Would you just look at the beauty of this bread selection? Ok, the photo is a little murky, but to me, this bread is a thing of marvel. I love good bread to the point of nerdiness (when I’m not eating it, I’m thinking about it or baking my own) and I think the sign of a good restaurant can be judged on the quality of its bread basket (or platter)! I partook of this bodacious bread assortment at Theo Randall’s Italian establishment at Park Lane’s InterContinental Hotel at the weekend (it’s simply called ‘Theo Randall’). This isn’t somewhere you’d usually find me – The InterContinental seems to be the roaming ground for lizardy tanned foreign millionaires and their frumpy wives en voyage – but the occasion was a special one and I had been meaning to check out Theo Randall’s cooking for some time after I ate a very special slab of his chocolate cake at the London Taste festival last year. I’m also a bit of a fan of Theo Randall’s TV appearances on Good Food’s Market Kitchen (a show that continues to amaze me with its gawky dreadfulness, but it is compulsive, trashy viewing nonetheless). Theo always trumps the other chefs on the show with his unpretentious and intelligent use of ingredients without being an overbearing egomaniac.
So: the bread assortment was a dreamy selection of juicy, garlicky foccacia festooned with big crunchy salt crystals, partnered with slices of a tomato-rubbed chargrilled sourdough. By George, it was good. We hadn’t even ordered the plate – it was plonked alluringly down on the table while we ordered our drinks. The meal just got better and better from that moment on, but I won’t bore you with the details of every dish we ate…but I think the sharing dessert platter is worth mentioning. Again, a thing of rare beauty: four outstanding puds all bamboozling you for attention – an outrageously tangy Amalfi lemon tart, a grappa-soaked creamy panacotta, a dense, fudgy chocolate cake with mascarpone and a delectable ball of vanilla ice cream doused in espresso. Behold:
We finished the entire plateful in two minutes flat. There were three of us, after all. Every mouthful nearly made me go dizzy. The man knows how to make a good pud, that’s for sure.
Another thing worth mentioning: as you might have guessed, ‘Theo Randall’ is quite a high-end establishment, and my husband and I aren’t really used to frequenting such glamorous surroundings. But we were immediately put at ease: the staff were friendly in a non-overbearing way – and our lovely waitress even gave me a posh cake box in a glossy cardboard carrier bag for me to take my bread leftovers home with me. Without rolling her eyes disapprovingly and tutting! (Waste not, want not). Theo Randall himself was cooking in the restaurant – I saw his head briefly peep through the kitchen windows. This was really exciting in itself: a celebrity chef who could actually be bothered to turn up to his own restaurant and put in the hard graft, unlike some who are too busy doing book signings and TV shows across the pond to even know what the inside of their restaurants look like. Now there’s a thing!
Many thanks to my mother-in-law for such a fantastic dinner.