Review: Lewis & Clarke Artisan Kitchen, private chef experience

AS MOST CHEFS will know it’s very rare to have your dinner cooked for you, especially in your own home. Whether it be a special occasion or a family gathering, you always tend to gravitate towards the kitchen. I came across Lewis & Clarke Artisan Kitchen through when I was looking for something special to celebrate the engagement of Katherine, Sarah’s sister, to her long-term partner Alistair – what better way to do it than with food? And since I’m not toiling away over a hot stove for once, I’ll even get the chance to relax.

The fun begins with a menu consultation where I was presented with a sample menu and asked to select three courses for the evening.  There were so many dishes that catered for all tastes.  So much so that the debate took a good couple of days before we settled upon what would eventually be our dinner. I chatted it through with Ronnie, who would be running the front of house, and she offered to pair wines to the dishes.  It turns out that, as is often the case in hospitality, Ronnie and I have a couple of mutual friends in the trade from her time working with Martin Wishart. Chef Kate, too, has Michelin experience and was most recently Executive Chef at Archerfield Links in East Lothian.  Six months ago the pair decided to go it alone, hence the birth of L&C Artisan Kitchen.

It was the first day of the year that any form of warm weather surfaced. Kate and Ronnie arrived promptly and instantly put me as a host at ease.  There was a distinct air of calmness and professionalism about them as Ronnie set about transforming the dinner table whilst Kate took over the kitchen.

Based in Fenton Barns, local produce was an obvious influence on the menu with East Coast Cured, NB Gin, chicken from Gosford estate, and Belhaven smoked salmon (to name but a few) popping up. 

We began with an amuse bouche of white onion veloute with wild garlic oil and garlic crisps.  A tasty little treat featuring a sweet, silky smooth soup and a little punch of wild garlic, which I love. 

The starter we eventually decided upon again showcases local goods in the form of Balencrieff rare breed pig’s cheek with sweetcorn, and chorizo crumb (from East Coast Cured) with oil.  The braised cheek was melt-in-the-mouth, the paprika spice coming from the cured sausage.  There was a fun element in the shape of smoked popcorn, but the real highlight for me was the torched corn when it popped in the mouth to release a real burst of sweetness. Kudos for the presentation, too.

A delicious palette cleanser appeared before the main course in the form of Pimm’s sorbet; I’m thankful to the chefs for leaving half a tub in my freezer!

The main course was a real treat indeed.  Pan-roasted venison loin with pancetta potato pave, parsnip puree, and venison suet pudding with blackberry jus. This was classic cooking of the highest order. The suet pudding was a particular triumph; crispy pasty crumbled to unveil a rich, unctuous game.  The expected danger with this dish would be that the prized venison loin would be over/under cooked, but this was flawlessly executed by Kate.  The potato pave was pleasingly seasoned by the pancetta and the parsnip puree brought an earthy flavour, as well as a bit of wetness alongside the sharp jus.

It was obvious throughout that Ronnie was on top of her game and she chatted throughout, giving us stories of the produce and her life in the industry.  Drinks were always full and a relaxing atmosphere lasted throughout the evening – even when Katie fell off her chair! 

We would finish with peach melba crème brulee with peach sorbet and shortbread.  The acid test is always finding a crunchy top, which this effort boasted.  The creamy filling had flecks of vanilla seeds running throughout and the cold sorbet mellowed out the richness.  The shortbread was simply sublime.  Buttery, sweet and the shortest shortbread I’ve ever come across.

For someone like me who is always on edge when hosting dinners and keen to deliver an outstanding experience, I can’t recommend Kate and Ronnie enough.  Private cheffing is certainly a different experience and one everybody should try at least once in their life.  Divine cooking and exemplary service defined the evening and I wish Kate and Ronnie every success in their new business venture. They even do the dishes!

Phone: 01620 248 067

Pics by Craig Brown Photography
Copyright Craig Brown Photography