Here in this definitive showcase of London’s latest and most exciting restaurants, India is shining. In the lush and sprawling Regents park the bi annual “Taste of London” has awarded the seven month old “Jamavar” restaurant the “Best of Taste” award. This fine dine Indian restaurant has been wowing London with Chef Rohit Ghai’s menu which serves up delights from the Royal kitchens of the North and South Indian fare too. Cyrus and Pervin Todiwalas Café Spice Namaste (London’s 22 year old popular restaurant) is drawing crowds. The Todiwalas also continue to raise funds for the needy, support sustainability and fight food waste. It’s a delight to catch up with my old friends and rockstars of the culinary world and to meet the Michelin starred Luigi Taglienti of Lume Milano too. Most of all it’s the flavour of India that thrills. Be it the brilliant young Samyukta Nair’s “Jamawar” or the Todiwala’s “café Spice Namaste” which hosts “khadrass or the Greedy pigs club”, a Gourmet showcase for India’s Parsi heritage. Indeed a yum “Taste of India” in the “Taste of London”.
No two ways about it. This is the worlds most awesome restaurant. Here’s a restaurant where the worlds greatest chefs fly in from all over the world, to volunteer and cook ONLY for the homeless and the vulnerable. And to do so they use waste materials. This is it. The ultimate and most heart-touching and transformative use of gastronomy. It takes within it’s sweep a fight against food waste in support of social inclusion, feeding the homeless and the vulnerable. It’s a non-profit organisation, its aptly named “Food for Soul” and is founded by one of the worlds greatest, most brilliant chefs Massimo Bottura whose mindblowing “Osteria francescana” was judged the worlds best restaurant last year. Lara and Massimo Bottura are blessed alchemists and their non-stop dedication to this selfless work is truly awesome. “Chefs have risen to celebrity heights,” Chef Bottura commented. “I believe we, chefs, can reflect these lights to illuminate the most pressing issues facing society today. Cooking is a call to act.” And sure enough they are using this in many amazing ways to change the world. I could write a book on those, but due to space constraint have to limit myself to Food for Soul today.
THE AWESOME COMMUNITY KITCHEN
It’s a privilege and a blessing. I came to London, only to be able to volunteer as a part-time waitress in Lara and Massimo Bottura’s truly noble and innovative “Food For Soul”. They’ve set up this community kitchen and restaurant Refettorio Felix to provide lunch from Monday toFriday for the homeless and other vulnerable groups from surplus produce supplied by The Felix Project. The aim is to serve more than 2,000 meals using five tonnes of recovered food. The community kitchen is based on Food for Soul’s highly successful Refettorios established in Milan and Rio de Janeiro opened during the 2016 Olympic Games.
It was a great experience to be in the beautiful and elegant Refettorio felix. It was set up in St Cuthbert’s Centre in Earl’s Court the historic community space underwent an ambitious six-week makeover by Charles Wainwright and Ilse Crawford. It is a beautiful space infused with art and design and it brings a new sense of dignity to the table, showing how aesthetics and ethics go hand in hand.
More than 30 leading British and international chefs have already accepted the call to action from Massimo Bottura to cook in the Refettorio. Michelin starred chefs Alain Ducasse, Daniel Boulud, Jamie Oliver, Ashley Palmer-Watts, Jason Atherton, Monica Galetti, Nuno Mendes and many more turning surplus ingredients into a delicious menu. I was privileged to watch the brilliant and highly gifted Michel Roux jr and his daughter Emily (of the legendary Le Gavaroche) and Jonny Lake (of the iconic Fat Duck) in action. And on the day that I excitedly watch Georgio Locatelli (of the award winning Locanda Locatelli) the dynamic Charles Reed, chief of the trailblazing Worlds 50 best restaurant Academy was also there to support this noble venture.
YOU CAN BE A PART OF IT TOO
Following the month-long June festival, Refettorio Felix will continue to operate and provide a vital community service for years to come. With the support of Food for Soul and its partner, The Felix Project, meals will be prepared by two resident cooks with assistance from a guest chef. If you are a chef and visiting London you can volunteer to cook for a day. Should you be visiting London and want to volunteer to help to serve or help out you can do so too. Reach out to email@example.com
MASSIMO’s Breadcrumb Pesto
Here’s the recipe which maestro Massimo Bottura cooked up on the very first day launch of “Food for Soul” Refettorio felix.
