Trek China – 18 to 30 April 2018
A big ‘thank you’ for all your support and words of encouragement to myself and the team throughout our Great Wall of China trek.
Day 1. We arrive in China and complete our first day in glorious sunshine.
This challenging trek takes in stretches both of well-restored wall, as well as ancient unrestored sections in quieter locations, to give a balanced experience of history and culture. The trekking will be tough, the ascents and descents are steep with lots of steps to climb as the wall follows the local topography. Our rewards will panoramic views over the hilly Chinese countryside, a mixture of rocky ridges, terraced farmland, dense forest and open rolling hills.
Day 2. The first challenge was preparing a packed lunch with chopsticks and a spoon. It then became a lot more challenging as we trekked along a less tourist, unreconstructed route in constant rain. After drying off, the evening was spent having a lesson in mahjong.
The Great Wall of China was first started in the C7th BC. Little of that remains, but the majority of what is there was built during the Ming Dynasty in the C14th. While you can’t actually see it from space, contrary to popular myth, it is none-the-less an astonishing feat of human engineering that stretches in total to 13,171 miles if you include all its branches.
Day 3. We take on the very challenging 302 steps of the ‘Stairway to Heaven’. Evening activity was the popular Chinese pastime of paper cutting.
Day 4. Trekking a remote part of the wall away from the tourist areas, hardly a soul in sight. Spectacular views and hairy moments. Laura tried to hitch a lift from a statue but no go there!
Day 5. Trekking very steep terrain, non-stop steps, 30 watch towers, intense heat. This is certainly NOT a relaxing holiday. We’re so proud of our amazing team and they’re still smiling!
Day 6 – WE DID IT!! 6 days, 98 km, 75 watch towers and a few sore feet. Thanks to Laura and her wonderful friends for making this happen and raising a huge amount of money in memory of John. There were parts today so steep some had to come down on their backsides but all in a good cause.
The time now is for celebrations and a few days sightseeing before coming home.
It's not too late to sponsor the team, please go to https://www.justgiving.com/johnkingbraintumourfoundation
Al Fresco Fine Dining Fit For A King
With the continuing rise in the popularity of glamping, it’s only right that the traditional summer picnic should match up to its elegance. With a little preparation and some of the finest ingredients, your outdoor meals need no longer consist of curling sandwiches and stale crisps. For effortless al fresco dining, caviar is the perfect food. It’s simple, elegant and best tasted from the back of your hand so all you need is a small horn spoon to serve.
The perfect setting
There are plenty of reasons to venture outside and enjoy a meal with friends in the fresh air and sunshine. As well as savouring the sights of a traditional beauty spot on a day out, you may also find yourself feeling peckish while contemplating nature and art or listening to opera at one of the many summer boutique festivals taking place across the country.
Dine in style
Just because you are in an unconventional setting, there’s no need to compromise when eating outdoors. If you’re attending an evening concert, a little warm food might be very welcome as the glowing summer sun sets and the tartan blankets come out. A compact stove and a cast iron pan are all you need for a fish fry with some good tasty Valderrama Picudo olive oil, perfect with white or soft bluefish. Top it with a spoonful of Beluga caviar and serve with a pre-prepared salad made at home to make a tasty meal, created with very little fuss. As the night draws to a close, share some Amedei dark chocolate to provide you with a boost for the evening’s finale.
Drink fine wine
Perfect for a summer’s evening is a refreshing Bollinger Rose champagne, it provides a great accompaniment to luscious summer fruits. Take plenty of water on a day out especially if it’s a hot day and if you’re staying overnight, start the next morning by boiling some water on your stove to make a cup of strong Canton tea, a tasty, traditional loose leaf tea but, conveniently for camping, packed in a pyramid bag. Now that Spring is finally here, take advantage of the better weather and enjoy some quality time with friends, eating good food in beautiful surroundings. There are few delights more satisfying than an al fresco feast on a warm summer’s day.
Could you work with your mum or daughter?
