Before starting this blog I never could have imagined that one day I would be invited to Harvey Nichols to experience a six-course art-themed dinner created by head chef Ian Swainson of the Lake Districts Michelin Star restaurant, The Samling. However two weeks ago I found myself doing just that and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
I love nothing more than watching programmes like The Great British Menu or Britain’s Best Dish and I can quite happily watch cooking shows all day long. It’s been on my bucket list to taste food created by amazing chefs and this art-themed menu certainly didn’t disappoint with it’s six courses inspired by famous works of art.
Before I start showing you mouthwatering pictures of the best food I have ever tasted, I have to share a picture of this amazing Lavender Fields cocktail created exclusively for the Art Of Style event, inspired by the paintings of Claude Monet.
The menu offers an alcohol based cocktail along with the non-alcoholic version I got try and it is made with lavender syrup, fresh blackberries and fresh lemon juice. The drink was beautifully presented with fresh blackberries and lavender around the rim of the glass.
Our first course was a red pepper and chorizo risotto with saffron and squid, inspired by Orange, Red, Yellow by Mark Rothko. This bright and delicious risotto was perfection and a great opener to the meal.
We were still talking about the delicious first course when the second arrived and from reading the description I was feeling quite conflicted about this one. A snail cigar, parsley and garlic scene, inspired by More Felled Trees on Woldgate by David Hockney. That’s right, a snail cigar. I have never tried snails before and had never planned to do so, but if you are going to push food boundaries, what better time to do it than when it is cooked by a michelin star chef. Surprisingly it tasted delicious and not at all like what I expected. I wouldn’t even have known snails was an ingredient, thanks to it being braised in an oxtail bourguignonne.
This next course of whole sardine, radish sauerkraut and toast silenced the table. Inspired by The Physical Impossibility of Death in the mind of Someone Living by Damien Hirst it was thought provoking and as expected by it’s creator Ian Swainson, wasn’t going to be to everyones taste. At first I struggled with the appearance of a whole fish and it wasn’t until I tasted each element at the same time, that I realised it tasted delicious.
Inspired by No. 8 by Jackson Pollock, this duck, carrot and spinach dish really was a work of art and visually stunning. This turned out to be my favourite dish of the meal. The carrots were cooked to perfection, the duck beautifully tender and each ingredient tasted delicious.
I was feeling a little full at this point and there was a little break before pre-dessert. After all of those flavours a palate cleanser was required. Lemon posset, ‘vanilla sky’ vinaigrette inspired by Vanila Sky Monet, this dish was a variety of textures and appealed to all the senses. As soon as the dish was placed in front of me the heavenly aroma of vanilla reached me and vanilla is one of my favourite scents. The posset was the consistency of jelly with a beautiful taste of basil, that worked perfectly with the vanilla powder and crunchy foam.
Finally we have dessert and sadly the last course of the meal. Liquorice iced parfait, blackcurrant and a brandy snap was obviously inspired by Melting Clocks by Salvador Dali. I’m not a huge fan of Liquorice, but at this point I’m convinced a chef like Ian can make all foods taste amazing to me, because I loved this. I especially liked the sharpness of the blackcurrant against the iced parfait and you might not believe that this was my first ever brandy snap!
There you have it, six courses of amazing art inspired dishes. If you want to compare these dishes against the works of art that inspired their creator, I have created a pinterest board here.
Over coffee we had the opportunity to meet Ian, talk about the dishes and ask a few questions. I was keen to know how long it took from start to finish for the menu to be created and how easily inspiration came to Ian. This event was held over two days on 23rd & 24th September and had been in development since April/May of this year. Some dishes were easier than others to perfect, the duck being the easiest and a success at first attempt. Ian had no problem finding inspiration and it is amazing the amount of effort that goes into creating each dish, from sourcing ingredients to creating specialist moulds for the melting clock dessert. Ian also hinted that this menu was a sign of things to come for The Samling and to visit is now added to a list of things I want to do/experience.
I don’t think I will ever forget this event and it was amazing to meet Ian and have the opportunity to experience fine dining. I do recommend keeping an eye on an upcoming events at Harvey Nichols, because each one is unique and is an experience not to be missed.