Serves 4- 400g Artisanal dried Pasta (spaghetti)/ 1 garlic clove/120g fresh basil leaves (if you don’t have enough basil, use parsley, mint, and gentle green herbs – not rosemary )/ 50g breadcrumbs /salt (1g)/100g grated Parmigiano Reggiano / 70g extra virgin olive oil (preferably chilled 3 hours)/ 30g cold water
Place the garlic, bread crumbs, basil and mint, and salt in a food processor and pulse. While the machine is running, drizzle in the oil and the water alternatively through the feed tube, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Transfer to a large serving bowl and stir in the Parmesan.Cook the pasta according to the package directions (al dente).
Strain the Pasta without rinsing, add the pasta to the bowl with pesto, stir gently and serve warm. Enjoy!
It’s a privilege and a blessing. I came to London, only to be able to volunteer as a part-time waitress in the worlds best chef Massimo Bottura’s truly noble and innovative “Food For Soul” non-profit project. Lara and Massimo Bottura are blessed alchemists: not only do they ensure that many a homeless and vulnerable is fed but do so by orchestrating the collection and use of wasted food. And here’s the exciting part, 30 of the worlds greatest chefs have volunteered and each one cooks daily. From Massimo Bottura himself to Georgio Locatelli, Jamie Oliver, Michel Roux jr and many more. They do so in the simply but elegantly decorated Refettorio Felix.
“Chefs have risen to celebrity heights,” Chef Bottura commented. “I believe we, chefs, can reflect these lights to illuminate the most pressing issues facing society today. Cooking is a call to act.” Admiration!
P.S. Already the brilliant Chef Vicky Ratnani has put a message on my Instagram feed and offered to cook here, should you be in London and be willing to volunteer to help or if you are a chef to cook then please do get in touch.
Every man and his dog is welcome here. Literally. Not only are all pets welcome but here is one restaurant which also has pet food on the menu. So who better to help me accurately assess this Kemps corner restaurant than the fun, foodie, animal-loving family of six.
Read my detailed review on: https://whatshot.in/mumbai
“Dimsum” translates to “touch the heart” in Chinese and my four city China trip through Michelin starred restaurants, local holes in the wall and superb dimsum sure did touch my heart. But the treat to beat all treats was in Beijing. To interview and dine with China’s best chef Tony Lu, who shuns publicity, never meets journalists. He says he prefers to focus his time on nurturing his seven restaurants and two Michelin stars. And in Beijing’s most popular Cai Yi Xuan, ( “the art of dining”) where along with Tony Lu’s menu I had yet another fabulous surprise, our very own dapper Vishal Sanadhya who heads up food and beverage in this iconic hotel. I get a taste of China’s Beijing, Shandong, Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces in this shimmering, glamorous restaurant.
Delightful dimsum of course, plump with flavour and texture. I devour amazing lessons about China’s cuisine incredibly rich culturally, gastronomically and medically. In ancient times, a cooking pot (the ding) was a symbol of political power and in this carnivorous country, I not only ate at many a pure vegetarian restaurant but also in Shanghai’s sublime pure vegetarian Michelin starred restaurant. Tony Lu’s of course. My learning continues.
It does not get more romantic than this, in China. I’m surrounded by the magnificent, shimmering and tranquil West Lake in Hangzhou, as I dine in the award winning Jin Sha. Nestled amidst an exquisite garden along the shores of a lake deemed heaven on earth by explorers of old, Four Seasons Hangzhou is rooted in centuries of dynastic lore. It is a 21st-century luxurious prism through which the past is reflected. It’s luxury amid nature that pampers and the masterful Chinese fare seduces. I sit by the beautiful glassed in dining area of Jin Sha set amid 17 acres of landscaped gardens and interconnected lily ponds and I’m luxuriating in MasterChef Wangyong’s flavour and textural masterpieces be it marinated blackfungus with lilybuds, a dramatic colourful salad of organic vegetables and fruits too. I love the roasted cauliflower with truffle and the simply made pickled radish delights with it’s tangy crunchiness. I also eat the worlds best Crispy chicken with salt here. The dapper Wayne Tan and Alleen Woo helpfully translate and also explain the intricacies of Hangzhou and Shanghainese cuisine.