The women who do reveal things can get very spiky! There's nothing like the bond between a mother and daughter — but it’s no secret that this relationship can also be one of the most emotionally fraught.
So what happens when you see your mum every single day — and have to take orders from her, too?
Many women would shudder at the thought, but these five mothers and daughters insist working together has helped their businesses to thrive — despite a few tense moments along the way. Studies support the idea that relatives working together can be a route to success, with 93 per cent of family-owned businesses expecting to grow, according to research by PwC. Another survey found bosses see employing younger family members as a good way to get a millennial’s point of view — without the risk their younger workers will quit in search of pastures new after a year or two. So, what’s it like to work as a mother-and-daughter team?
As Mother’s Day approaches, JILL FOSTER speaks to ten women about the ups and downs of keeping business in the family . . .
WHEN DAD DIED, WE KEPT GOING TOGETHER Laura King, 58, from Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, employs daughter Holly, 24, as director of sales at King’s Fine Food, which specialises in caviar. She also has a son, Harry, 19, and two stepchildren.
Laura says: When my husband John and I asked Holly if she’d like to work for us four years ago, we wanted to help her out with a first job. It turned out she was the greatest help we could have hoped for.
Soon after, in June 2014, John was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. It was devastating, but Holly was incredible — doing things a daughter really shouldn’t have to do for her dad, such as feeding him and taking him to the bathroom.
We shared our responsibilities at work and she never complained. Had she not been around, I would have had to quit, which would have been catastrophic for the business.
Since John died in 2015, I feel so lucky to see Holly every day. I’ve joked she can never leave home — I’m not sure how she feels about that.
I’ve worked throughout my life, even when the children were small. Now, I feel I’m making up for lost time with Holly, in a way.
But we do have our differences. She can be stroppy in the mornings, but at least I can tell her to shut up. A normal boss wouldn’t be so frank.
There have even been occasions when she’s stormed off and says she’s leaving the business. But we always make up. She has such a strong work ethic — she puts in more hours because she doesn’t want to be ‘the boss’s daughter’.
I’m so proud of her. John adored her and would be so proud, too.
Holly says: I feel so lucky I was around to help when Dad got ill. That experience brought me and Mum closer. At first, I thought there was no way I could work for her without us killing one another. I said ‘yes’ as I thought I’d only be there for a couple of months, but then, slowly, I realised how much I enjoyed it.
At first, calling her ‘Mum’ in the office felt strange, but calling her ‘Laura’ felt wrong, too. Now, I mostly use ‘Laura’ — but if we’re not in work, people think I’m being rude.
Likewise, there are times in the office when she slips up and calls me ‘Bubs’ — her pet name for me — and I have to say: ‘Don’t do that!’
At 7am, she’ll fling open my door and say ‘Get up, Holly,’ like she did when I was at school. Sometimes, when she offers me a lift, I say ‘No chance’ and drive off myself, hoping she gets stuck in traffic so I can have some time alone.
You can never take a sickie working for your mum. But, all in all, I love it. Being in the family business means I still feel close to my dad, too.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5474657/Could-work-mum-daughter.html#ixzz59EYzlB8N Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
A leading brain surgeon today said a planned new microscope at his hospital will help him better treat the type of aggressive brain tumour affecting Labour peer Tessa Jowell.
There has not been a breakthrough in life expectancy for those suffering from high-grade tumours known as glioblastomas in around 30 years.
Baroness Jowell, 70, who stood down as an MP in 2015, has sought alternative treatment abroad because of a lack of further cancer treatments on the NHS.
Mr Tim Jones, 39, neuro-oncology lead surgeon at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, said the state-of-the-art Zeiss Opmi Pentero microscope would allow “more precise” surgical treatment.
The £120,000 machine is not available through the NHS, so the John King Brain Tumour Foundation is raising the money and has obtained £75,000 so far.
