking either! Our Indian course was a real treat from start to finish and, in my opinion, the sharp, sweet and sassy Pineapple Cobbler won cocktail of the night! It was the ideal blend of fruits, syrups and cordial, all mixed together to refresh us after rich, creamy mouthfuls of butter chicken. Let’s not forget that awesome mini Poppadom with thick yummy cucumber infused Raita either. Sometimes Indian cuisine can taste spice heavy, or indeed be not spicy enough, but at Le Petit Chef they’d got the balance just right as well as keeping portion sizes in mind too. After all, we all know how uncomfortable you can feel after a large curry so things were kept delicate and high end with the taste focusing on quality over quantity.

Next, it was a short hop, and skip over the Himalayas for a truly cool palette cleanser in the form of a gorgeously presented sorbet dish:

Sorbet Course:

Pink Grapefruit and Lychee Sorbet

Even though this wasn’t our dessert and was simply designed to prepare us for the full on flavours to come I absolutely adored this dish. It was fun, vibrant and colourful as the candy pink sorbet took centre stage and we poured hot water onto the ice below from our mini jugs. It was all a bit ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and I loved the theatrics as well as crisp, clean snow-white imagery and hauntingly beautiful Tibetan music. I was a little worried that the Pink Grapefruit might end up overpowering the more delicate Lychee notes but in fact the opposite happened! I was expecting tart, bitter Grapefruit and instead was rewarded with cool, fruity Lychee sweetness that seemed to last forever. Not everyone finished their sorbet, but in my mind it tasted incredible and in many ways was the most technically difficult dish of the night. After all, you have to know exactly what temperatures ingredients will melt at and how to ensure the sorbet is chilled, not frozen.

Suddenly, we were once again up and away on the back of our feathered friend. Because, let’s face it who doesn’t want to travel by bird? Soon, our destination was in sight as imperial music started to play and red, gold and black symbols were projected onto the ‘tablecloth’.

Chinese Course

Tender spiced Duck with Julienned vegetables on a bed of Steamed Rice and Served With a rich Hoi Sin Style Sauce

Paired With: White or Red Wine

You’ll have to forgive us but by this time Roxii and I were getting quite full! While I only managed a few bites of this course I have to say the rice was cooked nicely, and the veggies tasted good although, for me, the duck which was supposed to be the star of the show was a let down. I felt it was chewy, tough and slightly overcooked but to be honest when you consider the calibre of the rest of the dishes it’s hard for me to get annoyed over some slightly sub par duck! Our bottle of white wine was wonderful and it went well with the sweetness of the dark sticky sauce.

Finally, as we returned back to La Belle Francais we were served our dessert and final cocktail of the evening! I should also like to point out here that it was a couple of the guests birthdays, and they got a chocolate brownie cake and were kind enough to share it with the rest of the table. It was rich, moist and very chocolatey and not altogether easy to eat after the lightness of the pastel coloured sorbet. However, I really loved the creme brûlée and it was lovely to see they’d used real Madagascan Vanilla Pods.

Dessert Course

French Vanilla Creme Brûlée

Paired With: Elderflower Vodka with A Lavender Ice Cream Foam

Overall, I absolutely loved our TT Liquor culinary adventure and believe that it’s well worth looking into if you want to treat someone special, or just to experience something totally different. Well, if you’re anything like me after reading this review you’re probably feeling a little peckish! So, it’s Au Revoire from me and Merci Beaucoup! to TT Liquor, Le Petit Chef and, of course, Roxii for inviting me along!

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