As the famous Harriet van Horne (American newspaper columnist and film critic) saying goes: “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” Therefore, as part of the London Southbank Centre’s summer Festival of Love, our food writing duo, Eulanda and Omo visited the Skylon Restaurant to experience Head Chef Tom Cook’s passionate interpretation of the love theme through his ‘Festival of Love’ Tasting Menu.
A good British summer is like a shy debutante who makes a fleeting appearance at her first society event only to disappear before the night even begins. Her smile must be celebrated and her very presence savoured. A walk around London during this time shows Londoners making the most of their summer through a riot of colour and laughter and a general feeling of camaraderie.
The Southbank Centre, the UK’s largest art centre has decided to tap into the summer goodness by hosting the 2016 Southbank Festival of Love, a packed and diverse program that aims to explore all forms of love using music, art, poetry, dance and performances as mediums of expression. Previous editions have featured mass weddings, flirting workshops and tips on how to write the perfect love poem. More determinedly, the 2016 edition of the festival seeks to explore love’s innate ability to inspire creativity and positive social change.
Enthused by this powerful message and in keeping with the Southbank’s Festival of Love theme, French inspired Executive Head Chef Tom Cook of The Skylon Restaurant has designed a five-course tasting menu to celebrate all things romantic. Chef Tom Cook describes his cooking as light, modern and seasonal with a focus on using high quality ingredients, cooked perfectly and presented beautifully. Having heard about the excellent quality of food at Skylon, we were keen to try it out for ourselves.
We made our way through crowds of summer revellers along the Southbank, aiming for the cavernous hallways of The Royal Festival Hall where the Skylon Restaurant is located. With the sun hanging low over the horizon, we were fortunate to arrive just before the evening theatre crowds and were given coveted window seats. The Skylon’s huge near floor-to-ceiling windows provided great views across the River Thames and of the Southbank below.
Upon arrival and before dinner, guests also have the option of hanging out in the expansive Skylon Bar area where they can indulge in a ‘Southbank Love’ cocktail; a remarkable vodka infusion with hints of chilies and cherries.
The friendly waiting staff offered us the new tasting menu and walked us through each item while at the same time documenting our allergy/dietary restrictions and wine preferences. Chef Tom has based his five-course tasting menu around aphrodisiac ingredients such as the chilli and cucumber in the sea bream carpaccio; the pomegranate in the roasted duck breast and pickled kohlrabi (duck is also the Chinese symbol for love); and chocolate and cherries in the dark chocolate and cherry mousse dessert.
Our favourite meal of the evening was the roasted stone bass fillet, artichoke barigoule. Paired excellently with a 2013 Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc Manon high quality white wine, its juicy tenderness evoked memories of romantic sunset dinners on a pier in Zanzibar with nothing but the Indian Ocean and passing dhows for company. Lost in reverie, the ever attentive waiting staff brought us back to reality to introduce the next course.
The stand-out wine pairing of the evening for us was the 2013 Willi Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Riesling Kabinett Mosel from Mosel, Germany. Its lime scent and fruity intensity was countered by a mineral acidity that left a memorable aftertaste when paired with Skylon’s ballontine of foie gras, carmelised fig and toasted home-made brioche.
As the sunset over the River Thames, the five-course tasting menu was rounded off with the dark chocolate and cherry mouse, cherry sorbet which was paired with a 2009 Tokaji Aszu, a sensuous and earthy dessert wine from Hungary.
Skylon’s Festival of Love tasting menu is a collection of the restaurant’s highlights. If love is about bringing out your best and celebrating it, with this menu, Skylon was certainly keeping with that theme.
It is not unheard of for restaurants located in prime spaces to rely on that advantage while paying less attention to the quality of food and service. Skylon is certainly an exception. A high level of service and quality food provided for an enjoyable evening.
The Skylon Restaurant is located at The Royal Festival Hall, London. The Festival of Love tasting menu is available till 31 August 2016. For bookings and reservations, call the restaurant on 02076547800.
Photos ©Eulanda Shead