He said: “We have one of the busiest brain cancer surgery treatment services in London. Glioblastoma is the commonest malignant brain tumour we treat. It is one of the rare tumours which has not experienced a dramatic improvement in life expectancy over the last 20 to 30 years. That is in comparison to other tumours like breast cancer and lung cancer now which have fantastic prognoses compared to what they were even five years ago.
“This special microscope has a long life and can be used for many neurosurgical conditions including glioblastoma. It has a potential working life of 20 years, it is going to have the potential to help thousands and thousands of patients.
” He said it can help by allowing for more precise, finer surgery and can help surgeons visualise brain tumours more clearly.
“If we can improve operations by getting more tumour out and minimise the risk to the eloquent parts of the brain which are still functioning, then we can give people a better quality of life after surgery and also potentially a longer life as well,” he said.
The John King Brain Tumour Foundation plans to find the remaining funds to buy the scope through a sponsored trek on the Great Wall of China, a ball at Claridge’s and a golf day at Burr Hill in Surrey.
The foundation was set up by entrepreneur Laura King, 58, after her husband John - who was a chef at The Connaught, The Mandarin in Manila and lectured at Westminster College in catering - died in November 2016 aged 65 after being diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma. He was treated at St George’s.
Ms King said: “Our first project is trying to buy this microscope. I wanted to do something that makes a difference, because it is so traumatic when you find out someone has 15 months to live... What we are doing is tiny, but you have got to start somewhere, and Tim [Jones] the consultant is just inspirational.” To find out more and donate visit
Sara Jayne Stanes …it’s the chocolate’s fault! It wants us to eat it…!
CHOCOLATE IS UNIQUE. It is the only substance that melts in the mouth at body temperature, subtly exploding into an intoxicating rainbow of flavours. This singularly hedonistic and deeply satisfying experience has earned chocolate a role in everything from seduction to the demise of slavery to a venerated staple of the herbal pharmacopoeia. Of course, we are talking really serious chocolate here ...
WHAT IS FINE CHOCOLATE? Chocolate is cocoa mass or cocoa liquor - the combination of the roasted and ground kernel of the 'cacao' bean, the principle part of which is cocoa butter, (ie the fat released when the bean is ground), and sugar. This is then refined and processed. Chocolate may also contain lecithin, a natural emulsifier, and flavours such as natural vanilla, and in the case of milk chocolate, milk solids.
WHERE DOES THE CACAO BEAN COME FROM? Cacao comes from the seeds of the rainforest trees which grow 20◦ north and 20◦ south of the Equator. These trees are named Theobroma Cacao which means ‘Food for the Gods’. There are three major varieties of cacao beans: Criollo, Trinitario and Forastero - Criollo being the rarest of the three.
WHERE DOES THE NAME CHOCOLATE COME FROM? The name ‘chocolate’ most probably comes from the Olmec/ Mayan /Aztec word ‘xoco-atl’ (pronounced whocko -atle) meaning ‘bitter water’. This is a fatty, grainy drink made from the crushed roasted and ground cocoa beans, sometimes with the addition of herbs and spices.
WHEN WAS CHOCOLATE FIRST DISCOVERED? History points to evidence of ‘cacao’ around 6,000 years ago, but the Olmecs were the first recorded people to have found uses for chocolate, circa 1500 BC via the remains of cacao found in the graves of monks. It was thought that they were gifts for the gods on their journey from earth to the afterlife. Cacao was used in ceremonies as offerings to the gods, just as many of us use the communion bread and wine as the body and blood of Christ. The Mayans believed that in order for the sun to rise every morning, cacao has to be prepared and offered to replace the blood that the sun has lost in its overnight fight with the jaguar. Queztalcoatl (Ketzalco-atle) was the name of the God of Cacao, as it was he who introduced the cacao seeds to humans and showed them how to use it.
