Hypothesis: Getting feedback from regular diners on the new dishes will result in improvement of the food and diners feeling connected to and valued by the restaurant.
While not strictly adhering to the scientific method we had some interesting results. We sent an invitation to all those on our mailing list in our monthly newsletter, asking if people would like to come in for a special advanced viewing of the new dishes. We printed a special feedback sheet and provided the diners with a pencil to jot down their thoughts and feelings on the food.
The interest came in the form of polarised feelings towards some of the dishes. Some people strongly disliked some things while others voted them as favorites. It proved to us, in particular to Iain, that you cannot account for personal taste and that different things excite different people. Some do not like to be surprised by the difference between what they expect to see on the plate and what is placed in front of them and some do.
There were, of course dishes that everyone loved, such as the chocolate dessert. We picked up a lot of pointers on things that could be brainstormed or tweaked in the food to make it spectacular.
We also added a question to the bottom of the form asking for our regulars’ opinion if we moved away from our Assiette concept and move towards a couple of degustation options – eliminating diner choice, and allowing us to focus on dishes. This too was a mixed response, some said go for it and some suggested that we keep it as it is. Lots to think about.
It wouldn’t be a Piccalilly blog without a mention of the tomatoes. We are still only seeing a couple of hundred grams each week, but looking at the now-towering plants, there are hundreds of rapidly swelling, but still green tomatoes there. We are going to see a rush of them in a couple of weeks with all the varieties represented. We have also taken our first delivery of heirloom beetroot grown for us by Elysia’s father. We have tiny purple, golden and white beetroot. The white ones are a bit to get your head around, they look like a tiny turnip but taste exactly like a sweet purple beetroot! The special beets will be making an appearance on the feta salad while we have them.
Beets ready for cooking.
Another Middle-Eastern inspired dish of goat shoulder torn into strips and flash fried in a very hot pan so it is crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle. It is with cucumber that has been dressed with preserved lemon, hummus and rice pilaf made with an almond stock and Carnaroli rice. Goat is the most consumed meat in the world, this dish is inspired by the food across Northern Africa and the Middle-East but without using overpowering spices.
Rabbit rack, rillette and leg with a pea and ham veloute, turtle beans, flowers and fried ham. The rabbits we get in are whole and we use all of them, so the cuts of meat will change from night to night depending on what we have. The pea veloute is made from a fine pea puree and let out with a little ham stock until it reaches a silky consistency.
Ox tongue with herb emulsion, mustard figs, roast carrot oil, English mustard butter and herbs. The tongue is first cured then cooked for 24 hours before being sliced by hand. The herb emulsion is made from parsley and tarragon to give the tongue a fresh kick. The mustard is just a great to the tongue
Lychee Pavlova - fresh lychees, lychee sorbet, chamomile gel, yoghurt marshmallow, miringue, elderberry syrup and lychee syrup. Chamomile and lychees work very well together bcause they are both so pungant and floral. The elderberry is slightly tart and so is the marshmallow to cut the sweetness of the fruit.
Chocolate ice cream with 30 second hazelnut sponge cake, sparkling honey jelly, hazelnuts, biscuit crumbs and aerated chocolate. The sponge is cooked to order for exactly 30 seconds on high in the microwave, so it is as fresh and soft as possible. The ice cream is also churned to order to ensure that it is at it creamiest and softest.
Olive oil and vanilla brulee with apricot, rock mellon, pistachio nuts, pistachio croquant and pickled cherry. The brulee is infused with vanilla and the fruity and fresh Ashbolt early harvest olive oil. The croquant is acting as the crispy sugar layer that you will find on a traditional creme brulee.