CHEFstock 2017: A dinner with Ana Roš and Alyn Williams
Just like in music, kitchen duets can go really wrong. Chefs have a strong, sometimes difficult personality; forget the TV clichés of swears and flying pans, being in charge of a restaurant and developing succesful dishes for years inevitably toughens someone’s character. Making a shared decision whilst expressing your individuality isn’t easy – or anyway it’s not easy to do it right, with balance and coherence. Michelin-starred chef Alyn Williams is a master of collaboration. He started the annual CHEFstock series in 2013 and his kitchen saw the likes of Simon Rogan, Sat Bains, Riccardo Camanini and the Sanchez-Iglesias brothers bringing their own idea of food to the Westbury.
This year’s edition is arguably the best one yet, with four international stars participating, and last night in particular might have been the overall highlight as Ana Roš offered a taste of her restaurant Hiša Franko. Roš, named best female chef 2017 by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants academy, makes bold, creative use of her local produce and Slovenian heritage, often reinterpreting traditional recipes in a modern way.
Once again sponsored by Pol Roger, the Épernay Champagne house’s 2009 blanc de blancs accompained the canapés. The first two dishes were from Roš, Grayling and Dirty Cuttlefish: both courses had in common a very natural and mineral feel, given by the sauerkraut water (and a river plant leaf) in the former and the agretti in the latter.
Williams displayed his vegetable-treating mastery – he has an actual, ever-evolving vegetarian menu at his restaurant – with the Slow Cooked Tamarillo, served with tomato, toasted Nori and sairass d’l fen (a fresh, ricotta-like cheese from Piedmont). The Nori element was the perfect bridge between the cuttlefish and the Umami Beef Tongue (Roš), which was hands down the best course of the night. Umami can be translated from Japanese with “pleasant savory taste”, and there’s hardly a better way to describe how the clear broth and tender beef tongue combine in the mouth.
The Barbeque Monkfish (Williams) coherently prolonged the sequence of smoky/mineral/lightly savoury dishes; it was paired with miso fermented peach that someone rightfully mistook for banana – overripe banana actually has that taste. The final main was Ana Roš’s reinterpretation of a Slovenian classic, tripe, which she cooked in wild duck jus with morel mushroom and cave cheese.
I was told by a fellow diner that Roš doesn’t have a sweet tooth, in fact both desserts were prepared by Alyn Williams. First a wonderful Asparagus Semi-freddo, with aerated white chocolate and pea granita; it was brilliantly refreshing, with a very subtle vegetable flavour that matched seamlessly the under-sweetness of the chocolate. Then the Burnt Cream Tart.
As we enjoyed the petit fours, the two chefs came to greet us at the table; while they described their dishes and the process behind the menu, it was clear they found a natural connection. Their duet wasn’t an Ebony and Ivory, it was a Je t’Aime… Moi Non Plus.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
The next two dinners of CHEFstock are on 21st June with Anton Kovalkov and 28th June with Tim Hollingsworth. Tickets cost £180 and include a glass of Pol Roger champagne, canapés, water, coffee, petit fours and service charge. To book a table call 020 7183 6426 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.