WHEN DID CHOCOLATE COME TO EUROPE? After the Spanish invasion of Mexico in 1520 and the slaughter of the Aztecs, Cortes brought it back to the King of Spain in 1527. However, chocolate remained a very Spanish secret but eventually, over 100 years later, it arrived in England around the middle of the 17th Century - at the same time as coffee and tea. Influenced by the whole range of medicinal remedies passed down from the New World, here in England it was also used in medicine and soon became a very important part of the apothecary’s (old fashioned pharmacists) medicine chest. With the introduction of new machinery, people discovered ways of making the fatty grainy medicinal drink taste a lot better. As more people began to enjoy the taste of it and people became more skilful at using the cocoa, in the middle of the 19th century a new chocolate product was discovered in the form of a pastille (or bar of chocolate). Today, names like Cadbury, Fry (under the Cadbury aegis), Rowntree (now Nestle) produce a large amount of the chocolate in this form for us to eat and enjoy.
USES FOR CHOCOLATE Chocolate has many uses, and in the beginning, was even used to treat illnesses! The Native Americans used to use it to cure their sicknesses and it was alleged to cure itches, prevent tumours, and encourage sleep. By the 1680s, it was thought that chocolate could restore energy after a hard day’s work, help stop lung infections, or strengthen the heart and cure hangovers!. There were a few conditions that weren't improved by chocolate, including tuberculosis, toothaches, and ulcers.
SO, IS CHOCOLATE GOOD FOR US? We should certainly not feel guilty about eating it – as long as it is ‘real’ chocolate, of course. Research is constantly coming up with all the healthy elements in chocolate, for example: Blood pressure: Chemicals called ‘flavenols’ which are present in cocoa drinks and to a lesser extent in chocolate, can help to regulate blood pressure. Research at Harvard Medical School has shown that the benefits can be as great as those of aspirin. Deep vein thrombosis: The chances of developing this condition can also be prevented by flavonols. According to research, a 50g bar of chocolate contains the same concentration of the chemicals as 4 ½ cups of tea, six apples or seven onions. Heart disease: Flavonols are also known to improve the cardiovascular system and to help to prevent coronary heart disease. But remember, there are very real differences between what’s in fine chocolate and that of newsagents’ mass produced chocolate-flavoured confectionery products.
HOW TO TASTE AND APPRECIATE. Flavour and Smell: Nothing in the world has such complex flavours and smells. The cocoa bean has over 400 distinct aromas - at least twice as much as any other natural produce. The rose has only fourteen and the onion, only half a dozen. The taste of chocolate is equally complex as a result of the presence of over 300 different chemical compounds. These chemicals stimulate the brain like caffeine or adrenaline. They affect the brain’s mood centres and bring about the emotion of falling in love and happiness. Then there is the actual physical pleasure of feeling the chocolate melt in the mouth – again, it’s a feeling that makes you happy – which is why we all like it so much! Many of these chemical compounds are identical or similar to those found in fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, and other substances. That's why we chocolate lovers compare the aromas of different chocolates to those as various as melon, citrus, cherry, berry, raisin, honey, peach, vanilla, butterscotch, mint, bell pepper/green, grass, green olive, clove, liquorice, leather, tannin, cedar, tea, coffee and wine.
TASTE - THE FIVE SENSES - APPEARANCE; AROMA; TOUCH; SNAP; MOUTHFEEL and AFTERTASTE APPEARANCE: chocolate should be flawless, evenly coloured, deep shade of mahogany or red. 'Black' is not necessarily an indicator of a good chocolate. Cocoa beans are rarely jet black; if they are, it tends to indicate they have been over-roasted. NO cracks or air pockets, streaks or sugar bloom caused by chocolate subjected to various temperature changes. Care in storage is needed.
AROMA: The chocolate should smell good as you unwrap it, with a complex fragrance. It should be sweetly fragrant but not overpowering. You could detect vanilla, berry, caramel roasted nuts. Its BAD to have no SMELL at all - if you can't SMELL you can't taste. Burnt, musty, chemical or medicinal is not good.
