Occasionally having the chutzpah to make a cold call reaps rewards. “I’m a big fan of the River Cottage and one of their chefs, Steven Lamb [second picture], but didn’t know him,” says Kate MacWhirter, owner of The Imperial restaurant in Chelsea (first picture). “So I just picked up the phone and suggested a residency. And he agreed to do it.”
Bringing a flavour of rural Dorset to the King’s Road, the River Cottage’s meat-curing and smoking expert will be overseeing the kitchen at The Imperial to create a hearty winter’s eight-course tasting menu (dinner on February 11, 12 and 13, and lunch on February 12, £100, excluding drinks).
This is the first time the River Cottage has collaborated on such a dining experience, and Lamb has risen to the occasion. The feast will start with a British-sourced charcuterie board of salami, coppa, prosciutto and bresaola, followed by onion squash purée with sourdough, purple broccoli and smoked cheese; slow-cooked cauliflower with almonds, cumin, yoghurt and flatbread; and braised squid with chorizo crumbs and fennel salad.
Hearty sustenance comes in the form of pan-fried flat fish in smoked butter with celeriac purée, deep-fried celeriac roots and celeriac-leaf crisps. And then the meat courses: hot smoked venison with pancetta, spiced red cabbage and herb polenta, followed by pork with crackling and apple sauce.
For guests who have room for more, there’s poached rhubarb with ginger and passion fruit tapioca. Sustainable and locally sourced produce will be used wherever possible, in accordance with the philosophy of both restaurants.
“To say we are excited about this collaboration is an understatement,” says MacWhirter. No doubt those lucky enough to make a booking will feel similarly.