Spring, Skye Gyngellâ€™s restaurant was one of the most anticipated restaurant openings in London for several years. Skye, whose super fresh food at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond thrilled and excited real food lovers from all over the world, had not been actively involved in the restaurant scene for over two years. In that time she and her team were actively seeking out exciting premises in central London. After much toing and froing they eventually chose part of the New Wing at Somerset House, where the Inland Revenue had its office for 158 years. The new space could not be much further in style from the original charming greenhouse at Petersham Nurseries where mismatched tables, crockery and cutlery on the clay floor created a sophisticated up-cycled bo-ho chic look. Here in Spring, Skye shows her elegant ultra-chic side by transforming what by all accounts was a dull and dreary room into a haven of sophistication with a Zen like feel. The walls are pastel with tiny handmade porcelain flowers by Valeria Nascimento fluttering across the walls. Thereâ€™s a marble counter at one end from which drinks and house cordials are dispensed. The cutlery is by English cutler David Mellor and the leather chairs are by Mario Bellini
The chandeliers which resemble bunches of frosted balloons cast a soft flattering glow. Not everyone loves the atmosphere or the eccentric staff uniform designed by Trager Delaney of Egg. I personally found them playful and quirky and why not.
The food was totally delicious, quintessentially Skye even though she wasnâ€™t in the kitchen herself that night. Beautifully fresh ingredients shine through with the minimum of interference.
The delicious desserts at are the creations of Sarah Johnson and her team. Sarah interned here at the Ballymaloe Cookery School for a while and honed her considerable skills at Chez Panisse in BerkeleyÂ as well as Pizzaiolo in Oakland.
The wine list would also blow you out of the water impressing even the most seasoned wine buffs. Deeply knowledgeable sommelier Frank Embleton has been given both the brief and budget to create one of the most fascinating and well-chosen lists in London to compliment Skyeâ€™s food.
Put www.springrestaurant.co.uk on your London list. Open seven days for lunch and dinner.
Here are some of the dishes that are creating the WOW factor at Spring.
Scallops, Agretti and Chilli Oil from Spring
20 scallops, shucked and cleaned
1 large red chilli
5tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch of Agretti
The juice of half a lemon
Sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper
Slice the chilli in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Using a sharp knife, slice into long fine strips. Bunch the strips together and chop finely across them so you end up with neat little squares. Place in a bowl, pour over all but 1tbsp of the olive oil, stir to combine, and set aside.
Clean, cook and drain the Agretti as described above. While still warm, dress with a tablespoon of the chilli oil and a squeeze or two of lemon juice.
Place two non-stick (if you have them) frying pans on top of a high heat. Divide the final tablespoon of olive oil (without chilli), between them. Season the scallops quite generously with salt and pepper. Then when the pans are very hot, add the scallops, diving them equally (donâ€™t over crowd them or they will stew instead of cook)
Cook for a minute on one side, then 30 seconds on the other. Remove from the heat and squeeze over what is left of the lemon juice. Divide the Agretti among 4 plates, place 5 scallops on top of each and spoon over the chilli oil. Serve straight away while the scallops are still piping hot.
Pumpkin and white bean curry from Spring
1 fresh coconut (or 1 tin coconut milk)
1tbsp ghee or clarified butter
1tsp black mustard seeds
1 onion squash (if you canâ€™t get hold of this, Crown Prince or butternut squash will be fine)
1 inch fresh turmeric, peeled and grated
1 dried chilli
10 fresh curry leaves
150 g/5 oz dried white beans, soaked overnight and cooked according to packet instructions
A little sea-salt
1 inch thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4-5 sweet little tomatoes
I prefer to use fresh coconut itâ€™s a little extra work but its flavour is far more delicate. If you do it this way, look for small, sweet, young coconuts, not the more typical older harder ones. Remove the outside husk by holding in your hand, rotating it slowly and tapping it gently on the top with a rolling pin until the outer flesh splits and you can gently remove the flesh with your hands. Cut in half down the middle with a sharp knife, catching the water in a bowl as it escapes. Roughly chop the flesh into chunks and place in a blender with cup or two of warm water. Blend until smooth and strain it into the bowl in which you have poured the coconut milk.
Next, peel and chop the pumpkin into 2cm (1in) wedges. Heat a tablespoon of ghee in a medium-sized pan. When hot, add the mustard seeds and let them pop for a bit. Turn the heat down slightly and add the ginger, turmeric, tomatoes and dried chilli. Add the pumpkin and stir a couple of times to coat. Next, sprinkle over the curry leaves and pour in the coconut milk. Keeping the heat at medium to low, place a lid on the saucepan and cook gently until the pumpkin is tender. Season with salt. Add the cooked white beans and cook gently fir a further 5-10 min.
Itâ€™s delicious eaten alone, but it also lovely served with some simple steamed white fish.
Braised Oxtail with Garlic and Sherry Vinegar from Spring
1tbsp Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
5 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 yellow onions, peeled and finely chopped
1 dried chilli
5 fresh bay leaves
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
100ml/31/2 fl oz. Sherry vinegar
3 Jars of good quality tomatoes
500ml/ 17fl oz. of water
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 whole cloves
Using a sharp knife, trim the oxtail of most of its fat. Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When warm, add the carrots, onion, chilli, bay leaves and garlic. Immediately turn the heat to very low and sweat for 20 mins, stirring every now and then.
In a separate pan, brown the oxtail well on both sides; this should take about four minutes per side. Remove the oxtail from the pan and deglaze with the vinegar, removing the bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the oxtail to the veg along with the sherry vinegar.
