It would appear that when you work in hospitality, you’re Saturdays are ALWAYS CRAZY!!! This was especially true this past Saturday (the 8th of October). We had a legitimately full house. Every table was taken and we were worked off our feet!!
I worked the conservatory which is normally seven tables of two, but owing to large parties it was moved around a bit. Instead there was a table of five, two tables of four and three tables of two. And to cap it all off.... the table of five was a group (the Flints) who frequent L’enclume was having an 18 course menu with cheese and coffee. What a night!!!
I have mentioned before that I was being a runner. But for the last 2 weeks(ish) I’ve actually been a Chef du Rang!!! This means that I’ve been seating tables, pouring waters (and the occasional wine... but I mostly leave that to the sommelier), putting cutlery on the table... and the most important part: serving and explaining dishes!! When a runner brings me a tray, they will discreetly tell me which table it is for (although for the most part I should and do know who’s waiting for which course) and I’ll take the plates, place it on that table (serve the lady first and always place the plate from the right when possible!!) then I’ll explain to them what they have before them.
For the most part I just list the ingredients and through words like “beautiful”, “lovely” and “nice” when describing the different items on the plate, but sometimes I take the time to explain (briefly!) the actual preparation of the main elements (ie. cooked over embers, pan seared, slow roasted, etc.). As of right now I know all of the eight course menu, all of the 12 course menu and most of the 12 course vegetarian menu. Fortunately, because the kitchen uses lots of local and ‘in-season’ ingredients, I can usually tell you what’s on a vegetarian dish that I’m not familiar with because I recognize some of the main elements.
I have to say, I’m having a lot of fun working the floor. It’s very tiring and a long night of work... but the atmosphere is something I’ve never seen working anywhere else before and the people (both the chefs, the other chef du rongs and the customers) are all so great!!!
As I mentioned, I had a table with an 18 course menu (basically it was the 12 course menu with the main dish from the eight course added, as well as a couple of vegetarian dishes thrown in there). I haven’t had the chance to take photos of any of the dishes yet. Still not sure how I’ll be able to manage that, but I will describe the 18 courses to you that I served, just so you can know what an awesome chef du rong I am!!! (Oh, and also what kind of dishes we’re talking about here)
Not on the menu is the first dish, the amuse-bouche. This is a bite sized hors d'oeuvre, like a little ‘gift from the chef’. Right now we’re having a montgomery cheddar biscuit (nice and sharp flavour) which has a little mound of broccoli puree on top and finished with dried crushed raspberries and pea shoots.
The first official course is presented in a small ceramic sack, it looks like a little pillow that fits in the palm of your hand. The actual vessel is made by the art students at Preston University. The dish starts off with a base of celery dill gel, some beetroot meringue and beetroot mousse and polished off with some buffalo mozzarella granita and some fresh baby pak choi shoots.
The second dish was of heirloom tomatoes stewed in mead and presented with crisp baby bell (pepper) and alexander seed mayo (Alexander being a flower who’s seeds have a distinctly herby taste similar to rosemary or sage).
Third is the purple graffiti cauliflower which is proposed on a base of fresh cheese and garnished with a thin rye crisp.
The fourth dish is a very classic Rogan dish. A cod mousse is formed into a spherical shape resembling a yolk and dipped in a turmeric gel then served on a base of puffed rice seasoned with vinegar and salt. Finishing off this dish is a warm garlic mayo and some fresh watercress.
At this point some individual rolls are brought from the pastry section of the kitchen. 3 rolls per person, a dark pumpernickel roll, a spelt and barley and finally an organic unbleached flour with potato starch added. Fresh unsalted butter from the kitchen is finished off with some salt which is locally harvested.
The fifth dish is the English truffle pudding. A crisp slice of croissant is served with baby white onion skins, fresh fennel, crisp puffed pearl barley, very thinly sliced black English truffles (from Kent) and the works is finished off with a rich truffle broth poured onto your dish in front of you by yours truly!
Sixth is the catch of the day. A base of oyster emulsion is topped with smoke trout, cockles, salmon caviar, smoked and pan seared scallops and finished off with pickled celeriac, squid ink pebbles (a meringue made with squid ink) and a crisp potato net that resembles a fishing net.
Seventh is the smoked yolk hidden under the Verna Leek which as been cooked in and served with a horseradish sauces and finished with coastal herbs.
The eighth dish is a base of St. Tola cheese, a sharp and creamy irish goat cheese which is covered in a light dusting of malt. Jerusalem artichokes are standing upright in this base and garnished with crisp artichoke skin, tarragon herbs as well as tarragon oil.
Chicken offals make up the ninth dish. The heart, liver and gizzard of chicken are pan seared and served with white lady runner beans, golden cap mushrooms and finished off with chicken jus and mugwort gravy.
Tenth is the Royal Kidney variety of heritage potatoes served on a base of shredded crab meat with horse radish sauce, crisp chicken skin, chicken jus and finished off with baby garlic chives.
Millet pudding with local favourite Stichelton, an un-pasteurized version of Stilton cheese makes up the eleventh dish.
Twelfth was the fillet from the monkfish tail served with a variety of radishes, costal herbs and finished with an elderberry caper sauce.
A fillet of plaice is the thirteenth dish. Served with white vienna, a type of kohlrabi which was baked in salt, kale greens, razor clams and finished with a seafood sauce.
The fourteenth dish, and the first of the two main dishes is the suckling pig, a cut from the loin. Served with a grilled parsnip, apple gel, ground ivy, wild chervil and finished off with a puffed pig crackling.
Fifteenth is a very slowly cooked (72 hours cooked!) short-rib of the shorthorn cow. Presented with smoked marrow, butternut squash that is presented in two forms thin slices as well as a puree and all finished off with a sherry sauce and celery leaves.
At this point, as per French tradition, a course of cheese is offered. A variety of locally made cheese can be sampled.
The desserts start with a chestnut ice cream which is served on a base of apple gel with some granny smith apple cubes. Honey oat crumble, grated chestnut and anise hyssop flowers finish off the sixteenth course.
Seventeenth is the stout icecream made with a stout beer from Coniston and licorice powder. A curd of sea buckthorn makes up the base of this dish.
The final official course, eighteenth is the sweet cheese, a goat cheese served with gooseberry compote, walnut crumble and finished off with a douglas fir wafer.
There is another little course that isn’t listed on the menu the guests are shown and this is the anise hyssop milk shake, a small shot of this very refreshing flavour which is served with a light raspberry meringue that is dusted with white chocolate powder.
And after all that, if coffees are chose (which in this case... they were!) a petit four of Kendal Mint Cake ice cream with Tuscan chocolate is given to each guest with their coffee.
Are you hungry now?