My chef tells me…

by Julie Alpine-Crabtree

When Shaun and I first met (incidentally, at a party on the roof of the building in which we are back living in), I considered my scrambled eggs with salsa and half a kilo of melted cheddar – a little recipe I brought back from Lake County, Florida – a perfectly acceptable dish to serve up for dinner. Likewise my flatbread with a spoonful of tomato puree and a little crumbled feta on top, blow-torched under the grill. If I wasn’t in the mood for cooking, it would be toasted pitta and a tub of houmous, or a whole box of Sugar Puffs drowning in UHT double cream sourced from the 24/7 convenience store downstairs.

Momma's home-style"I know it looks like puke" eggs

Five years of being married to a chef does something to a girl, though.

While once I rolled my eyes every time Shaun refused to put on a happy face when presented with a limp, greasy pizza or a slab of rubberised, carbonised, flaccid, grey beef, these days I join in on the bitching. I forgive him for all the times he has dragged his heels when invited to spend time with our nearest and dearest* on account of the mediocre “royal” Thai cuisine or “Med-inspired” menu he knew he could expect wherever the party was being held. I have developed certain expectations; developed, dare I say it, a discerning palate. At the very least, I have developed a serious appreciation of good food prepared with passion, professionalism and attention to detail.

Which is why dining last night at Gordon Ramsay’s new venture, Bread Street Kitchen, was such a treat.

The enormous space – the bar/restaurant is handily housed in the One New Change complex in the shadow of St Paul’s – escaped feeling cavernous thanks to a lightness of touch with the décor (a tangle of retro Anglepoise lamps, in particular, made me smile) and a state-of-the-art sound system to deal with the tricky acoustics. The ambience was relaxed, cocktails went down like nectar and, when the floor staff struggled to meet the demands of opening night, the manager sent two complimentary glasses of champagne our way.

But it was, of course, the food that made it. I went for comfort all the way with a note-perfect white onion soup and cheese straw (which I challenge any home baker to improve upon, even those who have been churning out cheese straws since the Seventies); unctuous, indulgent pork collar with mustard glaze and mash (with a side of zingy, ground-hazlenut-sprinkled green beans); and warm, gooey chocolate tart with salted caramel ice cream and honeycomb. Shaun opted for the crab starter, veal main and pineapple carpaccio, all of which he found faultless.

Happy, relaxed, full of belly and looking forward to the next time, we headed off to relieve the babysitter. A kitchen nightmare it was most definitely not. These days, those are what happen at home, when Mummy tries to tempt the kids into eating.

Houmous and pitta bread, anyone?

* Disclaimer: Shaun does not complain when his nearest and dearest cook for him. Ever. He’s too bloody grateful that he’s being cooked for in the first place.