Who would have known that tucked away in this medieval old town set in the Chilterns just outside of London, a buzzing kitchen headed up by two in-the-know chefs would cause excitement across the capital. A crowd of foodies, locals and friends gathered in the contemporary Artichoke restaurant on Thursday for a culinary master class courtesy of chef Laurie Gear and guest James Knappett. The collaboration arose due to a friendship formed when Laurie’s staged at Noma, where James was the sous chef. They followed on to pursue different projects: Laurie came back to re open the Artichoke and James went on to become head chef at Marcus Wareing at The Berkley, however they still kept in touch to join forces for this one special night. The result was a creation of a truly interesting and bespoke six course tasting menu, part of a series of events in celebration of Artichoke’s 10th year anniversary.
In keeping with the restaurant’s cuisine, both chefs wanted to create dishes which highlighted the best of British with a modern twist. The tasting menu danced through a combination of dishes allowing diners to explore a variety of ingredients and flavours. ‘Snacks’ to begin’: crispy pig skin with creamed smoked cod roe, hand dived scallop with strawberry and lemon vinegar. Easing the palette next came a Dorset cock crab, avocado, passion fruit jelly and frozen cucumber followed by slow cooked duck egg, foraged sea herbs and asparagus. Next a quail dish with a stuffed leg, pickled artichokes, foie gras yoghurt, morel and pea salad, evolving to the main dish, well sourced Cornish beef Jacob’s ladder, smoked bone marrow, onions and veal tongue, culminating in two mouth-watering desserts to complete the evening: goat’s milk mousse, sorrel sorbet, finishing with pear cake with sweet cicely and liquorice ice cream.
Highlighting each dish, a range of wines were carefully selected and served by restaurant manager Ludovic Cosson, accompanied by James’s wife – Sandia Chang who also worked at Noma and most recently Roganic. She, together with Laurie’s wife Jacqueline and the front of house team at the Artichoke, attentively guided guests through their culinary journey.
Perfectly portioned and beautifully presented, dishes were swiftly escorted out of the calm yet busy kitchen where everything seemed to run smoothly and in sync. Whilst some chefs might find working with a new partner difficult, Laurie and James formed a natural synergy results in a harmonious and seamless menu and a kitchen that seemed at ease, resulting in a successful evening all round.
NB: James and Sandia are now branching out, to open their own restaurant – Bubbledogs & on Charlotte Street, this summer.
More images of the event are available on photographer Paul Winch- Furness website.