S Pellegrino Live in Italian: Theo Randall brings real authenticity to Harvey NicholsCultureFood & DrinksRestaurant & bar reviews
After the delights of Ollie Dabbous last week, the Live in Italian banquet returned once again to the Harvey Nichols champagne roof bar to showcase some of the very best of the city’s talent. This week, chef Theo Randall hoped to wow diners with his classic dishes and flawless technique during an informal evening of fine dining.
We kick things off with a dish of Lincolnshire Smoked Eel, with Fresh Horseradish and Red and Golden Beetroots. The mere mention of eel has some shuddering at the thought of slimy East End chip shops but Randall is quick to allay fears, explaining, “Eels do start to become gelatinous very quickly when cooked, but they’re nice and firm when they’re smoked.” He’s certainly right: the thick slices of fish have a much more robust texture that pairs perfectly with the meatier notes imbued in them through smoking. Sweet, almost candied slices of beetroot work well to cut through the strength of the smoke, as does a small curl of horseradish cream. It’s served with an excellent Lunae Vermentino 15, whose simple bouquet of floral flavours is endlessly refreshing.
Next comes a dish of three plump Ravioli with Swiss Chard, Rocket, Spinach, Sheep’s Ricotta and Sage Butter. If there’s one thing above all others you want to eat from a Theo Randall-menu, it’s his pasta. This ravioli is no exception, its golden sheets offering just the slightest hint of resistance before they yield in a flood of chard and sage. Any chef can bribe the tastebuds with the richness of cheese, butter and yolks, but it takes truly exceptional skill to make those often bombastic elements work in a more elegant, nuanced way. The end result is a dish that is simultaneously light yet indulgent, robust but very much of the summer. A Soave Castelcerino 2013 is simple and clean, providing a small hit of acidity that supplements the dish well.
The advertised lamb rump has been replaced with a Roasted Rack of Lake District Lamb, with Fresh Cannellini Beans, Roasted Delica Squash, Thyme, Garlic and Salsa Verde. The upgrade proves popular: the meat is thick and flavourful, yet so sumptuously tender that more than one diner picks the bones clean. The beans are at that perfect state of being soft and delicate to the fork whilst still retaining a firm texture. A gentle touch of garlic perfectly accentuates their natural flavour and makes them a good match for the lamb. Salsa verde is a punch of intense flavour that works well to give the dish a touch of urgency, lest it become too lost in its own sensuous indulgence. A Chianti Selvapiana 2013 fulfils largely the same role, its lively bouquet of berries an energetic foil for the lamb’s slight fattiness.
Dessert is simplicity itself: half a roasted white peach topped with a scoop of white peach sorbet. The sweet, perfumed flavour of the fruit is intensely seasonal, one of those rare treats best enjoyed at the heart of summer before it becomes overripe and syrupy. As with everything else this evening, both are technically perfect, the silkiness of the sorbet especially commendable. It’s served with a glass of Billecart Demi Sec NV, a classic pairing most commonly seen in a bellini – sweet fruit tempering the more acidic qualities of the champagne.
It’s fitting that we end with a dish that’s emblematic of how the chef chose to interpret the evening’s brief. It’s the same approach that Randall has always taken to his excellent food, since his days at The River Cafe: the best ingredients possible, treated with respect, finesse and more than a little love. Is there any better summary of Italian cuisine?
Photos: Daniel Masters
For further information about the S Pellegrino Live in Italian Food Festival, Fifth Floor Harvey Nichols, 109-125 Knightsbridge London SW1X 7RJ, or to book, call 020 7235 5250 or visit here.