23rd March 2011
Nestled on the 5th floor of Harvey Nichols (London), is the the Taste Lab, an area which displays gourmet delicacies with a twist. I was invited by curators Global Food Consulting to sample Franck Pontais’ The Glass Kitchen concept. To be fair, I had no idea who Franck was and had never seen an episode of Iron Chef. So, the big draw for me was truly an interest in terrines (one of Franck’s specialities) and verrines. A Verrine is the presentation of food in glass vessels that can also be presented in layered stacks. Common place in Michelin fine dining, but its Franck’s mission to bring it to the masses and hence the stint in Harvey Nichols, a book and hopefully a licensing deal with the manufacturers.
My guest and I selected one savoury and one sweet dish each, so we could taste each others. Franck worked with Belgian glass manufacturers Durobor, to bring to Harvey Nichols a selection of different glass vessels and serving combinations. The displays were beautiful and certainly attracting interest from the glamorous set of 5th floor shoppers. I can definitely see the benefit of using verrine style; dry ingredients remain texturally and visually intact without becoming soggy or usurped by sauces. What was also interesting is that they had a ‘tardis’ quality, as they looked so dainty. However, it wasn’t until Franck poured out the contents of one dish on to a plate, that we actually realised the vast amount of contents.
Franck’s style of cooking is fusion and combining interesting flavours and ingredients (such as lotus root) to create beautifully designed dishes. To taste parts off some dishes individually just didn’t work, but as dishes in their entirety, they worked splendidly. We watched the assembly of a terrine and also the verrine live, thankfully a lot of the prep had been done before hand. It was incredibly meticulous and credit to Franck offered us different alternatives when for instance I didn’t like the taste of lavender (which I always find too soapy). My favourite dish was, what I thought to be a sophisticated spin on a breaksfast dish – the smoked duck breast with lardons, poached saffron quail eggs and crispy fungi mushrooms.
He seemed to think of everything, to capture the Harvey Nichols audience of shoppers, he also had some pre-prepared items that could be purchased too. This is a niche concept and I’m not sure how widespread verrine use will become, but at least Franck can be happy that his terrine will be replicated more easily, thanks to his cookbook!Details for both verrine and cookery book purchase can be found on Franck’s website – http://www.franckpontais.co.uk/