I was extremely privileged to attend AEG’s The Garden Room pop up restaurant event at John Lewis’ Roof Garden, not once but twice!!! This pop up was a unique event held to celebrate John Lewis’ 150th Anniversary.
We arrived at the black door, as instructed, where we were ushered into a lift with a lawn, this took us up to the magic. It was like the moment from Charlie and the chocolate factory when Willy Wonka opened the door to reveal his world of pure imagination. We were literally on the roof of John Lewis’ flagship store on London’s iconic Oxford street. The rooftop had been transformed by designer Tony Woods who became the RHS Young Garden Designer of the Year 2013. The ground was covered with a bouncy lawn, the walls were decorated with grasses and wild flowers. There were romantic decked areas, hedge chairs and a buzz of excitement.
The curtain was pulled back and we wandered inside the Garden Room. There was a huge white polo shaped table, growing up through the hole were huge decorated branches accompanied by a scattering of plant pots. The table intimately sat 20 dinners and from our chairs we were able to watch the masters at work in the kitchen. The menus were presented on iPads, which was impressive but they may have had some tipsy photos on at the end of the evening, hehe!
Simon presented each dish as it was served and during the courses made an effort to talk to his diners. As a foodie, for me chefs are like rock stars, so it’s a real pleasure to be in such an intimate setting and have the opportunity to speak with the chef who has created these amazing dishes.
First dish was wild garlic, smoked eel, yesterday’s bread, capers. I’ve eaten a few dishes containing smoked eel recently and I really enjoy it. The smokey taste is fantastic and the eel is surprisingly subtle.
Next dish was a salmon, asparagus, lovage and monks beard. From this dish I particularly enjoyed the raw asparagus shavings as it’s not something I’ve had before.
Next up was my favourite dish, pigs cheek. It was a slowly cooked melt in the mouth, cut with a spoon, delicious piece of pork, I’m actually salivating remembering the taste! Surprisingly some guests seemed a bit alarmed at the thought of eating a pigs cheek, but the worry on faces soon turned to pleasure after the first mouthful.
Next dish halibut, with parsnip purée. A beautifully presented dish, thoroughly enjoyed too.
Desserts were up now, chocolate and coriander! A combination I’ve not tried before but it actually worked really well.
My favourite dessert was the elderflower, strawberry, lemon verbena. I do love elderflower, it’s a taste I associate with summer and also home as it grows in my garden. This was a gorgeous dessert and the perfect end to a perfect evening.
The following week I attended a second event on the rooftop and cooking this time was another Michelin starred chef, Atul Kochhar. I was very excited, I’ve not eaten at many Indian fine dining restaurants and Benares restaurant was on my must go to list. Atul presented all the dishes at the beginning of the evening and was very focused in the kitchen throughout the night.
Soft shell crab was the next course. This was my first taste of soft shell crab and certainly not my last. It looked a little scary to be honest and I wasn’t sure how to eat it but once I tucked in I devoured it in a second! I could have easily eaten another one. This appears on the Benares menu which I think I will have to visit just to eat this dish again, it was that good!
Next course sea bass, delicious!
Next up lamb, again another delicious dish.
This food was incredible and nothing like the Indian food I’ve eaten before. The flavours were familiar but not expected from the presentation. By that I mean that I’m used to the typical French fine dining presented in this way but my tastebuds were surprised by the Indian flavours. Elderflower sorbet was presented as a palate cleanser then we had dessert of bhaba doi, served with textures of strawberries. It was a lovely fresh sweet treat to round up an incredible feast of flavours.
All the courses at both evenings were matched with wines from the John Lewis food hall and each wine complimented the food perfectly. The man responsible for the pairings was Christian. I am always so impressed by sommeliers and their knowledge of wines. I should educate myself with my wine for dummies book which is collecting dust, but I just prefer to trust the sommeliers.
Two incredible evenings, with two highly talented chefs. Such an intimate and exclusive event and I was proud and privileged to be a part of it. Thank you AEG, John Lewis, Simon Hulstone and Atul Kochhar.