Stelle di Stelle at Harrods – Pinchiorri and Feolde:
Occasionally there are invitations which, even at the busiest time of year, you have to find space for. Stelle di Stelle at Harrods is one such event. A five month programme of Michelin starred Italian chefs presenting their food in a pop-up at Harrods tucked away in the Tasting Room at Harrods. The line up comprises Carlo Cracco, Enrico Cerea, Gennaro Esposito and Annie Féolde with Enrico Crippa still to come in January. I was lucky enough to be invited to review the Féolde menu – with three star Michelin chef Annie Féolde showcasing her immaculate and creative dishes. One of a handful of female Michelin starred chef, Annie Féolde was the first female Italian chef to reach the ultimate three star ranking. Born and raised in the South of France, Annie’s restaurant, Enoteca Pinchiorri evolved from a wine bar, where customers could buy small dishes to accompany the wine they were tasting.
Taking a chef outside of the comfort of their own kitchen doesn’t always work well though. For a start, ingredients can be a challenge – certain things travel badly and for me at least every food has a ‘terroir’ – a characteristic given to it by the soil, the geology and the climate of the region. Then, you have a chef in unfamiliar surroundings, with different equipment and sometimes with a different team of support staff. So, importing a three star Michelin chef doesn’t necessarily produce the great results you’d expect on paper. And, while I’ve been into the Harrods wine shop many times, I’d never really taken notice of the Tasting Room.
Our menu had a classic Italian structure – perhaps not suprising since the Stelle di Stelle series is presented in association with Identità Golose (www.identitagolose.com), a culinary organisation founded in 2004 by Italian food journalist Paolo Marchi, which aims to promote modern Italian cuisine, showcase regional culinary excellence and honour leading Italian chefs worldwide.
We started with a little Grana Padona cheese with Prosciutto and an aperitif of Ferrari Maximum Brut. Just something to take the edge off the appetite.
Next an amuse bouche of chestnut mousse with pancetta, pine nuts and rosemary. The lightest of mouthfuls, this was a perfectly balanced and very subtle. The tiny morsels of pine nuts and chestnut added just a little extra texture to the frothy mousse (I can imagine this being dubbed a foam in many restaurants). The dish paired well with the Ferrari Maximum Brut Trento – an Italian sparkling wine made using Méthode Champenoise and the same grape varieties that are used in French Champagne.
The menu has a number of sponsors, including Grana Padona, Ferrari wines and Lavazza. I suspect what sounded on paper like an unlikely pairing of octopus with coffee pearls had something to do with the sponsorship, but whatever the rationale, the result was superb. Octopus cooked in olive oil with pumpkin cream, coffee pearls and watercress sprouts was paried with Rosso di Montalcino DOC San Polo 2012.
Despite the fact that I generally avoid ordering eggs, my favourite dish of the evening was the poached egg with Alba white truffle and Grana Padona cheese fondue. If all eggs came served this way I’d have them for breakfast every day. This lovely morsel was paired with an equally excellent wine, the Guilio Ferrari Trento DOC 2002.
I have to admit that I am STILL not a beer fan and, while the pasta course may have been designed to pair perfectly with the Birra Moretti La Rossa, I tried a mouthful before returning to enjoy some more Trento. Fusilli al ferretto with artichokes, scampi and liquorice powder was, however, a fine dish of unusual flavour pairings that I really enjoyed. And, the al-dente pasta was perfect for my English taste.
The final savoury dish was rack of lamb topped with garlic and thyme, served with polenta and cavolo nero. I loved the little ‘lasagne’ of cavolo nero and the lamb, served off the bone with just a little soft polenta was a beautifully tender morsel of meat.
By now my expectations were high and I wasn’t in the least bit disappointed by the ‘Bread Chocolate Oil and Salt’ dish ed for dessert, though the bread came nothing close to anything I’ve tasted before.
I’d recommend the Stelle di Stelle dining experience – a great chance to experience some of Italy’s finest chefs without leaving London. While it’s not a cheap experience, in terms of value that has to be set against enjoying a bespoke dining experience from two and three star Michelin chefs whose house menus are probably similarly priced. If you are lucky you may still be able to catch Annie Féolde, or if not, January sees Enrico Crippa taking up residence. His home restaurant is Piazza Duomo (**Michelin), 39th on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2014,
More about Stelle di Stelle
• Each chef has created a four-course menu, which can be paired with Italian wines.
• Timings: Lunch 12:30pm/1:00pm – one sitting
• Timings: Dinner 6:00pm & 8:30pm – two sittings
• Reservations can be made by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 020 7893 8700
• The four-course menu, which can be paired with Italian wines and beers will cost £65 for lunch and £115 for dinner (£85 and £140 respectively, with matching drinks).