No wonder Jinsha has been declared the only four-star restaurant in Hangzhou by Forbes Travel Guide and is in the most prestigious list of China’s 50 Best restaurants too.
MY CUP OF TEA
Grown right here is the worlds most fabulous green tea. And I get my first taste of it in Jinsha. I’m feeling like the empress of china sipping on the famous and incredibly addictive and prized Longjing tea which was granted the status of GongCha, or imperial tea, in the Qing dynasty by the Kangxi Emperor. It continued to be the favorite of emperors. And they came specially to Hangzhou where it is grown. Much like champagne even longjing tea to be called longjing has to be grown in Zhejiang province in China, in the West Lake area in Hangzhou or within the Xihu District.
Like most Chinese green teas it is roasted early in processing (after picking) to stop the natural oxidation process, which is a part of creating black and oolong teas. This is done by “firing” (heating in pans) or by steaming the leaves before they completely dry out. So Longjing tea leaves experience minimal oxidation. I love the mellow yellow-green color of the tea when the leaves are steeped in hot water. And the complex long finish.
The tea contains vitamin C, amino acids, and, like most finer Chinese green teas, has one of the highest concentrations of catechins among teas. It is excellent for health, digestion and even weight loss. What can be better than the imperial Longjing tea? It’s the fabulous hightea in which Chef Stanley infuses every pastry and bagel with longing tea. Macaron, green tea cheesecake green tea chocolate mousse and green tea scone too.
Its known as sipping your tea and eating it too.
Right after lunch and high tea, I pay homage to the most sacred, largest and most visited of Buddhist temples Lingyin, located a few minutes drive away. And this temple was founded by our very own Indian monk 1600.years ago. I’m dazzled (in the center of the Hall of the Heavenly King) by the statue of the fat, bare and bellied Buddha with a smiling face – the laughing Buddha.
And then I go into the temple’s restaurant for a taste of the inexpensive and pure vegetarian meal. In the functional, clean eatery, which serves slippery moist prosperity noodles, longevity noodles (10 RMB, roughly Rs 90 each) served in large bowls. After Jin Sha’s dazzling meal, heady high- tea, amid beautiful nature and Lord Buddha’s blessings… I came away feeling rejuvenated and
JINSHA’S PICKLED RADDISH
White radish 1kg//Soy sauce 35 gms/
Monosodium glutamate (optional) 3 gms/ Sugar 75 gms /Dried chilli 1gm /Dark soy sauce 6,5 gms/ Garlic 2 gms
Wash the white radish; peel and cut white radish into julienne. Marinate the white radish with salt for one night than wash off all the salty and spicy flavors. Dry it- Put soy sauce, monosodium glutamate, sugar, dried chili, dark soy sauce and garlic together and boil it until the sugar melts. Cool the sauce. Immerse the raddish in the sauce for 24 hours. Serve it to add crunch and tang to your meal.
Come sizzle with me… in the finest global capital of spice, Sichuan. It is not just the cuisine of China’s Sichuan province but has become the global synonym for the finest spicy food. And I’m fortunate to learn the secrets of this 4000 year old cuisine from the best chefs. And even more to taste the best of the best, in the highly renowned LiXuan restaurant perched in the luxurious landmark of Chengdu, The Ritz-Carlton. A truly seductive taste of Sichuan here is due to their global “scenography” (sense of place) reputation. At this renowned fine dining Chinese restaurant, the dynamic Vito Romeo (who honed his skills under the likes of Alain Ducasse and Joel Robuchon) and Chef Michael impressed with their knowledge and flavors of sophisticated interpretations of classic Cantonese and Sichuanese dishes. I get high on Sichuan’s vibrantly addictive flavors. The chef shares his super recipes of kung pao chicken, ma po tofu… the signature Sichuan dishes. Should you want them please mail firstname.lastname@example.org