TOUCH: It should feel silky and not sticky and should just begin to yield to the warmth of your finger. Remember it is the only substance to melt at body heat. SNAP: Take piece and break it - it should snap cleanly - if it splinters or crumbles = not good. Take a look inside should be solid all the way through. No blemishes. Perceived wisdom says that chocolate should be eaten at room temperature or like wine or cheese will 'fall short' – which is true for a bar or slab, but for a chocolate truffle that is nothing better than to take a bite of cold chocolate (from the 'fridge) and let it melt slowly on the tongue releasing a profusion of flavours.
MOUTHFEEL. Most tastebuds are on the front of the tongue which is where you should start tasting the chocolate. If it doesn't start to melt straight away this is probably a sign of poor quality. Now, here is the chocolate's biggest test - now should begin the taste explosion. It should be smooth and buttery, gently dissolving into a creamy liquid filling the mouth with its complexity of flavours. It must not be grainy or 'gluey'. If it's 'waxy' or 'claggy', muddy or cloying it is likely that the cocoa butter has been replaced with vegetable fat - and it is not true chocolate.
FLAVOUR - The FLAVOURS from where most of the chocolate experience comes are located on different parts of the tongue: SWEET (front) SOUR (front/sides) BITTER (back) SALT (back/ sides). Everybody has his own body chemistry so you might taste any one or all of the flavours mentioned below but essentially chocolate will be bitter-sweet, fruity and spicy with a good balance of acidity and should be subtle rather than overpowering.
AFTERTASTE - you want flavour to linger for several minutes with a clean aftertaste and no residue; and certainly not be overpoweringly sweet. Robert Linxe, the French champion of great chocolate, maintains that you should be able to taste a good chocolate some 45 minutes after you have eaten it. Look out for these aromas and flavours:
DARK CHOCOLATE: DESIRABLE: Bitter-sweet, butter, acidity, fruit – cherries, blackcurrants, raspberries, citrus, orange peel, toasted, caramel, almonds, hazelnuts, spice, leather, tannin, herbs, jute, tea, tobacco, freshly mown hay, clover, wild herbs, floral, bark, earthy, hedgerows etc. etc.. Recently, I detected that glorious sweet smell of a horse's mane!
UNDESIRABLE: Astringent, musty, smoked, fatty, metallic, acid, medicinal, cardboard, smoky, vanillin (‘tinny’ vanilla flavouring); coconut; burnt caramel.
MILK CHOCOLATE: DESIRABLE: Brown sugar, milky, creamy, cocoa, vanilla, honey, caramel, nutty, malt etc.
UNDESIRABLE: Smoked, fatty, rancid, pungent, cardboard, acid, damp, astringent, metallic, burnt caramel.
WHITE CHOCOLATE: DESIRABLE: Sweet, vanilla, creamy, milky, honey, caramel, fruity. UNDESIRABLE: Alcohol, cooked, rancid, pungent, sour. It is more difficult to detect as many flavours in either milk or white chocolate as there are in dark because of the low cocoa content, the milk and overpowering presence of sugar, which as I have already explained kills tastes and aromas. Having said this, a number of manufacturers have improved their milk chocolate recently using a higher proportion of cocoa solids, therefore less sugar. Worth hunting out. If it’s 'waxy' or 'claggy' it means that sometimes cocoa butter has been replaced with a non-specific vegetable fat - therefore it’s not true chocolate. Cocoa butter contains many fats which are a combination of saturated, unsaturated and mono-unsaturated. Lecithin is sometimes used as an emulsifier to make it smoother and to help to prevent the fats and sugars separating and rising to the surface as a result of storage temperature fluctuations. This is the white bloom.
SARA JAYNE STANES is CEO of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts; food writer, author of award winning BOOK Chocolate - the Definitive Guide and Chocolate ‘Evangelist’. Sara is also Chairman of the Academy of Chocolate.
I would like to introduce you to a very special lady Laura Hutcheson and ‘Team Loz’ who will be running the Hampton Court Half Marathon for the John King Brain Tumour Foundation on 18th March 2018.
