Can the Chinese God of Love save Valentine’s Day?

Two Valentine's Day cocktails tied together with red silk ribbon
Valentine’s Day cocktails tied with silk ribbon

Yep, it’s almost here. Valentine’s Day. The day that we can unashamedly celebrate how we feel about our significant other or anyone else for that matter. Year after year it raises the inevitable question of how or where is best for celebrating love. Restaurants are over-booked, bars over-crowded and weekends-away will almost always be spent with other couples who also attempted to get away. So who can save Valentine’s Day?

Cue Yue Lao, the immortal Chinese God of Love. Yue Lao translates to old man under the moon. In Chinese mythology he appears at night under the moon and ties divinely fated couples with silken cord. It’s believed that once this is done nothing can prevent their union.

This February we invite Yue Lao to work his magic over London. GŎNG Bar at Shangri-La at The Shard has created two his and hers cocktails bound together with a red ribbon to evoke the spirit of Yue Lao.

His is a peaty mixture with a meaty bite; Talisker, Mastiha, Cocchi Americano and yuzu with lavender bitters. It’s served with a cone of beef biltong. Needless to say the flavour pairings of salted beef with the smokey whisky and yuzu is heavenly indeed.

Hers is shaken Champagne in a flute garnished with rather romantic crushed rose petals. It’s crafted with Peter in Florence London Dry Gin, Noilly Prat Dry, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, lapsang, cranberry, orange blossom and raspberry blanc de blancs foam. Sip it slowly and it transforms into a full bodied, perfectly balanced drink.

Yue Lao cocktails can be ordered together in any combination; His and His, His and Hers or Hers and Hers. Be sure to experience them between 11th – 17th February at GŎNG Bar. Cocktails cost £20 each or together with single red rose for £45. Book in advance so you won’t have to share your romantic moments with anyone else.

A romantic table setting overlooking Tower Bridge
A candle-lit Valentine’s Day dinner over London

Once your romantic fate has been bound you may continue your evening on the 35th floor at TĪNG Restaurant which has created a very special Valentine’s Day experience. Between 14th – 17th February London can enjoy a three course menu priced at £85 per person or £140 per person with wine pairing and a glass of Champagne.

Scrumptious dishes on the menu include Cornish halibut and parsley velouté and braised haunch of roe deer with smoked beetroot and red cabbage. A meat-free option of foraged mushrooms, pickled onion, Jerusalem artichoke and mushroom tea is also on offer. Has Yue Lao saved Valentine’s Day? I certainly think so.

For more information visit: www.the-shard.com/shangri-la

Interview with Chef David Wagger

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Hirsch2 Brioche, Kerbelknolle, Karottenmousseline, Maulbeerenglace Venison2 Brioche, cervil root, carrots mousseline, glaze of mulberry; Hotel Gasthof Post, Familie Moosbrugger, Lech am Arlberg, Österreich

As a lover of fine food one of the greatest pleasures in my life is meeting the masters in the art of culinary. The best dishes, I’ve experienced, have always been those which reflect the personality of the chefs who create them. 

Chef David Wagger, from The Gasthof Post, is the latest to head the kitchens at Hotel Post Lech, Austria. With a younger, innovative approach to cooking and a perfect background in Austrian cuisine it’s an exciting appointment for guests. The five star hotel, with 46 rooms ranging from single rooms to chalets, is a surely an exciting place to make a mark given that the region has the highest density of gourmet restaurants in the world. Post is also part of the select group of hotels which belong to Relais & Châteaux founded in 1952. I was fortunate enough to catch up with Chef Wagger to chew over (ha!) all things culinary for the upcoming season. Read on to find out what we talked about. 

GTW: What do you find most exciting about cooking here in Post at Lech?

Different restaurants and menus we offer at the Post from the ever changing half board menu to the a la carte menu and my two special gourmet menus in the Jägerstube.

GTW: Postblick in particular looks like an incredible setting for your food. How inspired were you by your surroundings when you created the new menu?

DW: The Post is a very traditional Austrian hotel and has the personal touch of the family in management. It was and still is very inspiring to me to create dishes that combine tradition with modernity.

GTW:  Have you been surprised by the positive reaction to your appointment here at Lech as a young chef

DW: The level of culinary is very high in Lech. Lech has the highest density of gourmet restaurants in the world so the competition is very strong. Therefore, it’s a real challenge to raise the standards. The greatest joy is when I receive positive feedback from our guests and also from other chefs in Lech.

