Thursday 1 April 2010
One prune tart please!, calls the voice through the interphone.
Run to the downstairs kitchen. Tell Elliot – the pastry commis – to put a prune tart into the oven. Grab a large rectangle plate. Pipe a thin line of wine reduction. Drain a prune marinated in spiced wine. Place it on the plate. Take the roasted nibbed almonds box. Sprinkle a couple of them onto the plate for the Armagnac ice cream to sit on them later. Wait for the prune tart to be fully baked.
And observe the guys around. One is plating some salmon. Another is deep frying. Another is making soup. Another is cleaning the edges of a shiny white plate. The chef is checking the plates before they are sent.
Elliot brings the soufflé tart. It looks like a golden cloud. I sprinkle one of its halves with icing sugar, then carefully place it on the far-left of the prepared plated. A quenelle of Armagnac ice cream, and a loud:
Service please! Table ten.
At the Capital Hotel, the downstairs kitchen could be described in a few words: hot, skilled and vibrant.
Plates are coming from the different sections on a matter of seconds. Waiters keep popping to call for starters, mains and desserts.
But as much as I love the excitement and rush, I must admit, I have a crush for those three-nights-a-week that I spent in the upstairs kitchen.
Up there, things are different. Quiet and slow.
Even when there is a party to be sent, we always do it in a restricted team. Three chefs, and one pastry chef.
All of a sudden, the usually-still room turns into a miniature version of the downstairs kitchen. We clear the central work plan, arrange plates, get that burner working, close the doors for maximum heat so the plates won’t go cold.
Then I hear a: desserts in ten minutes!
I have all the components for the prune tart ready. Red wine reduction, marinated prunes, isomalt sugar, Armagnac ice-cream.
The tarts themselves are in the oven. It’s time for some plating action. I un-clingfilm the pile of plates that have been prepared for me and start drawing lines of reduction across all of them.
You know the rest already…
PS. The pictures were taken with my film Pentax ME Super, which seems to be my camera of choice for the restaurant.