S.Pellegrino’s Itineraries of Taste Banquets at Harvey Nichols with Chris Denney
Following Claude Bosi is not an easy task. The great French chef has continued his effortless streak of accolades at the relaunched Bibendum, and his dinner to open this year’s S.Pellegrino’s banquet series was received with borderline rapture. Stepping up to that seemingly insurmountable challenge is a man who own star is rapidly rising: Chris Denney of 108 Garage.
Denny is an intriguing chef: a rakish dervish of culinary energy. Yet talk to him about food and an easy smile returns to his face like a long lost friend. The manic energy settles, his shoulders lower and eyes soften. He speaks at length about his love of beautiful produce, of the exciting intermingling of flavours, cultures and ideas. Getting an evening table at 108 is a tricky proposition, and there are more openings on the way. Tasting the food, it’s easy to see why.
Sea Trout, Horseradish, Lovage and Apple is modern British cooking at its finest. A fine tartare of fish is elevated and emboldened by its beautiful accompaniments but never once overpowered, a mean feat with ingredients as potent as lovage and horseradish. It reminds us oddly of ceviche: beautifully tender fish cloaked with with the zing of flavours so intense that they flash across the tongue in a blur. It’s over in a second, but its brevity hides a remarkable depth: a whirlwind tour of salty sea and English roots that leaves us craving more.
Creedy Carver Duck, Miso Butterscotch and White Peach also dazzles. This is the brief window in which those gorgeous Italian white peaches are at their perfumed, alluring best, their syrupy juice and tender skin one of summer’s greatest joys. They should be the star of the dish, but even they pale in comparison to the genuinely astonishing pairing of duck and miso butterscotch. An opening clash of sweet and savoury is enticing enough, but it’s the sudden crescendo of offaly, umami greatness that sweeps us off our feet. Simply beguiling: it’s easily one of the best things that we’ve eaten all year.
We turn towards Salted Black Cherry, Golden Raspberry and Perilla with positive glee and find another intriguing set of flavours. The perilla is amazingly interesting, adding an almost medicinal note to an otherwise sumptuous show of ripe fruit. As a dish though, we’re not as convinced. It feels like a clever titillation for the tongue that’s better left as an entry on a tasting menus than as a full course.
The same can’t be said for a Chocolate Cremeux, Cardamon Ice Cream and Wild Rice. The rice puffs add a nice change of texture to the otherwise thoroughly silky dessert, though their flavour is a bit lost. Not that it matters: the tested combination of rich, indulgent chocolate and floral, woody cardamon still an absolute winner. The ice cream is once again a great show of technical finesse, perfectly capturing all the complexity and gusto that makes cardamon such a wonderful ingredient without falling into the overpowering abyss that so often marrs the use of spice in dairy based desserts.
Like the duck, it’s also more than simply a delicious dish. It’s about as close to potential on a plate as you’re likely to find, an invitation for enthusiasm and curiousity. Taste it, and you’ll want to go to 108 Garage as soon as you can, and keep going back in the hope that this remarkably inventive chef’s star continues to rise.
Photos: Daniel Masters and San Pellegrino
The S.Pellegrino Itineraries of Taste Banquets is at Harvey Nichols every Tuesday from 18th July until 9th August 2017. For further information or to book your tickets visit here.