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Testing the Finalists – M Young Chef of the Year.
It’s the last day today of the Young Chef of the Year competition – sixteen finalists have been battling it out, taking over the M Victoria kitchen and dining room to cook a four-course menu for paying guests. I was lucky enough to go along last week when Matthew Hurry-Laurent from Hotel Café Royal was in the kitchen. I’d picked the date partly because of my own availability but partly because I loved the menu. And, I wasn’t in the least bit disappointed by the result.
The finalists were picked by M’s culinary director, Mike Reid, who used a strict list of criteria including sustainability, sourcing and waste management to come up with a list that included young chefs from The Stafford (Jordan Kerridge), The Swan Inn (Will Bowman Smith) and Boodles (Lily Stock). Each of them, with a small support team, took over a corner of the kitchens at M restaurant to make and serve their menu for one night only! I have to confess I’d have loved to try more of the menus but, I was stunned by Matthew’s offering.
But first, a glass of chilled Champagne Pommery in the private members’ clubroom at M Restaurant. A great way to start the evening.
We started with a chilled courgette velouté served with peppermint emulsion and a quenelle of chopped mushroom, ham and cheese. The velouté was deliciously light and full of early summer flavours, complemented perfectly by the light peppermint emulsion. Perhaps the ingredients for the quenelle like mixture to one side could have been chopped a little more finely, but I quite liked the added texture and the contrasting piquancy of the cheese.
Next, a picture-perfect plate of delicately poached lobster with lobster bisque. My photo doesn’t really do justice to the dish which was a mix of lightly poached fresh lobster with fresh vegetables and a fragrant spoonful of bisque. We were impressed with the portion size too, a generous plateful of this luxurious fish.
Cannon of baby lamb came with a fresh herb crust of coriander, a meltingly soft portion of pommes Anna and a little Jerusalem artichoke puree. Rosemary lamb jus finished off this delicious summer dish, with the softest and sweetest of slow-cooked lamb nicely matched to the potatoes and artichoke.
To finish, pineapple and spiced rum upside-down cake was dainty, with just a little fresh pineapple to one side and a sweet sticky reduction of spiced rum. My companion, who doesn’t drink alcohol, was served her portion without the spiced rum mixture and still loved the dish, though perhaps it might have benefitted with a little extra of the pineapple cream that was served with both dishes.
Well, we gave Matthew top marks on our scoring chart. I loved every dish, with the lamb an excellent main course and the delicate lobster a memorable fish dish. I’m waiting now to see who wins.
But, whether our man is crowned winner or not, I’m sure he has a stellar career ahead of him.
M & Bookatable Young Chef of the Year
Zig Zag Building
70 Victoria Street, London, SW1E 6SQ