Masterchef has come a long way since the days of Lloyd Grossman. Back then the competition seemed to have little impact with only one winner, Sue Lawrence, establishing a food based career. To my mind the greatest outcome of this era of Masterchef was a parody that appeared in Series Two of “The Smell of Reeves and Mortimer” – if you’ve not seen it google it now!
Since it’s revamp in 2005 the winners and runners up have enjoyed much more success – highlighted by Thomasina Myers and Wahaca recently opening in Brighton. One of last year’s finalists, Tony Rodd, is forging himself a career as a supper club host and private chef. He has linked up with Brighton restaurant H.en and pop up dining specialists Polygon to host two special events in the city.
H.en is a relatively new player in Brighton’s food scene and pride themselves on being a high welfare chicken restaurant with an ethical approach to business. Situated on Trafalgar Street they are a day time café/restaurant that serves up fried and grilled chicken, waffles and burgers with a selection of craft beers to wash them down with. They will be opening a new restaurant in London in the next few months and spreading their love of ethical chicken.
On the evening of Tony’s pop up the menu consisted of a four course set meal with optional wine matching. Possibly remembered for his snappy dressing and facial hair almost as much as his food; the chosen name for his pop up experiences, “well dressed plates”, is pretty apt. A cursory glance at the menu provided reassurance that the meal was not going to be a case of style over substance with some classic flavour combinations on offer.
After a brief introduction, in which we found out that another two Masterchef contestants were assisting in the kitchen, the meal began. First up we had some pre-meal nibbles in the form of a selection of chorizo or rosemary and parmesan madeleines. It was a low key start to the meal with the chorizo the stronger of the two.
Next up a deliciously simple and honest dish consisting of cured trout, crab salad and watercress with lemon pearls. This was a fantastic plate of food with the firm and flavoursome fish providing a great centre piece. This was topped with a hit of sweet and rich crab meat with tiny explosions of citrus provided by the lemon pearls. This was matched perfectly with a glass of Jean-Luc Colombo Cotes Du Rhone. Not one to usually mention wines this one was lovely with floral notes and a dry apple finish that partnered the dish wonderfully.
The meat dish was a classic offering of slow cooked lamb rump with textures of beetroot and a salsa verde. This was another simple yet elegant dish that was executed to perfection. The lamb was meltingly soft and sweet with every mouthful a pleasure to tuck into. The varying textures of beetroot gave variety and layers to the dish that impressed and the refreshing salsa verde was neatly balanced. A very accomplished dish that was matched with a delightful Valle De Leyda pinot noir from Chile.
The conclusion to the evening came courtesy of a strawberry and chocolate tart with a basil sorbet. According to Mr Rodd, of the 200 people that had tried the sorbet only one person disliked it, “and so if you don’t like it, you’re wrong”. As it turns out I did like it very much. Equally refreshing and sweet with a flavour that made me think of mojitos there was not much to dislike.
The accompanying chocolate and strawberry tart could have offered a little more. The pastry was light and flaky with juicy ripe strawberries sat atop. I felt that the chocolate filling could have been a little more prominent as it did get a little lost alongside the other flavours.
The whole dining experience was a pleasurable one and it was good to have the opportunity to experience Masterchef finalist level cooking and have a chat to Tony at the end.
As mentioned this was the first of two evenings that Tony Rodd will be hosting at H.en. The second of these takes place on the 1st May with a completely different but equally exciting menu. Details of this and future events at H.en can be found at www.henstories.com including other Polygon collaborations. They will also be holding a charity karaoke fundraiser to help build a school in Dunkirk for child refugees in association with The Brighton Shelter Build Project on Monday the 2nd May.
87-88 Trafalgar Street
01273 671 004