Recognise the background of this dining room? It's at 33 Portland Place where many scenes from The Kings Speech were shot. It was also the location of the inaugural dinner for the Radical Dining Society. Great British Chefs blogger Chris Osburn was lucky enough to bag a ticket. Discover what he thought ....
Photography & blog post by Chris Osburn
A notable new one for London's sophisticated supper set, the Radical Dining Society has launched with an aim to bring like minded foodie folk together to 'explore the nexus between art and food'.
The Radical Dining Society is an online members club for 'food and culture lovers to extend their social network' as well as discover up-and-coming chefs and artists through events.
RDS hosted its inaugural dinner last month, striking a well balanced tone and introducing a whole roomful of pleased palates (mine included) to the culinary delights of chefs Jérôme and Christine Navarre, owners of Chez Navarre and Chez Pham in Toulouse. For the occasion, Jérôme and Christine fused their traditions, Gascon (Jérôme) and Vietnamese (Christine) to bring out 'the best of high quality terroir produce for a unique four course dinner'.
Held at 33 Portland Place in London – where many a scene from The King's Speech along with some less acclaimed and much less wholesome films (Google it) were shot – our meal commenced with a Vietnamese style soup broth. The hearty broth was un-pho-gettably savoury, with every dish thereafter keeping delectable pace with such a meaty melange of a starter. I ended my repast thinking 'Oh great. Now I've gotta add Toulouse to my list of must-visit places'. I would really love to see what these two chefs are capable of accomplishing when working on their own turf.
Wines came via Bordeaux courtesy of André Lurton, adding memorable effect to the occasion without ever stealing the show from the Navarres. Lurton's line up was served in 'revolutionary' new glasses called Hélicium – the first time such glasses were used in the UK. Inspired by wind turbines, the glasses have small internal 'propellor blades' which enhance aromas and eliminate the need for a decanter. As you gently turn your glass, the asymmetrical blades and the dome at the bottom of the glass 'ensure a optimal fluidity and oxygenation of the wine'. Comparing wine poured in Hélicium glasses and the same quaff served in an ordinary glass, a brighter and slightly more pronounced difference could be discerned. Keep your ears open for ' Hélicium' – these babies might really take off here.
For the eyes to feast as well as the taste buds and tummy, large feather arrangements specially crafted for the dinner by artist Nina Farrell graced the room and added a bit of edge to the evening. Cards featuring photography shot in the kitchen of Chez Navarre by Vincent Lacotte brought the essence of the Toulouse restaurant to the chefs' temporary venue.
Yes, a unique dinner it truly was. Beyond commendable even. And very delicious, but was it radical?
If by 'radical' the organisers mean to favour extreme changes to existing views, I suppose the answer depends on who you ask. The investment banker seated next to me during dinner was certainly chuffed to be there. From the chefs visiting town from France to the innovative wineglasses and the film shoot setting, he explained there was plenty of cool outside-the-box sort of stuff for him to share with the boys back in the office the next day. On my other side, someone from the digital media realm was equally tickled to experience such an exquisite night out, but seemed a bit nonplussed by the concept.
And if, in this case, 'radical' refers to being related to the origin of something, well, the RDS peeps may indeed be onto something yummy. The society has a stated desire 'to encourage chefs to be their most creative and artists to use food as either their material or their theme and to inspire members to create the most inventive and delicious dinners which they might want to share with other members'. As long as conviviality and curiosity work as the driving forces behind RDS and contrivance and superimposing fanciful ideas atop otherwise ordinary dinner parties are reined in, RDS and its members may be in for an intriguingly tastful future of keeping the spirit of the dinner party alive and relevant.
To find out about membership and upcoming events, visit www.radicaldiningsociety.com.
Blog post for Great British Chefs by Chris Osburn .
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