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Bryn Williams launches new dishes to mark the Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi exhibition at Somerset House.
There’s a lovely mashup of art and food going on this spring at Somerset House, Tying in with the new free exhibition, Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi, chef Bryn Williams has come up with a series of dishes celebrating mushrooms for his restaurant Bryn Williams at Somerset House with some of the flavoursome fungi having been grown on-site. I’m a bit of a mushroom fanatic so an invitation to review the exhibition and taste the dishes at the restaurant was a no-brainer.
So on a cold, clear winter’s night, I entered from the Strand through Somerset House’s courtyard into Bryn’s restaurant. He is also chef/patron of the well-regarded Odette’s in Primrose Hill but has been at Somerset House for two years now within one of London’s most iconic buildings overlooking the River Thames.
We were able to explore the sequence of elegant high-ceilinged rooms decorated with globe lamps that make up the restaurant with a glass of crisp Fiol Prosecco in hand.
And a couple of delicious canapés including a dainty, delicious vegan mushroom Scotch egg! Then it was time to step across the entrance hall into the Pentagram-designed exhibition Mushrooms: The Art, Design and Future of Fungi, the curtain-raiser of the 2020 season at Somerset House, that explores ‘the world of mushrooms through the works of a collection of thirty-five artists, designers and musicians’.
The first room focuses on ‘Mycophilia’ – love of mushrooms. There is a sequence of stunning Beatrix Potter mushroom watercolours as well as Carsten Höller’s trippy Mushroom Suitcase, a solar-powered suitcase full of spinning Fly Agaric mushrooms.
The second room is all about ‘Magic Mushrooms’ with a copy of avant-garde composer John Cage and his collaborators’ Mushroom Book. Who knew Cage had a side-hustle selling foraged mushrooms to high-end restaurants and was the co-founder of the New York Mycological Society?
The final room, entitled ‘Fungi Futures’ features a funeral suit made from mycelium that turns your corpse into a mushroom. Luke Perry was buried in one apparently! Running until April 26th the exhibition is fun, informative, full of some great art and well worth a visit…and did I mention that it’s free?
Back to Bryn Williams at Somerset House, we were treated to a talk by Darren Springer, the resident mycologist at Somerset House. He told us about the educational food-growing programme going on at Somerset House situated in the historic building’s ‘coal holes’ repurposed as ‘fungi chambers’ where they’re growing mushrooms using waste coffee grounds from the building.
Then it was time for Bryn Williams to unveil his new dishes celebrating the mushroom (available from 1 February – 26 April 2020).
We started with what would make a perfect brunch dish – Oyster mushrooms on sourdough toast topped with a Clarence Court poached egg. (£9.50). The caramelised mushroom dipped in the unctuous egg was rich and delicious with crispy fried onions on the side adding a little extra savoury action.
We toasted the new dishes with glasses of Hattingley Valley Sparkling Rosé, 2014, a blend of the classic champagne grape triumvirate Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunière, it had a gorgeous golden pink colour, a refined mousse and toast flavours from being stored in oak barrels. Made by the Methode Traditionelle it had all the characteristics of really good champagne and like all the wines we tasted is on the restaurant’s wine list.
We moved onto a Pinot Noir, Les Mougeottes Pays d’Oc with notes of cherry and blackcurrant and oak and leather on the nose. From the Languedoc, it had an earthiness that was a great match with our main course of Trompette mushroom risotto with shavings of aged parmesan (£18.50). The rice was cooked al dente having a nutty bite, but was still very moist with the dish having a salty, umami flavours upfront.
For the dessert course, Bryn played a wild card brilliantly with a pineapple carpaccio served with black truffle and lemon thyme (£7.50). On first bite the savoury luxury of the truffle dominated, then the acidity of the lemon came through followed by the sweetness of the pineapple – it just proves that putting truffle on anything makes it better! Accompanied by a vegan gin cocktail blending the spirit with apple and lemon juice, Cointreau and an aquafaba froth topped with cloves, it was a perfect end to the meal.
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