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Gelinaz! Walk With Us: what happened

Gelinaz! Walk With Us: what happened

by Tom Shingler Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tom Shingler heads to the first of four events held by the chef collective, tasting everything from rennet granita to sheep testicles.

Tom Shingler is the features editor at Great British Chefs.

Serving sixteen courses cooked by fourteen chefs in six hours across two restaurants sounds like more trouble than it’s worth. But for the team at Gelinaz!, it’s a challenge to be relished. This one-off event was put together to showcase the incredible talent coming out of kitchens all over the world, and the two restaurants hosting the event – Lyle’s and The Clove Club – encapsulated the exciting, forward-thinking innovation that’s being seen in restaurants today.

The menu for the night – called Walk With Us – was based around four courses developed by head chefs James Lowe (of Lyle’s) and Isaac McHale (of The Clove Club). Each course was then ‘remixed’ three times by a duo of chefs from all over the world. They had to focus on the same core ingredients, and put their own spin on a particular dish. The diners were split between the two restaurants, then halfway through the meal were asked to get up, put on their coats and embark on a ten-minute walk to swap venues.

Some of the more well known chefs involved in the Gelinaz! collective were Claude Bosi, Italy’s Enrico Crippa, Niko Romito and Davide Scabin and Stockholm’s Petter Nilsson. Everyone cooking at the event was teamed up by random, and tasked with creating a dish that took risks, wasn’t necessarily perfect but definitely offered something different. We started in The Clove Club, and after a brief introduction from Isaac, sat down to our first course.

Scallop
Scallops were served in every which way for the first four dishes
Italian chefs
Many of Italy's top chefs, including Davide Scabin, Enrico Crippa and Niko Romito were showcasing their talent

The dishes

Scallop, citrus, fennel

 
 

The first four dishes were based around these three ingredients, and Isaac’s raw scallop with fennel granita and pieces of blood orange certainly set the scene. Niko Romito and Petter Nilsson created a fantastic response with milk-poached scallops and steamed bun with fennel and crunchy wild greens, swiftly followed by Andrew Wong and Mathieu Rostaing’s little trio of scallops seasoned three ways atop a slice of bakwa (a sort of Asian barbecued jerky). Davide Scabin and Anna Tobias finished off the first course with a simple grilled scallop alongside scallop-stuffed pasta flavoured with lemon. All the dishes showed how versatile a list of three simple ingredients can be, and despite focusing on the same produce, each tasted completely different.

Hen's egg, cheese, wild garlic

Isaac started the second course off with a good hit of umami with his devilled egg flavoured with Montgomery cheddar, wild garlic and snails. Andrew and Mathieu then served one of the strangest dishes of the evening – a cold soft-boiled egg heavily dusted with spiced salt that sat on a bed of wild garlic flowers and a rennet-flavoured granita (representing the cheese element). While it might not have been the sort of thing you’d want to eat again and again, it was certainly interesting and bursting with flavour.

Next up, Petter and Niko combined silky stracciatella cheese with a punchy, vivid green garlic sauce and thinly sliced cured egg yolk – something that was full of rich, eggy flavour but enticingly gummy in texture. Finally, Anna and Davide served a whole poached egg in a wild garlic sauce with a Parmesan carbonara ‘cookie’ on the side – a true highlight of the evening.

After the final plates were cleared away and everyone’s breath was suitably garlicky, we left the table and walked down the road to Lyle’s, where the rest of our dishes – and seven new chefs – were waiting. It was a well-needed break halfway through our sixteen-course banquet, and the change of scenery kept everyone interested.

 
Claude and Lee
Claude Bosi and Lee Tiernan were some of the London-based chefs taking part
Walking
After the first eight courses, diners went on a brief journey to swap restuarants

Mutton, seaweed

 
 
Chefs
The kitchen was certainly packed with seven chefs at each restaurant

Two ingredients that are certainly incredibly trendy at the moment – but might not be paired together on the average menu – were the stars of the main courses. James Lowe was now taking care of the introductory courses, and his raw topside combined with cured mullet roe, seaweed and shards of potato crisp was certainly like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. You’ll usually see the leanest, most tender cuts served as a carpaccio, but the gamey, fatty taste of the mutton was beautifully represented.

The new duos included Philip Rachinger and Lee Tiernan, who produced my favourite dish of the evening – little seaweed-infused flatbreads topped with spiced mutton offal and a fiery chilli sauce – while Mauro Colagreco’s sous chef (Mauro’s taxi actually crashed on the way to the airport so he couldn’t attend, but he’s doing fine) and Cristophe Hardiquest served the simple-sounding ‘Mutton and Chips’, which turned out to be slow-cooked mutton neck in a mutton dashi with large ‘chips’ of crunchy seaweed. The final dish (cooked by Claude Bosi and Enrico Crippa) was the ominously named ‘Claude’s Balls’, which did indeed turn out to be sheep testicles with samphire. Despite the obvious psychological challenges the dish presented, the majority of people were pleasantly surprised; the soft, creamy texture and mild flavour were much more pleasant than the name suggested.

Rhubarb, sour cream

 

It would be a shame to host a dinner in February without making the most of one of Britain’s most seasonal ingredients, and the Gelinaz! team certainly did it justice. Claude and Enrico served a beautiful little choux bun alongside soft poached rhubarb in a delicious rose jus with a sour cream sorbet on top – a dish which showed off lots of technical know-how. Mauro’s sous chef and Christophe then went on to present a little pot of rhubarb with foamy sour cream and a crunchy quinoa topping, which provided a wonderful contrast of textures. The combination of frozen sour cream, rhubarb and flavoursome acacia flowers was yet another vibrant offering from Lee and Philip (which was perfect after the deep, gamey flavours of the main courses), and then James finished things off with his rhubarb peel-flavoured meringues, filled with a sour cream and rhubarb fool.

Even though the meal spanned six hours in total, there was never a dull moment and the vast repertoire of dishes on show across the two restaurants meant everyone’s attention was on the food. While some of the dishes were more experimental than tasty and some worked better than others, it was an incredible night that proved just how inventive, playful and bewildering food can be. All the chefs seemed to have a great time taking part, and were interested in the techniques and skills everyone displayed. There are three more Walk With Us events taking place across the world this year, before Gelinaz! reveal their next crazy concept. We can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store.

Image copyright

All photography by Richard Haughton.

 
 

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