When thinking of all these practical considerations, it’s easy to forget that the dessert sits at the end of an overall meal; it’s part of a much larger experience, and has the power to finish a diner’s experience with a flourish, or leave them with an unsatisfied sweet tooth. Offering a balanced choice is the best way to cater to varied tastes – just as starters and mains usually feature meat, fish and vegetarian options, likewise Daniel stresses the importance of balance in a dessert menu.
For à la carte menus, Daniel recommends six options, covering a mix of dishes: both hot and cold, signature and innovative, popular ingredients and dietary requirements. ‘Personally I will always try to have one dish on the menu that is gluten-free and one that is nut-free, as these are the two most common dietary requirements you receive in a restaurant. I will also try if possible to put a dessert that is dairy-free, too, the main reason for this is so that the chefs do not have to make adjustments to a dish to try and suit a customer’s needs. For me there is nothing worse than having to remove elements/components from a dish, as it is then not a true reflection of the original dessert.’
For ingredients, the balance again is needed to ensure both familiar choices and more adventurous options are available. It’ll come as no surprise, that in Daniel’s experience, chocolate desserts are usually the most popular choice on any menu, while classic combinations, such as rhubarb and custard or blackberry and apple, act as familiar flavours that diners are comfortable with, but Daniel likes to challenge the customer too: ‘on the Angler lunch menu we have a classic Breton cake with vanilla custard and apple purée, but I have added an apple and tarragon sorbet to accompany the dish. The combination works really well and the customer feedback is great – it adds a cleanliness to the dish and elevates it to the next level.’
In terms of seasonality, this requires both forward-planning and ‘flexibility’. For example, planning rhubarb recipes for the spring is obviously a must, but being able to guarantee exactly when the first shoots will be available or the continued quality of that product throughout the growing season isn’t possible. Likewise, an unexpected early crop of English strawberries, and it’s worth being one of the first restaurants to have them as a special on the menu. Making the most of this one ingredient requires balance; ‘sometimes less is more… you don’t want to be hiding its flavour under ten other flavours/ingredients’, while showcasing the same ingredient in different forms and techniques can add levels of complexity to the dish.