Here is Laura’s story
Thank you for taking the time to visit my Just Giving Page, which explains a bit, more about my fundraising goal.
In April 2017, I experienced a seizure whilst away on a family holiday. When I returned home, an EEG and MRI confirmed the reason for the seizure and I was diagnosed with Grade I Meningioma (brain tumour).
I was referred to the care of neurosurgeon Dr Tim Jones and at the beginning of May, I was admitted to the McKissock ward in the Atkinson Morley wing at St Georges Hospital. Dr Tim and his team performed a craniotomy and were able to successfully remove the tumour from the front part of my brain.
During my time at St Georges, my husband David and myself spent a lot of time in the McKissock gardens and were so grateful to have an area to sit outside of the ward and my room.
The John King Brain Tumour Foundation maintains the gardens. The family of the former patient of Dr Tim’s runs the Foundation. Its other project is raising money for a state of the art microscope for brain surgery, which is not currently available through NHS funding. As a way of showing my gratitude for the incredible care I receive from everyone at the Atkinson Morley and for Dr Tim (and in particular for leaving me with a very bumpy head but most of my hair to cover it!) I want to support the John King Brain Tumour Foundation and the work they do to maintain the sanctuary, which is the McKissock gardens.
So on 18th march 2018, I have co-erred 9 friend into joining a little team to run the Hampton Court Palace Half Marathon.
Whilst I cant train to the full extent I would like the DVLA aren't keen on me driving right now, I’m getting my miles in walking the pavements of Oxshott! My fellow team members will be training in the mean January/February weather and I’m hoping your support will help spur them on!
Every donation, however small, will make a massive difference to the efforts of the John King Foundation and our efforts to get round the course on the day. I would like to say a HUGE thank you for reading this and for any contributions to the cause!
Please dig deep and support Laura and her team to raise these valuable funds for such a worthy cause.
How to enjoy King's Caviar by Laura King
Caviar is best served as simple as possible – using mother of pearl or horn utensils.
To taste caviar: We always taste caviar on the soft cushion of the back of our hand between the thumb and forefinger.
Let it rest for a few seconds and then taste by lifting the caviar from your flesh with your lips and tongue and allow it to gently roll round your mouth.The caviar will be very soft on the palette.
Caviar should not pop in the mouth - this only happens with caviar that has been pasteurized which firms up the egg and gives caviar an ambient shelf life. This is not something we recommend as pasteurisation takes away the subtlety of the product.
Considered as the King of caviar, Beluga is rare because it takes 12 years to produces its eggs. It commands a very high price, often three times the price of all other caviar. Steely grey in colour, it’s generally the largest egg with notes of walnuts and cream and hints of both the sea and finest quality salt.
Oscietra sturgeon produce their eggs after 8 years. With a beautiful golden/brown colour, they have a nutty, mellow taste, which develops into a buttery sweetness, similar to lobster. Historically the egg is smaller than Beluga, but with increased farming, the egg size can sometimes be almost as large as its mighty cousin.
Historically, when wild caviar was available, Golden Oscietra was always referred to as “The Shah’s Caviar”. This rare egg is rich, creamy and has a beautiful light gold colour. It is often bigger than darker egg Oscietra.
This Siberian sturgeon is 5-6 years old when it produces its eggs. It has a more intense mackerel-like flavour than Oscietra, often with long hazelnut notes and a colour ranging from dark grey to ebony. This sturgeon is farmed far more than any other as it produces its eggs relatively quickly.
Aquitaine produces the eggs after 5 years. It has a nutty sea taste with low acidity, and ranges from a steely grey colour, similar to Sevruga, to jet black. Aquitaine, like our Siberian Sturgeon, is also from a Baerii sturgeon but is exclusively farmed in France.
This is a hybrid of the Acipenser Schrenckii and Acipenser Dauricus. The caviar from China has a large sized egg with delicate but intense almond cream flavour. Sometimes, these eggs can be remarkably golden in colour, but more commonly are a vibrant walnut brown to olive green hue.
