‘As ever, when it comes to any evening with the Portuguese chefs, the night was convivial, good-natured and absolutely entertaining’
OBSESSION 2015: Culinary Magic
Music, laughter and exceptional gourmet creations: Matteo Ferrantino and the rest of the Portuguese chefs brought a taste of Portugal to Northcote.
T WAS THE NIGHT the Portuguese descended on Northcote. Following the invitation-only masterclass on Portuguese wines that took place that afternoon, on Friday evening, five of the leading ambassadors of Portuguese cuisine took over the kitchen at OBSESSION for A Taste of Portugal. Dieter Koschina and Matteo Ferrantino (2 stars, Vila Joya), Miguel Laffan (1 star, L'AND Vineyards), Vítor Matos (1 star, Casa da Calçada) and José Avillez (2 stars, Belcanto) joined forces on this exceptional evening, which set out to represent a shared passion for the culinary tradition of the native or adopted country of these award-winning chefs.
Having already bonded over their love of Portuguese wines earlier that day, Northcote's head sommelier, Adam Pawlowski MS, was joined by Portuguese guest sommelier Miguel Martins, of the Sommelier Wine Shop in the Algarve, whose time as sommelier at Vila Joya has earned him a reputation as a true authority on these fine nectars. Patrycja Siwiec was the guest sommelier from Poland.
There was already a buzz as the Portuguese chefs took to their stations, in an evening made all the more special by the presence of fellow countryman Gonçalo Melo of JULIA KEMPER wines and the owner of Northcote. A welcome cocktail kicked off the evening, as the chefs and members of the press were joined by guests as they enjoyed some finger-food creations from the house, served with a glass of Louis Roederer Champagne.
A total of 114 guests were seated as Craig Bancroft, managing director and director of wines at Northcote, introduced the evening and spoke of his own passion for Portugal and its fantastic products, food and wines in particular. It was no doubt an evening close to his heart. The hosting chef Nigel Haworth served the two amuse bouches: duck liver parfait with a scorched scallop, toffied smoked eel and eel crumb finished with Dashi (Japanese stock) and apple dressings; and truffled focaccia bread served with a beef tartar and Perigord truffle, both paired with Verdelho da Peceguina from Herdade da Malhadinha Nova (Alentejo), a fresh white with good volume.
Created by Matteo Ferrantino, one half of the 2-Michelin-star duo at Vila Joya, in the Algarve, the starter was white tuna with oyster and a series of incredible textures of cauliflower (purée, couscous, raw slices, fried in a ginger soup and a rosette cooked sous vide in cauliflower stock), ginger gel and vinaigrette, green tea and soya jelly, and guacamole. Paired with the dish was Colinas de São Lourenço from the Bairrada region, a crisp wine that's creamy in the mouth, revealing aromas of green apple, chamomile, hazelnut and hints of toast. But the finishing touch? All the chefs coming into the dining room to serve the vinaigrette.
The second course – salmon rolled and cured in citrus-flavoured seaweed with almond milk set around it – came from Portuguese/French chef Miguel Laffan, who earned the Alentejo's first Michelin star at L'AND Vineyards in 2013. It was an incredibly delicious creation served with a tartar of salmon, lemongrass, ginger and bergamot, a fennel purée coloured with squid ink, a chive mayonnaise and coulis of passion fruit and again bergamot. The chosen wine match was Julia Kemper white (Dão), with an aroma showing great complexity in which the pear, peach and apricot blend with notes of lemon grass.
The other half of the Vila Joya kitchen, Austrian Dieter Koschina pulled out all the stops with blue lobster served with blood orange and grapefruit. This was a dish to die for, served at 70 degrees with a delicious hot salted lemon sauce and a cold sauce with crème fraîche, the juice of pink grapefruit and vanilla syrup, alongside a lemon and lobster bisque, lobster claw and seaweed juice. An extremely elegant vinho verde, the Soalheiro Reserva from António Esteves Ferreira, was intense and tropical; the perfect match.
Portugal's most recent 2-star chef, and in fact the first Portuguese chef to receive the distinction, José Avillez of Lisbon's Belcanto brought a hush over the room when he served his creation of oxtail, based on a typical Portuguese soup with chickpeas braised with foie gras. Served with caramelised onions and garlic mixed with Parmesan to make a purée, the plate was finished with truffles, rosemary and the oxtail sauce. The 2012 Poeirinho from Niepoort, Bairrada, complemented the dish to perfection, with an impressive purity of aromas, tremendous freshness and fine palate enhanced by notes of red fruits with a fresh floral touch.
Lastly, and by no means least, was the chef who almost didn't make it to the event after getting stuck overnight at Lisbon airport and flying in that same morning. Vítor Matos, of the 1-star Casa da Calçada in Amarante, prepared a sausage-shaped aubergine chocolate with an aubergine purée, Serra da Estrela ice-cream, a crème caramel with smoked ham, pumpkin seeds and pine-nuts, vanilla mousse and pennyroyal. It was the finale of an exceptional menu, washed down with a 20 Year Tawny Port from Ramos Pinto, with a sweet nose of apricot jam, honey and nuts.
As ever, when it comes to any evening with the Portuguese chefs, the night was convivial, good-natured and absolutely entertaining, particularly when, as the chefs were applauded by the guests, Miguel Laffan's assistant Miguel picked up his guitar and treated the room to a performance of a song by popular fado singer, Marisa. And, not for the first time, the party continued even after guests had left, with Dieter Koschina, Nigel Haworth and his son Kirk going into the kitchen to prepare the traditional Portuguese prego no pão (a steak sandwich) for the chefs who brought a truly exquisite Taste of Portugal to Northcote.
First published in January 2015
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