GTW: What’s the focus on your menu in terms of flavour? What would you say are the best examples of this on your menu?

DW: As mentioned before I like to combine tradition with new and modern aspects so a lot of my creations combine the Austrian kitchen with the Mediterranean kitchen. I really like the taste of tomato and basil.

GTW: Lech attracts a group of varied international guests so how do people who’ve never experienced Austrian cuisine react to it?

DW: Those not familiar with the Austrian kitchen are surprised by the variety of flavour and just after a few bites they are already fans! Especially the classics like the Wiener
Schnitzel or the Kaiserschmarrn; they are very popular among our guests.

GTW: What do those acquainted with your cookery make of it?

DW: My two gourmet menus are all my personal creations and interpretations. One of my personal highlights is the white tomato soup served with a scallop. They are what I would always bring to a dish.

GTW: What are you most looking forward to showcasing over the coming festive and ski season?

DW: This year I am very much looking forward to our special New Year’s Eve gala dinner. In particular I am very excited to serve the ibex consommé from our own hunt with cranberry ravioli and small curd dumplings.

GTW: That sounds delicious! Finally, where do you stand on the quail versus veal debate? 

DW: I would not put them against each other as they work very well together. You can see in our gourmet restaurant how we combine quail and veal with rosemary polenta soufflé and kohlrabi.

 

Post Lech opens for winter from 30th November to 22 April 2019 and for summer between 21 June – 30 September 2019. For bookings and more information on gourmet dining at Post visit: www.postlech.com

 

Botanik Bistro and Bar – Colombo, Sri Lanka

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Colombo, Sri Lanka is beginning to make a name for itself in more ways than one. Of course the coastal city has the weather, beachfront and history on its side. All of this however, seems predictable given its emerging gourmet food movement which is inaudibly making Colombo a serious contender in the arena.

Botanik Bistro and Bar

Botanik Bistro and Bar has thrown its hat into the ring with a menu curated by Michelin starred chef Rishi Naleendra. It sits on the 6th floor rooftop of Fairway Colombo Hotel in the commercial district of Fort. The restaurant and bar signals a fearless departure from the failsafe palm trees and elephants school of thought prevalent on the island. It’s an elegant, ethereal space capturing the magnificent rise and fall of Fort’s skyline. The terrace, served by a striking 34-foot Moroccan tiled bar, faces the World Trade Centre dominating the view. As I sat under the dark sky on the bar’s terrace I felt the unmistakable scent of the sea glide past me in a warm caress of a breeze. Botanik evidently is here to entice a new breed of patronage; the free-spirited with a taste for luxury. The relaxed atmosphere by no means indicating a laissez-faire attitude to dining.

The Food

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I enjoyed a surreal evening of cocktails and dinner at Botanik. A starter of Sri Lankan buffalo mozzarella, green house tomato and anchovies served with basil was an utter delight. I was unsure of what to expect of the mozzarella as I’d only previously tasted its Italian counterpart. In terms of colour, texture and porosity it was faultless. Coupled with salty anchovies and basil the dish was a joy.

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My main of 12 hour lamb shoulder was served on roasted carrots, watercress and mint. This sure-fire crowd-pleaser didn’t disappoint. The tender lamb pulled away gently against my fork with the watercress and mint adding a feisty flavour to the palette. The star of the night for me however, was the chickpeas and feta salad served as a side. It was a fine balance of taste and texture which is not always achieved in basic dishes. This was a Mediterranean classic perfectly conquered at Botanik.

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I wrapped up my evening with lemon cheesecake served with the unsung hero of chocolate; chocolate crumb. It was clever use of a basic ingredient which added interest to a heavenly dessert contributing the perfect ending to an exquisite meal.

The genius in this menu lay in its simplicity. At any given point there were no more than three to four main ingredients on my plate. Yet their combination was so well accomplished that the results delivered an unforgettably refined dining experience. Proof that well sourced ingredients cooked with passion need no gimmicks. I followed my meal with a night-cap at the bar as I sat overlooking the bright lights of the city at night. It was as perfect a Colombo night as I could have ever wished for.

Botanik is located at 7, Hospital Street, Colombo 10, Sri Lanka. For more information visit: www.botanik.lk