Add the tomatoes and water, a pinch of salt and a little freshly ground pepper, stir well and place lid on the pan. Turn the heat to its lowest setting and cook for 3 hours, stirring every now and then. Add the cloves 20 minutes from the end. The meat is ready when it falls of the bones. Turn off the heat and allow the dish to cool to room temperature. It will test better for this, twenty minutes before eating, reheat the dish over a low heat and serve piping hot.
Pear and Hazelnut Tart with CrÃ¨me FraÃ®che and Espresso from Spring
500 g plain flour
40 g sugar
2 whole organic free range eggs
2 whole organic free range egg yolks
250 g unsalted butter (Chilled)
For Hazelnut Filling
250 g whole hazelnuts, skins removed
250 g unsalted butter
250 g caster sugar
2 whole eggs
Zest of one lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 pears, room temperature and ripe to the touch.
Place the flour in a food processor along with the sugar and diced butter. Blitz quickly until the butter starts to break up. Â Add the eggs and yolks. Â Once the pastry comes together pour out onto a work surface and gently knead together. Â Wrap in cling-film and chill for two hours, or preferably overnight.
Unwrap the pastry, place on a floured surface and begin to roll with a rolling pin, turning the pastry to ensure an even thickness. Â Roll until the dough is 5mm thick. Â Lay the rolling pin on the edge of the pastry and roll the dough around it. Â Gently lift over the tart case and unroll the pastry over the tin. Â Using the tips of your fingers lightly press the dough into the sides of the tin, trimming away the extra pastry. Â Rest the dough in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Â Remove pastry from the refrigerator and line with parchment. Â Place baking beans in the pastry and bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is set. Â Remove the baking beans and continue to cook until golden. Â Remove and cool before filling.
Roast Hazelnuts until lightly golden to help bring out flavour. Allow to cool, then pulse in robot coup until quite coarse.
Cream the butter in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, or by hand with a sturdy wooden spoon. Â Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Â Then add eggs one by one, taking the time to make sure they are properly incorporated. Take off the mixer (if using) and gently fold in the nuts by hand.
To assemble tart:
Spread frangipane onto the bottom of the cooled tart shell. Â Slice the pears in half, then into thirds, so each pear gives you six slices. Â Using a sharp knife, remove the stem and seeds taking care to remove as little as the flesh as possible. Â Leave the skins intact. Gently press the pears into the frangipane, placing the skin side up and into a pinwheel pattern.
Bake at 180 for 40-50 minutes or until the surface is golden brown and firm to the touch. Â The pears should be soft and the centre set, but still quite moist. Â Remove and cool on a wire rack.
At Spring we serve this tart with a dollop of crÃ¨me fraÃ®che and a generous sprinkle of freshly ground espresso.
Spring Ice Cream Recipes:
450 ml Double Cream
350 ml whole milk
120 g caster sugar
6 organic free range egg yolks
Place the cream, milk and sugar into a heavy-based saucepan and cook over a gentle heat until warm to the touch. Remove from the heat In the meantime, place the yolks into a bowl and using a whisk, gently beat to break them up. Â Pour the warm milk over the yolks, whisking as you go. Â Return the custard to the saucepan and place back onto a gentle heat. Â Using a spatula or wooden spoon, stir the custard continuously, taking care to scrape the bottom of the pot and ensure even cooking. Â Cook until the custard is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Â This may take some time, so be patient.
Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Place the bowl over an ice bath and stir until cool. Â Continue to chill and freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturerâ€™s instructions. Â See below for modifications.
Honey Walnut Ice cream
2 cups fresh walnuts
1 recipe for Basic Anglaise except replace 80g of sugar with honey
Replace 80g of the sugar with your favourite honey.
Preheat oven to 160C
Toast walnuts until crisp, and lightly collared. Between 15 and 20 minutes. Â Cool, then roughly chop. Put aside.
Freeze honey Anglaise in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturerâ€™s instructions. Â Once churned, fold in the toasted nuts.
LitFest 15-17 May 2015:
It has been a whirlwind week at LifFest HQ with ticket sales kicking off last Wednesday 7th, the Ox Pop-up dinner was the first to book out but there are still many unmissable events to sign up for. So if you havenâ€™t already done so â€“ get booking. The Kerrygold Ballymaloe Literary Festival of Food and Wine 2015 weekend promises to be another â€˜knock out!
Gluten Free Cooking:
As anyone who isÂ coeliac, or who cooks for someone who is coeliac, will testify it is challenging producing really delicious, balanced meals. Finally, help is to hand in the form of thisÂ intensive half-day course on Saturday 24th January. Packed with advice on alternative suitable ingredients and lots of baking tips will help take the mystery out of successful gluten-free cooking. www.cookingisfun.ie
MEET THE BAKERS2:
As part of the Slow Food, Meet the Makers series, Slow Food Four Rivers in the South East are hosting a Meet the Bakers, this is a follow up event withÂ Josephine Plettenburg (Speltbakers), Joe Fitzmaurice (RiotRye)Â and Declan Ryan (Arbutus Bakery) who are returning to Highbank Orchards in Kilkenny to continue the night of discussion and munching ofÂ real bread. During the evening Real Bread Ireland will be launched by Patrick Ryan from Firehouse (Dublin) and Kemal Scarpello SlowFoodCoÂ (Donegal) to support the baking of real bread. Saturday 24th January 2015 at 6pm, tickets https://ti.to/biabeag/meet-the-bakers2 .