Cheek by Jowl pop-up at Carousel: A taste of Australia in London
Over the years, Carousel’s open kitchen has welcomed a whole host of culinary legends from around the world to serve up some of the best cuisines to London diners. The latest chef in residency is Rishi Naleendra – the man behind Cheek by Jowl. Hailing all the way from Singapore, the fine-dining establishment opened in 2016 and was awarded a Michelin star just 18 months later. Sri Lankan-born Rishi met his wife Manuela Toniolo in Australia and together they fulfilled their ultimate dream of launching a restaurant of their own. Now they’re bringing their take on Australian cuisine to Carousel using some of the finest seasonal British produce around.
The atmosphere upon arrival had the relaxed intimacy of a supper club paired with a cool, modern restaurant setting – we couldn’t wait to get started on the food. First up was a single oyster covered in smoked tomato granita which sent our taste buds into a frenzied bliss. The sweet tanginess of the tomato was well balanced with the saltiness from the oyster, making it the perfect mouthful.
Next was the Smoked Mackerel with Green Pea, Cucumber and Burnt Lemon. The mackerel was sweet and delicate with only a hint of fish coming through. The smooth, silky texture melted on the tongue and the cucumber and green pea almost served as a palate cleanser, getting us ready for the next course.
And onto the next we went: Old Dairy Cow with Puffed Grain, Fermented Chilli and Smoked Maple. This dish not only proved that food waste was high on the agenda but also that, when served right, every cut of meat has the potential to be exquisite. Served as a tartare, the meat was deliciously rare and tender and had just the right amount of seasoning to bring out the natural flavour.
Next up was the additional special dish. Rarely is Rishi’s Sri Lankan heritage seen in his food but we were in for a treat as he had prepared a courgette flower with spicy Sri Lankan mung beans, millet and sunflower seeds especially for the event. This dish definitely had a kick to it with fiery spices running throughout which were perfectly balanced with the sweet, fragrant courgette flower.
Then it was onto the Lamb Saddle with Caramelised Yoghurt, Black Bean and Maitake Mushroom. The lamb was rich and succulent, beautifully complemented by the firm beans. The maitake mushroom also made a welcome addition, bringing an extra element of richness to the dish.
Finally, it was time for dessert. The menu didn’t give too much away, simply describing the dish as Strawberry, Black Olive, Rhubarb, which really piqued our curiosity. When it came out, we were presented with a silky, shiny parcel which turned out to be a pannacotta made from black olives. Plunging our spoon into the parcel we found strawberry ice cream and rhubarb nestled inside. This dish was innovative and unusual, and the combination of ingredients really did work.
As well as Rishi’s ability to boldly pair fresh ingredients and bring out the natural flavour in all the produce he uses, he also just seems to have a knack for being inventive with the utmost class. Although I’m still not entirely sure what Australian cuisine is, this chef is certainly putting it on the map.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
Cheek by Jowl is at Carousel, 71 Blandford Street Marylebone London W1U 8AB, from 12th until 23rd June 2018. To book a table call 020 7487 5564 or visit their website here.