A hybrid caviar of Oscietra and Siberian Sturgeon, Platinum has fresh and intense flavour, often with long nutty notes and a buttery undertone and a colour ranging from dark grey to ebony. This is one of the least expensive caviars but incredibly popular, with a very large egg.
Sevruga tastes of the sea. It is often the preferred choice for caviar dealers around the world because of its resemblance to wild caviar. This small, grey egg is packed with a delicious salty flavour that lingers, often more than other caviars.
A Brief History of Caviar
The word ‘caviar’ is a Persian term that means ‘cake of strength’. It’s a common assumption that the Russians began extracting and consuming caviar, when it was actually the Persians in the 16th century. They believed it had healing properties. In the 18th century, caviar was regarded as the food of the poor until royal chefs introduced Russian Tsars and nobility to it. This set-in motion the demand for caviar as a delicacy – until 2008, when wild sturgeon fishing was banned under the Bern Convention, an international agreement to protect animals and the environment. Since then, all legally produced caviar has come from sturgeon farms.
Caviar is the food of the Gods and an experience never forgotten…
So, come on, feel the Noizé:
TOM PARKER BOWLES enjoys a lunch of scallops and partridge at this discreet London restaurant. By Tom Parker Bowles For The Mail On Sunday
Noizé 39 Whitfield Street London, W1T 2SF
Two weeks into January and I’ve yet to talk about culinary trends, and my prescient predictions for the thrilling year ahead. I’ve let you down. Hell, I’ve let myself down. I’m sorry, really I am. Because I know how much you all care about the trite and transient, the flash-in-the-pans and the one-day-wonders, the dull, ditzy and dumb. Because to suggest a vegan diet, say, or probiotics, prebiotics or sushi-filled bloody doughnut (douchi – I kid you not), will be in fashion means, by its very fickle nature, that it will fall from grace mere moments after. A brief suckle on Mammon’s trendy teat, before an eternity of despair, humiliation and self-hate, consigned to the deepest, darkest depths of the shop-soiled discount dungeon. So rather than bore you with some half-witted hot air about nut milk and radical plant proteins (be still my rumbling gut), how about a few simple restaurant requests? Rooms, comfortable, well-lit rooms with decent acoustics, rooms in which one wants to linger – with kitchens that cook food, good food, that you actually want to eat. Served by warm, charming, professional staff who are decently paid and properly looked after. Meaning the tip, or service charge, is theirs, and theirs alone.
Oh, and if they could please write down my order, however brilliant their memory may be, I’d be eternally grateful. Prices don’t have to be dirt cheap, but they must reflect value. And please, when it comes to wine lists, don’t take the Michael. Which brings me neatly on to Noizé, a small, discreet restaurant north of Oxford Street that opened last year with the minimum of fuss. In fact, the first time I heard of its existence was when Fay Maschler, the empress of eating out, whispered of its wonders while we were filming something for the telly. And trust me, that’s a tip from the top. Mathieu Germond is the man behind it, a much-lauded veteran of Pied à Terre, where he was both sommelier and general manager. The head chef, Ed Dutton, is another who did time at Pied à Terre, and he’s there for all to see, behind an immaculate wall of glass, in a quiet, calm, industrious kitchen.
