Let’s get straight into it, shall we?
As soon as I found out Theo Randall had opened Theo’s Simple Italian just around the corner from the station, I booked in for an anticipative lunch.
Having dedicated the last ten years of his career to Theo Randall at the InterContinental, Theo’s second culinary launch has promised to do exactly what it says on the tin: simple, fresh and authentic Italian food created with the best of the best local produce (Simple Italian’s Head Chef – William Leoni – was Theo’s Chef de Partie at the InterContinental and promoted for his dedication to the latter).
Promising, to say the least.
With one of my favourite lady friends in tow, I took my seat in to one of the restaurant’s bright and rustic banquettes to put the menu through its paces.
We decided to do Italian the British way and turn cicchetti, antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni, and dolci into a three course meal. To start, we picked through a wooden board of sumptuously sponge-y Focaccia (with rosemary, sea salt & olive oil) and calamari fritti (paired with lemon aioli) with a plate of pistachio-oiled Burrata-topped crushed broad beans on the side. Long-term readers will know I am a perspicacious connoisseur of the latter cheese, making my verbal appreciation of the dish a genuine feather in its bow.
Wanting to try a bit of everything (though I would have been just as happy had the rest of the meal been comprised purely of burrata), we then decided to split two small portions of Linguine (with clams, Sardinian artichokes and bottarga) and Pappardelle (with an oxtail ragout) alongside pan-fried Sea Bream and grilled vegetables. True to form, each dish featured a shrewd example of flavour play that complimented the well-sourced ingredients without stealing the limelight.
Though the thin slices of gluten-free vanilla sponge cake paired with Italian Chantilly was far too dry, dessert was saved by the chocolate cremosa millefoglie; light chocolate cream cased in sheets of crisp pastry and topped in tart berries.
Though I ever had the pleasure of dining under Theo’s reign at The River Café, Simple Italian is one happy compromise.
In my adult life, I have been nothing more than neutral when it comes to sherry. Though my experience has been limited, I’ve had a few objectively nice dry sherries and my fair share of sickly sweet dulce sherries that have made me crave a stomach pump.
This made an immersive invite from the world’s best-selling Fino, Tio Pepe, an necessary expedition.
If getting to know a sherry of such stature (quite literally from the ground up) couldn’t make me a sherry fan, nothing would.
I had no idea what to expect when invited to spend a day in an immersive Miele Countertop Steam Oven masterclass at London’s Rosewood Hotel with Frederick Forster (Head Chef at Le Pont de la Tour) – besides the obvious culinary fangirling – but left feeling like I had discovered health hack everyone has been looking for.
Having steamed very little beyond vegetables in my own kitchen, I was amazed to chat with Frederick about his personal experiences with Miele’s slick little appliance. He taught our small group of ‘foodie types’ how to create everything from fresh yogurt to kedgeree with a perfectly poached egg to steamed veggie bao buns to one of the juciest cakes I’ve ever had the pleasure of nibbling – all in the steam oven.
As far as the science of steam in concerned, the process actually allows food to retain more of its vitamins, colour, nutrients and texture, making it something of an arch nemesis to a traditional microwave (which, as you probably know, zaps the life out of any food that dare enter). In fact, it takes up little more room than one but proves 100 times more useful, healthy, and impressive. Its knack for simultaneous cooking on three levels without flavour transfer even bests most conventional ovens. The possibilities are truly endless.
Over the next three months, I’m going to be recreating a few of Frederick’s recipes at home and reporting back to you with a few of my own.