Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The Cube by Electrolux: Lisa Allen

What do you do when your boyfriend AllThingsMeaty wins tickets to an exclusive lunch cooked by Lisa Allen but can't go? Answer: Go yourself and take a friend.

The Cube by Electrolux has been around for a couple of months now and is a pretty special sort of pop-up. It is an example of 'experience-dining' formed both through the location and briefness of the invited star chefs. It is something that has created a 'I have to try this before it finishes' buzz, similar to when the French Laundry opened at Harrods. These projects often fail to ignite the sought-after spark, but after seeing what it is all about, I was really pleased to read they are extending the project until December.

The location, above the Royal Festival Hall, overlooking the South Bank and Houses of Parliament, is arguably the best dining spot in London. The views far surpass that of the National Portrait Gallery restaurant. To get to the Cube itself, one must “take the singing lift to the 6th floor" accompanied by an ascending C major when a host leads you up the stairs to the roof (at which point I imagine myself in some sort of spy movie). Left on the rooftop to mingle with the views, we were served champagne and canapĂ©s of Morecambe shrimps on toast and pork scratchings. Simple and delicious and gets the taste buds moving. Inside, we were welcomed by chef Lisa Allen, told to relax and even inviting us to help out in the kitchen.
The Cube.

Shrimp and scratching starters.

Lovage soup with goat cheese gnocchi and a cheese roll. 
The soup tasted as fresh as it looked and the goat cheese gnocchi was a wonderful surprise. The cheese roll was the talk of the table though; a soft and doughy middle made everyone melt just a little when dipped it into the soup.
Lovage soup and cheese roll
 
Treacle salmon with lime marshmallow and pickled ginger.
The salmon had been marinated in treacle, soy sauce, lemon grass and ginger; it was perfectly cooked and flaked beautifully. The flavours were strong and punchy and married well with the light oiliness of the salmon with the lime cutting through to provide freshness.
Treacle salmon with marshmallow

Spud with soil.
The show-stopper course. We weren't told anything about this plate other than it was “Spud with soil”. Looking just like a jacket potato, expectations were not all that high. However, when cut, the spud revealed a langoustine sat on top of a creamy mash inside the wiljia potato. The potato skin was so crisp and perfectly salty; the langoustine was fresh and meaty, sitting on a cream of burnt leeks, caviar and the mash from the spud. It was a really playful dish that created an atmosphere among the diners. A great start and wonderful to see the chef's personality come through in the cooking.
Potato with langoustine.

Ascrofts baby caulis, black pea hoummos and rare breed ham. 
The baby cauliflowers were sweet which went well with the creamy hoummos and the smoked onion sauce. We were informed the ham was cured in house, and was full of deep porky flavour. 
Baby cauiflower with rare breed ham.

Cumbrian sikha deer, spiced house black pudding, damson prunes, girolles and red wine jus.
I’m a sucker for meat and red wine so when the meat course and an intense Italian red came out, I was more than happy (exchangeable for tipsy). The meat was tender and a perfect deep rose. Even those at the table who weren’t a fan of venison said it was delicious.  Personally usually not a fan of black pudding, this one was fantastic, made using oats, barley and wrapped in potato. The crumbliness gave another texture that complimented the tender meat and puree nicely.
Venison with griolles, black pudding and prunes.

Salt Baked Beets, Shorocks Bomber Cheese Fondue 
The beets were sweet and salty and came with a garlic jelly typical of Lancashire. The cheese fondue was not overly salty and the chef had found a delicate balance of flavours.
Beets and cheese fondue.

Iced Eccles Cake, Red Grape Sorbet
A very eye-catching beautifully plated dessert, with a liquid centre parfait and caramelised puff pastry. The dish was a perfect finish to an exclusive experience and hit all the right spots.
Iccles cake.

Coffee/tea was served with a little petit-four that was very sweet and sticky – too much so for my liking but went down well with the coffee.
Petit-fours.

Overall, we left full, rather tipsy and very, very impressed. The experience retails at £175 and is worth every penny in my opinion. The food, the wine matching, the excellent service and the views are almost unbeatable in a London scene where the theory often fails to deliver its promises of a transportation into Wonderland.

Where: Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, London SE1 8XX, Nearest tube: Waterloo.
cubelondon@electroluxmail.com or call 0207 288 6450

How much: Lunch retails at £175, dinner £215 pp with matching wines. This visit was free after winning tickets courtesy of SquareMeal.

Food: 9/10
Service: 10/10
Slosh: 8/10
Overall: 9/10

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