I’m lunching with my friend Laura, the queen of caviar and much else besides, and she likes the place immediately. So do I, as this is a room made for eating. Thick, pristine linen tablecloths, solid cutlery and elegant glasses. There’s room to stretch, and gossip, without fear of being overheard. Next door, a bottle is opened and poured. They’re not fans. Without so much as wrinkle of his brow, Germond whisks it away and brings them something else. Where he leads, his staff follow. Service here is magnifique. As is the food. Gougères, light and airy as my New Year’s resolutions, are filled with warmly oozing cheddar. They’re better than the ones at The Waterside. And, dare I say it, better even than Simon Hopkinson’s wonders. Pig beignets are rather more strident, deep- fried and beautifully bosky. While chicken liver pâté, piped artfully on to fingers of toast, and sat under a scattering of tart grapes, has a truly regal richness. My scallop ceviche is a very different beast from the Peruvian original, though both are obsessed with the freshness of their fish. But while the South American version is fierce with chilli and salt, at Noizé it’s softer and more fragrant. Thanks, in part, to the use of kaffir lime, less strident than its conventional cousin. Ribbons of fennel are tangled on top, along with cool balls of cucumber. It’s properly seasoned too. Laura’s fois gras is as filthily lascivious as it should be, beautifully cooked and quivering atop a chewy tarte tatin. A woman wise in the ways of engorged liver, she nods her approval. Lots of sweat and elbow grease for a few mouthfuls that are both big-flavoured and elegantly refined, Tom Parker-Bowles writes +3 Lots of sweat and elbow grease for a few mouthfuls that are both big-flavoured and elegantly refined, Tom Parker-Bowles writes Partridge arrives as two burnished breasts, the skin both crisp and chewy, sat atop a pile of celeriac and translucent slices of apple, with the most intense and reduced veal jus poured on top. Served with peerless pommes dauphinoise, this is old-fashioned haute French cooking at its best, the sort that reminds one why they once ruled the culinary roost. Lots of sweat and elbow grease for a few mouthfuls that are both big-flavoured and elegantly refined.
Laura eats seabass, still translucent in the middle, with crisp skin and salsify, and a bold but surprisingly delicate red wine sauce. More culinary classicism, lovingly wrought. Apple tarte fine, for pudding. Like everything else at Noizé, there’s poise and precision and understated art, a respect for tradition, without being boorishly bound to it. We drink a bottle of wonderful Riesling. And finish with a glass of Poire William, chilled, of course.
With the minimum of fuss, and maximum of charm, Noizé gets it just right.
So my predictions for 2018?
More Noizé. Please.
About £40 per head
Born and raised in South Shields, the son of a fisherman, John started his rise to Michelin star studying catering at South Shields College and then Westminster College, London.
His first job in London aged 16 was at the Royal Garden Hotel. By 27, he was Premier Sous Chef with Mario Lesnik at Claridge’s, before moving on to the Berkeley and then to the Ritz where he is Executive Chef.
At the Ritz, John has built on the principles and beliefs of Auguste Escoffier, being inspired by classic dishes with a modern touch for today’s market.
He is hugely respected by his peers. At the launch of the 2017 edition of the Michelin Guide, John received a standing ovation when it was announced that the Ritz had been awarded a Michelin star. John told The Caterer, when asked why they had won it now:
“It’s the 110th anniversary of the Ritz this year and it’s a real accolade and we are just over the moon. It is something that you work for and I believed that we were good enough and I just wondered why. And we need a star because if you are a world class hotel, you need to have a star.
We have been cooking the same, we haven’t changed. The Ritz tells us what to cook because of the building and the style. I think it is very important that it remains classical but also that it remains relevant for today’s modern diner. But I have got very good people and I have had very good people for a long time. I haven’t got the answer but I have always known that the cooking was good enough so the only thing I can take from it was consistency has got better.”
John has received many awards and accolades. He was the first British chef to be awarded a CMA for services to French cuisine by the French Government. In 2008 he was awarded an MBE for services to hospitality and is a Master of Culinary Arts.
John is a passionate educator, passing on his skills to the next generation. He has been chairman of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts for 13 years. John has been a great advocate of Kings Fine Food, using King’s Oscietra in one of his signature dishes and Amedei chocolate in his desserts. He was a longstanding colleague and friend of John King and has been a great support to Laura.
Celebrating on Derby Day at the RAC Club L to R Sergio Rebecchi, Laura King, John Williams, Brian Turner, Michel Roux Jr and Phil Corrick
Laura commented: “John is an absolute star and being recognised by The Michelin Guide was a long time coming. The Ritz continues to be one of my all time favourite restaurants. John’s food never disappoints.”