Nick, tell us about the smoked eel dish?
We wanted to put on a smoked fish dish, so I went about sourcing sustainable eels. They’re on the MSC endangered list, which makes them even more special. We thought about the balance of the dish and settled with cockles in cockle ketchup (acidity), tarragon puree (bitter), fresh radish (seasonal & sweet), smoked salmon (sweet/bitter) and pork. We cover the eel with a thin layer of lardo (Italian cured pork fat) and we fry some pork crackling (salt). So there’s a slight surf and turf thing going on. To serve, we slightly warm the eel, as I think it eats better like that and the flavours come through more clearly.
What inspired you to create the dish?
Having a spot on the menu for a smoked seafood. And we have already done smoked salmon – it was time for something new that we could showcase skill and flavour combinations. Plus, we want to encourage our guests to try something new. This all came together when we found a high quality supplier who matched our food ethos.
What are the flavour combinations? Why do they work so well?
We play with texture and temperature on this dish. You have warm and cold smoked fish, crunchy radish, crispy crackling and smooth puree. As usual, we are trying to hit all four tastebuds to create the fifth sense: Umami.
What do you want guests to take away from eating the dish?
An experience in some interesting products and flavour combinations. We think the tastes work really well together. We are always happy to tell the story of the food but we don’t force it onto our customers as that’s not our service style. We want customers to trust our choices.
Why should people overcome their perceptions of eel?
I think if you’re interested in good quality ingredients it’s always worth trying something new. We all love smoked salmon and perhaps see it as a delicacy/treat. Then there is no reason not to eat eel as it at least matches the flavour and quality of salmon. They carry more fat and therefore hold great flavour. Perhaps we need to get over the fact that we see them in our rivers and streams.