Jun 12 2012
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Beirut welcomes Dorchester Hotel head chef
12 June 2012
BEIRUT: When thinking of British food, our minds quickly jump to the typical staples – be they fish and chips, Cornish pasties, or bangers and mash – but a world of cuisine exists beyond these basics.
During Beirut’s GREAT Britain week, Lebanese will have the rare opportunity to explore the terrain of modern British cuisine by Brian Hughson, head chef of The Grill at London’s venerable Dorchester Hotel.
At the forefront of the London dining scene, Hughson took over at The Grill in 2009, shortly after winning celebrity chef Gary Rhodes’ eatery W1 a Michelin star after just seven months at the kitchen’s helm.
Hughson and his team are now eager to introduce Beirut to their clean, simple take on British classics over the course of three meals and a special cooking demonstration with the British ambassador to Lebanon.
Despite the uncertainties of working in a new atmosphere and for new palettes, Hughson relishes the opportunity to showcase British food at its best.
“Many people from all over the world have the perception that British food is heavy – lots of filling pies and things like that, that are not very nice to eat. But that’s just a bit ignorant because the food and produce in Britain right now are fantastic. It’s a world capital for food,” Hughson insists.
The chef has built a reputation on stripping down dishes to highlight the natural flavor of the ingredients themselves – which are all from top-tier producers around the British Isles.
At The Grill he has brought back the simple pleasure of smoked salmon and beef trolleys where diners can have their portion carved tableside. Hughson only uses beef and wild salmon from Scotland’s best suppliers and puts as much care into his search for ingredients as his cooking.
“All that we offer on the menu is done with seasonal produce and really well-sourced food around the British Isles. The best we can find ... mostly from small farms that we believe in, where they really believe in the produce. They work hard, and they’re as passionate about growing and producing the food as we are about cooking it,” Hughson says.
Contrary to the reputation for heavy food, with the right ingredients, treated properly, Hughson points out that his “food is generally very light and the produce speaks for itself.”
“It’s about getting the best out of the raw ingredients, instead of trying to make a tomato taste like a cabbage. I think people mess around with food too much these days. We keep our food real, simple, and it’s brilliant.”
Guests at the Phoenicia’s Eau de Vie and at Sydney’s Bar & Grill at La Vendôme will be treated to two different menus.
The debut menu Thursday will begin with an array of spring, garden vegetables and smoked salmon, with an appetizer of lobster and cold, Granny Smith apple soup. The main course will be slow-cooked filet of beef, done so it “just melts in your mouth,” followed by a selection of desserts: a mint parfait with chocolate and the traditional Eton mess – a British classic of meringue, strawberries and cream – but with some unexpected elements, Hughson promises.
For those who cannot attend the full meals – scheduled for lunch and dinner Thursday and dinner again Saturday – Hughson will give a cooking demonstration Friday afternoon at ABC Mall.
“Getting to come over here and cook in different countries, cooking for private families or on boats, wherever, it’s all part of the fun,” he says, adding he and his team are hoping to sneak a few chances to sample local, Lebanese fair.
“We’re looking forward to tasting more of the local produce, but what Lebanese food we’ve had so far is fantastic. I think don’t think everyone’s perception of Beirut certainly is that it’s a gastronomic place, but with the people we’ve worked with here [at the Phoenicia], you can see the passion,” he adds.
For information or reservations for The Dorchester in Beirut, contact Eau de Vie at the Phoenicia 01-357-357 or Sydney’s at La Vendôme 01-368-800.© Copyright The Daily Star 2012.
© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.
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