Tag Archives: Regent Street

Art meets Coffee

25 Jul

An alluring poster in the Nespresso shop

Standing in front of a giant window display with pods formed into a shape like a London bus, the shiny white walls reflecting the summer sunlight and whispered speech echoing delicately around me, I feel as if I could only be in a museum.

But I’m not. Instead, I’m standing in the new Nespresso store on Regent Street – a flagship among flagships.

The new major storefront, which launched this month, did so with much fanfare, even pulling Phil Howard (of Michelin star restaurant, The Square) on board to integrate espresso into a tasting menu for a few lucky folk.

This is the latest step for the company which is pushing the idea of in-home, high-quality coffee ever further into consumers’ minds. While on our screens George Clooney swoons over the creamy-topped liquid emerging from his favoured machine, the brand seeks to reach consumers’ minds by creating an “experience” which brings together art with the love of the bean.

The new shop is impressive. Situated at the bottom end of Regent Street, the immense space is designed to the esthetic favoured by loft-livers and Banana Republic, clean-cut clothed coffee sippers. Throughout, white cubed tables feature the latest pods and shiny cups and saucers. One whole side is dedicated as the ‘Accessory Collection’ harkening to the latest fashion trends in coffee culture. It is, after all, seemingly attempting to capture today’s dedication to a proper cup of alluring caffeine that many of us lust after with ever greater focus.

After taking in the new space, I sat down to a meal with the master chef himself, Phil Howard. This is the first time in 21 years he has partnered with a brand, his declaration summing up the idea he was in full support of Nespresso. While he said he considered the task of working with coffee beans to create distinct dishes “fascinating” he added it was not always easy.

“In savoury cooking, it only works well with dishes that have a sweet element. As long as there’s some sweetness in the dish, it seems to work,” he explained, saying fish was by far the most tricky thing to partner with coffee.

In making his creations, he added he learned to appreciate how many subtleties there are in various versions of coffee, each of which can pair in different ways with myriad foods.

I tried his roasted granola with coffee, Greek yoghurt and honey (the recipe for which is below); a smoked venison and pork Scotch egg rolled in coffee grounds and served with an espresso brown sauce; and, a duck liver parfait with port, cherry and currant chutney and coffee nougatine.

The first was highly delectable – a crunchy, spicy morning kick that I would happily make at home. The Scotch egg, meanwhile, was deeply flavoured, with a delightfully gooey yolk and just enough espresso bite on the crust and in the brown sauce to make it stand out. The final dish was my favourite however. The creamy duck and sweet and sour chutney did a merengue in my mouth with the Rosabaya de Colombia coffee nougatine. Muy excelente!

While Phil won’t be on hand to cook for those patrons who find themselves tip-toeing around the vaulted Nespresso store space in future, I can confidently pass on the details that his creations (more of which you can view on the Nespresso site, here) will make you rethink how coffee can be used in dozens of delectable dishes.

For now, I invite you to give the granola recipe a go – and let me know if it delights you too!

Roasted Granola with coffee, Greek Yoghurt & honey:

  Ingredients:

  • 225g jumbo oats;
  • 60g sunflower seeds;
  • 60g white sesame seeds;
  • 90g apple puree;
  • 1/2 tsp mixed spice;
  • 60g agave syrup;
  • 30g honey;
  • 50g muscavado sugar;
  • 125g nibbed almonds;
  • 1 tsp salt;
  • 2 tbsp hazelnut oil;
  •  20g Dulsão do Brasil grounds
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Runny honey

Place all of the ingredients except the coffee grounds into a large bowl and stir them thoroughly until they are evenly distributed.

Place the mix into a large baking tray and bake for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

Add the Nespresso Dulsão do Brasil grounds and continue baking until the contents of the tray are golden brown – no darker.

Remove from the oven, set aside to cool and store in an airtight container.

To serve: place the yoghurt into a small bowl, drizzle with the honey and finish with a covering of granola.

Going Tonkotsu Crazy

25 May

A couple of Christmases ago, I got the boy the gift of sushi lessons for us both. It was one of those gifts that we could enjoy together – which basically means I like presents that I get something out of too. Luckily, it works both ways. This has become somewhat of a tradition between us with him buying me things he knows we’ll both like (comedy tickets) and me dragging him to the symphony (which he has now come to love).

But the sushi lessons are one of those gifts that have really stuck with us. We went a bit sushi-making mad for a while but unlike a gift which is used once in the holidays and then put away for years (foot spa anyone?) this one kept on giving.

Since then, I’ve continued learning about Japanese cuisine and have found myself cooking dishes from this country at home more frequently. So, when I was recently asked to come down to the Japan Centre – a fantastic Japanese food store on the south end of Regent Street in London where I have gone for years to get my Japanese ingredients – to learn how to make Tonkotsu noodle soup, I jumped at the chance to add a new recipe to my repertoire.

Tonkotsu is a type of Ramen made with a rich pork bone broth rather than a more typical miso or chicken stock base. It is popular in the southern-most part of Japan: Kyushu.

Nariaki Kanazawa – the advertising and product PR manager – told me the dish has only become popular in more northern spots like Tokyo in recent years. It wasn’t until he went to university near Kyushu that he even discovered it.

“I was shocked. I didn’t know what they had given me. It wasn’t soya [miso] Ramen!” he said, laughing.

The dish is eaten any time of the day but is very popular with businessmen and late night drinkers who procure it from street stalls.

“It’s more commonly eaten by men because of the rich flavour and fatty meats,” he told me.

Rich flavour? Fatty meat? That sounded right up my street! Once Nariaki told me this, I was ready to get stuck in and headed straight behind the counter to see how it is assembled.

The spicy beef Tonkotsu soup I tried is made from a notebook page full of ingredients, which include: yuzu paste (a spicy, fermented sauce made from the Japanese yuzu orange), chilli sauce, sesame lemon sauce, white miso paste, egg noodles, a chicken and pork stock (to which the Tonkotsu – or creamy pork bone broth – is added at a rate of 10 parts stock to 1 part broth), wakame (edible seaweed), spring onions, bean sprouts, red ginger, fungus and BBQ pork. Now, if that’s not a cure for too much drinking, I don’t know what is!

The dish was steaming when it got to my table. But I couldn’t help but plow into it – noodle soup (in all its forms) is one of my long-time favourite foods.

And what a treat it was. The soup was delectably rich – and far preferable to a standard miso broth. It was creamy, slightly fatty and had a sweet edge from the miso paste that was diluted by the chilli bite. The saltiness of the seaweed and sharp tang of the ginger were welcome additions. So many parts of my palate were bursting at once that it would have looked like one of those light-up dance move games people play in arcades if anyone could have seen it under a telescope. The team at the Japan Centre had looked a bit dubious when I said I would have a large portion. I think I did myself proud.

It’s not only me that likes it, apparently. Nariaki told me they’ve increased soup sales from about 20 portions a lunch hour to 50 since the Tonkotsu appeared on the menu six months ago. Whether that was PR speak, I won’t know but I can imagine why someone would love it. I’m just glad to add something so pleasurable to my growing Japanese food recipe book!

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