When I was younger, I always used to wonder what it would be like if I had a chance to meet a celebrity. I still remember watching Friends and wishing I could be part of the live studio audience. I mean, how cool would it have been to meet the cast of Friends, and see Central Perk and Monica’s apartment in real life?
Anyway, as time has gone by, I’ve found that the celebrities I’d like to meet have changed – not surprisingly, a number of them are celebrities in the cooking world. For those of you who are regular readers, you probably know that I adore Bill Granger. This naturally means that he is one of the people I would love to meet. So, when I found out that Bill would be hosting a promotional event for his new cookbook in Selfridges, I knew that I *had* to go, because who knows when I would next get a chance to meet the man in all his smiley-ness?
And you know what – I’m so glad I decided to go, because I had a blast (and so did R and Mowie, whom I brought along with me)…
The event was held at Mark Hix’s restaurant in Selfridges, which is on the first floor and overlooks the shopping area. It was actually rather strange to see people shopping in the background whilst we were eating our food! It was co-hosted by Bill and Mark, who appear to be pretty good friends. Despite it being the first event held in the restaurant, it went very well, and there was lots of banter between the two chefs which made for a very enjoyable evening.
The food that was served on the night was based on recipes in his new cookbook Bill’s Basics (which of course, I brought along in the hope of getting it signed).
Warm bread and butter that we snacked on whilst waiting for the appetizers to appear. The staff were quite strict about not allowing people to be seated until 7pm, and as such there was a short period of waiting whilst everyone was shown to their seats.
An appetizer of Maldon oysters with fresh coriander and chilli dressing. Now, I was slightly apprehensive when I saw this on the menu, because I am not a huge fan of oysters. Call me strange, but I find them a tad too slimy for my liking. However, after a bit of ooh-ing and aah-ing, I decided to try one anyway – and it actually tasted rather good! All credit to the coriander and chilli dressing which managed to make the oyster taste a lot less fishy.
A starter of lobster and saffron risotto. This was one of the dishes in Bill’s Basics that stood out for me, and I’m so glad that it was included in the menu. The risotto was beautifully cooked, and the wonderful aroma of saffron wafted up my nose with every mouthful. And of course, the lobster was a very welcome addition – it was cooked well, was very fresh, and complemented the saffron risotto. I’ve since tried to recreate it at home, stay tuned for that blog post!
And then the mains appeared – roast chicken with chestnut stuffing. The star of the dish was by far, the chestnut stuffing which (according to the cookbook) contains fennel, pancetta, chestnuts and sourdough bread chunks. Fennel is such a revelation, I have only recently started to cook with it and am loving its versatility. The chicken was lovely and tender, but unfortunately did not have crispy skin – something I always look out for in my roasts. But the roast potatoes – they were amazing. I’m a massive potato fan (I have an entire cookbook dedicated to potatoes), and these were done extremely well. Crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside.
Autumn slaw – one of the two sides served with the roast chicken. I’m not a huge fan of coleslaw (never have been, and never will be), so this was just an “okay” side for me. It did have a nice twist of having raisins in it though.
I always look forward to dessert, and I could not wait for this brown sugar pavlova with figs and blackberries to come to the table. In between the main course and dessert, our friendly waitress told us that the pavlova looked amazing, and that she was hoping that there would be some extra plates for the staff post-event. (I hope she did manage to try some, because she was terrific.) I think I let out a little gasp of delight when this was served because it was plated so prettily. A great dessert: crispy pavlova shell giving way to a soft fluffy interior, coupled with the sweet blackberries and figs = heaven. The figs weren’t as sweet as they could have been, but that was the only thing I would want to change about this dish.
In between all the dishes, Bill was a perfect host and worked his way around the room. He went to every single table, shook everyone’s hand, and had a short chat with each person at the event. He also took the time to sign copies of his new cookbook – and it wasn’t just a plain old signature, because he took the time to personalise it. How can you not love him?
There was also an informal Q&A session during the course of the evening, where we found out that this was the first cookbook that he’d written entirely in the UK (and that he’d been living here for the past year!!). He also said that the best question he’d ever been asked was “Are your teeth real?” – to which the answer is “yes”.
My signed copy of Bill’s Basics – I smile every time I open the book to see this! (that’s not sad, right?) He also very kindly signed my copy of Bill’s Open Kitchen, which was the first ever Bill cookbook I owned.
Mowie, Bill, and me! I was so excited that we managed to get a photo with him that I even sent a copy of this to my parents, who don’t really know who Bill is… oh well. Now they know.
All in all, it was a fantastic night – great service, delicious food, and Bill Granger. Now I can cross one person of my “to meet” list!
p.s. I think Bill is currently in Australia on a similar promotional event blitz, so if you’re a fan, I highly recommend attending one of his events! You won’t regret it.
For those of you living in UK/US/Canada – have you entered my CSN Stores £50/$75 gift voucher giveaway?