Friday, 10 December 2010

Ever Cooked Pasta On A Roundabout?

By Rebecca Brett.

I’d never cooked pasta on a roundabout before, until last night. Along with five others, I was taken to a roundabout to make a delicious spinach and ricotta ravioli. The roundabout in question is the one that used to be home to what was described as ‘one of the ugliest buildings in town.’ Where the Park Plaza Hotel on Westminster Bridge now stands once stood a concrete eyesore. Now, it’s very much eye-catching.

Inside this 1000-room hotel is the restaurant Brasserie Joel. This is where the pasta-making took place. Be gone derelict building, hello sleek kitchen and restaurant.

I was invited along to meet the head chef, Michelin starred Joel Antunes and cook along with him, before heading into the restaurant while the award-winning chef cooked my wares and served us.

I love my job.

So into the kitchen, resplendent in chef’s whites, an apron and chef’s hat. I looked a treat. Perhaps this is why the majority of chefs are men; a woman in chef’s whites is really not the most flattering look. On me, anyway. Nigella could probably do it justice.

All of the ingredients were laid out and to save time, the pasta had already been made. Making the filling was simple, put all of the ingredients into the big bowl and mix. Who could mess that up? Erm, I probably could. Good job Joel was on hand to right my wrongs. We probably would’ve had food-poisoning if it was all left to me.

Filling made, then came the tricky part. Folding the filling in to the fresh pasta circles to make ravioli shapes. It’s easy when you know how; or when you’ve got a top Michelin star chef on hand to show you.

After completing the pasta, Joel showed us how to make a peanut butter chocolate mousse. This probably should be a lot harder than it was but with the help of a trusty Kitchen Aid (I’ll have one of these for Christmas please) it was easy as pie. Then the best part was having a sample of the heaven-sent chocolate air. The hardest part was restricting myself in front of the rest of the chefs. The door was close enough to run away with that mousse, and the Kitchen Aid if I could carry it.

After cooking, Joel showed us around the kitchen. It was a foodie heaven climaxing with the meat fridge; carnivorous delights in all shapes and forms.

Pulling myself away from the kitchen and I sat down in the lustrous Brasserie Joel restaurant to enjoy the fruits of my labour. The restaurant was packed, although Brasserie Joel was unknown to me before I visited, it seems the residents of the huge hotel know it well.

To start we tucked in to our own ravioli, topped with a seared scallop and a delicious buttery sauce. I was very proud of myself. OK, so I didn’t put it together but that pasta made the starter; as did the scallop and sauce.

A loin of lamb was star of the main course, served with pomme fondant, artichoke, aubergine caponata and my favourite accompaniment – lamb’s tongue. This might not be to everyone’s taste but I can’t get enough of offal – it’s so full of flavour. From the rest of the table’s clean plates – I think they enjoyed it too – even the first time tongue triers finished theirs!

Like we hadn’t had enough already, dessert arrived. A crispy rice base was topped with that ever-so-good peanut butter chocolate mousse, salted caramel and roast banana ice cream. The perfect finish to an enjoyable evening at Brasserie Joel.

Unfortunately for the average Joe Bloggs, not everyone can go in to the kitchen at Brasserie Joel and have the pleasure of meeting the charming Joel, but Joe Bloggs can appreciate his fine food in the restaurant. Unlike many chefs who have their name on a sign, Joel works six 14-hour days a week. Now that’s one roundabout I’ll be visiting again. Very soon.


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