Saturday, July 20

Out For A Duck – The Restaurant At Drake’s Hotel

- November 22, 2011

Andrew Kay samples the culinary delights of The Restaurant At Drake’s Hotel

If you are a regular reader you will have noticed that I have spent quite a lot of this year travelling to the Netherlands. To say that I have fallen for Holland is an understatement, I am somewhat besotted. In fact, in a few weeks time you be able to read of my latest Latest outing, this time to the medieval city of Utrecht, but more of that later.

Part of my Dutch diversions relate to an exciting new project that I am embarking on in association with the Brighton & Hove Food & Drink Festival. Whilst in Maastricht and staying at the Beaumont hotel I had one of the best meals I have had in many, many years. I was dining alone and I really wanted to be able to share the food with someone. It was right there that I had an idea. What if I could persuade the hotel in Maastricht to swap chefs with one based in Brighton. Then I could not only tell you about Audrey but tell you that you would be able sample her fine cooking right here in Brighton.

Well a few months later I am able to report that it looks like this is going to happen as part of the city’s Food Festival Spring Harvest next April. Under the banner of International Chef Exchange we will be welcoming Audrey Eussen to Brighton where she will be cooking a very special dinner at The Restaurant at Drake’s. In return, Drake’s chef Andrew MacKenzie will visit Maastricht and cook at the Beaumont Hotel’s fine restaurant.

“The food at Drakes may look pretty as a picture but it is robust and satisfying in every sense”

Andrew was an obvious choice as was Drake’s Hotel which has a similar style and ambience to the Beaumont – but just to make sure, Mr M from the festival and I joined Carla ter Maat at the restaurant for dinner.

There is little denying MacKenzie’s skill in the kitchen, there is not only a passion for great ingredients and seasonality and the ubiquitous ‘local’ thread, there is also a precision in everything that he does, precise seasoning, cooking and presentation. Not, I must hasten to add, at the expense of getting a decent meal. The food at Drakes may look pretty as a picture but it is robust and satisfying in every sense.

I started with pigeon breast rolled around fresh dates, an idea no doubt inspired by the Morroccan bastilla where pigeon is married with dates and nuts and sugar. I have to say that Andrew’s dish is far better; it’s filled with a clarity of flavours. Mr M and C-ter-M both had the squid ink risotto with lobster claw which they raved about and then admitted that they had had it several times before.
With game season on us I could not resist my favourite: partridge. I like it more than any other and here having the breasts roasted and sat on top of dark lentils with the leg meat shredded through them was pretty damned perfect. A few tiny fondant potatoes added a surprising lightness as did some bitter sweet baby turnips.

Mr M and C-ter-M both chose fish, one brill and one John dory and they both had very big grins on their faces as they ate.

C-ter-M finished with the souffle, a well risen affair that came with plums. Mr M and I were still in savoury mode – game does that to me – and Drake’s is one of the few places that still offer a savoury course.

Mr M chose port and stilton toast on walnut and raisin bread and I the Welsh rarebit with poached oysters on sour dough toast and we swapped a bit mid way. They were great too and finished off a pretty damned perfect seasonal supper with real class.

So now it’s down to the serious work of getting the two chefs to their guest hotels and telling the people of Maastricht just how good Drakes and Andrew MacKenzie is and the people of Brighton the same about Audrey Eussen and Beaumont. Watch this space!

The Restaurant at Drakes, 43-44 Marine Parade, Brighton bn2 1pe
01273 696934

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