THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
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When my family went quiet at the dinner table, my mother said it meant we were enjoying our food. That makes Chef Adam Simmonds a conversation killer! His is not food for thought, but rather cuisine for contemplation. My guest and I just kept looking at each other as we continued eating in silence. Most of my friends would kill for the ability to shut me up!
The Capital is a 5-star hotel in Knightsbridge. That’s pretty much top o’ the posh and Chef Simmonds is a perfect fit. His CV reads like a who’s who of the culinary elite. With a dining room and service to match, we are talking Fine dining with a capital F.
When I was a bus boy at the age of 15, the first thing I did was serve bread and butter. This custom went out of fashion about the same time as the dial telephone. It’s such a treat to be given a basket of crusty bread and a joy with homemade butter! A second gift of arancini and buttermilk chicken on a bed of pine felt like Christmas.
Each item on the menu lists the ingredients of the dish. Few of them are recognisable when the food arrives. A cube of jelly, a splash of sauce, an artful piping of purée. With each mouthful, I found myself looking for the flavours I knew were there but Simmonds constructs his dishes with such balance, it’s nearly impossible.
The starters are small but quality trumps quantity. Oyster/cucumber/English wasabi/lardo (£18) was artful and complex. 2 oysters, out of their shells, without their briny liquor, are more amenable to other flavours. This ensemble worked so well together that even the oysters became part of the whole.
Veal sweetbreads/cockles/watercress/lemon/liquorice (£20) was a highlight. A single, perfectly sautéed sliver of sweetbreads and a myriad of flavours in perfect harmony. I wouldn’t have minded 2 slivers!
Brill/octopus/celeriac/truffle/master stock (£32) was recommended by our waitress and she was right to do so. This beautiful fish from the turbot family is indeed, brill! With master stock (a Chinese poaching broth that is reused for added complexity) and generous shavings of truffle, it could hardly be better.
Salt aged duck/grapefruit/turnip/fennel (£25) was gorgeous. Salted for 4 hours, the resulting pink medallions are perfectly seasoned. With sweet, sour, bitter and umami, it’s another lesson in balance of taste.
A bottle of Warwick Estate, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2016 from Stellenbosch, S.A. at £29 was good value. Medium bodied with cherry, a touch of liquorice and smooth tannins. Easy drinking and a good match for a varied menu.
Elderflower Ice cream/blossom honey/oats/yoghurt (£10) was a great mix that somehow lost the elderflower but dazzled with a translucent ribbon of honey. Dark chocolate/miso/IPA ice cream/verjus (£13) was a triumph. Chocolate and miso is genius and if I were Simmonds, I’d patent the beer ice cream.
Heard enough? Ask Simmonds how to shut me up!