I’ve deleted this paragraph three times now for I am finding myself insufferably patronising. You try writing about a meal that you ate, cooked by an 18 year old whilst sitting next to his mum and his aunties (paying guests on the day I attended) without sounding patronising; Its nigh on impossible, so I am going to pay Sam and his partner Alberto the compliment of entirely ignoring their youth and critiquing what I ate based entirely on the experience.
They have settled into a three-month residency at Borough Market’s Cook House and are bringing skills honed at the sharp end of London cooking – under the gimlet eye of Marcus Wareing at his eponymous restaurant in Knightsbridge. They have big plans, huge ambition and are entirely charming to boot.
Can they cook? Of course they can- you don’t do two years of nineteen-hour days at one of the world’s finest restaurants without knowing your way round a set of pans. Are they restaurateurs? No. Not quite yet…..
You sit at an unadorned table (dress the room, lads- this stuff matters too) and watch as they sear lamb, and talk to them about their suppliers and their plans. It’s exciting stuff- everything comes from the market and they treat it sensitively and with precision. Alberto serves the starter and explains the inspiration behind it. A veritable forest floor of fungus has a puree that is deep and earthy and ceps, meaty and caramelised with the complexity of the finest steak. Wild garlic gives a seasonal pungency and freshness that works beautifully. I can take or leave the caramelised baby gem- can we all agree that it’s time to stop cooking lettuce now?
Main course is rack of lamb with goats curd and Roscoff onions and what’s served is faultless- lamb cutlets, pink within, all crisp fat without and bone-gnawingly good (I apologised to Sam’s mum for my table manners). Goats curd was fine- herby and fresh and just sour enough to cut through the lamb and a few rings of charred onion added sweetness and texture. A Caribbean-inspired dessert involving Malibu gel and compressed pineapple was refreshing and interesting and nicely balanced- sweet without being cloying.
The meal felt like what it was- half of the evening tasting menu, rather than a coherent 3-course lunch (they serve a 6 course tasting menu in the evening). I would suggest tweaking slightly – adding some veg to the main, increasing the size of the dessert, but I’m greedy and old fashioned- you might not be and think it perfect.
I’m going to be shamelessly patronising now because if these two are anything to go by, not just food but society in general is in good hands. When I was eighteen I was entirely feckless. Sam has already commuted for two years from the end of the jubilee line to do nineteen-hour days – his Dad picking him up from the station at 2am every morning. If I were going to invest, I’d invest in him and Alberto because they’re talented grafters with a plan. Oh, and his mum looks younger than me- It’s entirely inspiring and depressing in equal measure.