It wasn’t a waiter who was standing at the door of La Fromagerie, welcoming diners and fetching them a drink of champagne, it was Bill Granger himself. He may be a celebrity chef in Australia and now the UK but that did not stop Bill from making sure he spent time with each and every diner at the special dinner, one of a series of events to launch his latest book, Bill’s Basics. Bill is a man who knows how to work a room, he did not stop for the night, making sure he got time to chat with everyone and sign people’s books with personalised messages. I was keen to find out when his new restaurant is opening, although it will not be for a while as Bill said he was still searching for a site. He did say he was looking in West London and the restaurant could be in Marylebone or my stomping ground of Notting Hill.
Bill Granger at the La Fromagerie dinner dressed in his trademark white jeans and even whiter teeth!
I was invited to the dinner which was a chance to meet Bill and sample a menu of recipes from Bill’s Basics cooked by La Fromagerie’s chefs. It certainly made me go home and flag up more recipes that I am keen to recreate from the book. The first one to get a post-it-note in my copy of the book was the caramelised onion dip. We tucked into the dip along with flatbreads as we sipped our champagne before sitting down to dinner. The dip is Bill’s take on that 1970’s classic of French onion dip traditionally made using powdered French onion soup mix. Bill’s contemporary interpretation was much more appetising, bursting with sweetness from the slow cooked onions.
Bill’s Basics the book
I wasn’t as enarmoured with the lentil salad which was served with more flatbread, creme fraiche and slow roasted beetroot. I thought the salad was a little bland, although (whisper it) I am not such a fan of lentils anyway.
The verging on bland lentil salad
There was no danger of starvation though because the next dish was Bill’s version of coq au vin which was made from the most enormous chickens I have ever seen. It is hard to appreciate the scale of this dish from my photograph as the accompanying mound of mashed potato was equally over proportioned. Francophiles may find the dish sacrilegious since Bill swaps the traditional red wine for white wine and makes numerous other adjustments but the benefit for home cooks is that cooking time is reduced from several hours to one which is certainly a time saver. The dish had a lighter taste to it than coq au Vin usually does but resulted in really moist and tender meat on the chicken. The only issue was it was a little underseasoned (Bill was looking for salt on the tables as well).
Coq au Vin
Prior to the dinner, Bill spoke about how much he has enjoyed working with British produce and introducing a more seasonal element into his cooking. This was certainly evident in the dessert of plum tart made using deliciously ripe in season plums. The plums were slow cooked to a state of jammy, sticky perfection and served with La Fromagerie’s amazing vanilla ice-cream. Although I probably could not have fitted it in, I was a little disappointed there was no cheese on the menu given we were eating at one of the spiritual homes of cheese in London and literally surrounded by the stuff.
Ever the genial host, Bill was still going strong at the end of the evening when I left, personally farewelling everyone. Although some of the food on the night was a little uneven, Bill’s skill as a host and genuinely friendly, outgoing nature really made the evening. Unfortunately most of the book events he is doing are sold out, but there are still tickets left for the event at John Lewis on Oxford street in London which takes place tonight (Monday 20 September). Turn up for a lesson in charm school from Bill.
Details: La Fromagerie, 2-6 Moxon street, Marylebone, W1U 4EW (Ph 020 7935 0341) Tube: Baker Street
Damage: £70 for all food and wine
Gourmet Chick was a guest of Quadrille
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my review of Bill’s Basics or my review of La Fromagerie.
Bill’s Basics is currently £15 on Amazon.