Last week I was lucky enough to enjoy dinner at The Cube by Electrolux, a pop-up restaurant on top of London’s Royal Festival Hall. Our chef for the day was Nottingham’s double Michelin-starred Sat Bains, who treated us to a delicious five-course meal. Here is my review – as published in this week’s Nottingham Post Weekend magazine:
There’s no denying that 2012 is The Year of London. What with the Jubilee, Olympics and Paralympics, there really is no cooler city in the world right now. Foreign tourists are visiting in their droves and even those of us that live a mere three hours up the road are seeing it in a new light.
So, it’s no surprise that when Electrolux decided to open their pop-up restaurant The Cube in the capital there was no shortage of top chefs willing to get on board – including Nottingham’s very own Sat Bains.
The 18-seater mobile restaurant has already proved a huge hit across Europe – sitting atop some of the most prestigious buildings in Sweden, Italy and Belgium.
Double Michelin-starred Bains kicked off the proceedings with a 2-week residency in June , swiftly followed by a who’s who of Britain’s greatest chefs, including Tom Kitchin, Claude Bosi and Daniel Clifford.
Bains returned for another fortnight at the end of August, during which time we were lucky enough to visit for lunch.
It doesn’t come cheap, at £175 per head for lunch and £215 for dinner, but for a special occasion or one-off splurge fine-dining experiences don’t come much finer than this.
The Cube itself is a sparsely decorated, minimalist’s dream. All white and glass, with an open plan kitchen at the end, there is little to detract from the food – except of course the panoramic views over the Thames.
Electrolux’s involvement comes in the form of state of the art ovens and hobs in the kitchen.
Our experience began with a welcome glass of champagne and canapés. But forget your sausage rolls and vol-au-vents, this was canapés Sat Bains-style – tiny cubes of horse-radish ice cream (yes, horseradish), sandwiched between two salty biscuits, topped with tiny red flowers.
The unusual flavours kick-started our senses, and over the next three hours we were served five equally inventive courses, each with matching wine – all while Bains and his team worked away in the kitchen just metres from the table.
Highlights included the opening dish of Loch Duart salmon, cooked in a style Bains describes as ‘Thermos cooking’ – ingredients are left to cook and infuse inside a flask, leaving them moist and full of flavour, and saving energy at the same time – something Bains explains he is keen to see happening more in his kitchen.
The result was firm, meaty chunks of salmon, which retained their fleshy texture despite being cooked through. These were served with a refreshing miso and oyster soup, both tart and rich at the same time.
Next came salt-baked celeriac. Not a vegetable I have ever paid much attention to before and, if I’m honest, not one I was particularly looking forward to trying after seeing the huge example sitting on the worktop in the kitchen as we walked in. It looked more like a giant, dirty snowball than a delicacy, but cooked three different ways and served in a creamy truffle sauce it soon silenced my doubts. The salt, Bains explained, traps in the flavours as the vegetable cooks, allowing them to permeate all the way through.
But for me, and most of our fellow diners, judging by the moans of appreciation, the stand-out dish was the next course – slow-cooked mutton served with a ragu and shallots.
Again, a much-maligned ingredient but, as Bains himself explained, often it’s not about the meat itself but the method of cooking. The minute my fork pierced the mutton it fell to pieces and the flavour could not have been bettered by the most expensive cut of lamb.
It was accompanied by a fruity Australian pinot noir. It was the perfect autumnal meal, especially as by that point the skies had darkened and rain was lashing against the windows.
Remaining courses included a chocolate, yoghurt and coffee creation which had me wishing I could lick the plate clean, and pickled berries with cereal milk, topped with cornflakes. But my favourite of the three sweet dishes was a fruity Banbury cake topped with what I can only describe as the best cheese I have ever eaten. Proving that it’s not just London putting the Great in Britain, Bains had called on the Cropwell Bishop Creamery for their Beauvale Blue. Creamy, tangy and mouth-wateringly smooth it silenced everyone around the table as they began to try it.
What makes The Cube different to other restaurants is the interaction with the chef – Bains introduced each of the dishes himself, helping to serve some of them, and was available to chat to diners whenever they liked. At the start of the meal we were told to ‘treat it like a dinner party’ and wander over to the kitchen if we wanted to see what was going on. I had to know more about the cheese and he informed me I could get my hands on it at The Cheese Shop in the Flying Horse Walk in the city centre – much to the baffled expressions of the London foodies around me.
After our experiences at The Cube my husband and I have vowed to pay a visit to Bains’ Lenton restaurant, but it may be a while before we’ve saved the pennies.
In the meantime I’m off to buy a leg of mutton and some Beauvale Blue. I might leave the celeriac to the experts….
The Cube’s London run has now been extended until January 1. Sat is due to be cooking there again but dates have yet to be finalised. For updates see www.electrolux.co.uk/Cube/London