Delights of fine dining

It felt like an Instagram moment, right here in our dining kitchen, when our cooperating chefs laid out sushi and prawns, avocado slices interspersed with spring onions over black cod and raw abalone, soft-shell crabs fried in crunchy tempura batter.

What a delight, and a fruition of a Christmas voucher! The sushi was enveloped in exquisite seaweed wraps, some with a sushi rice layer inside, some out. Pickled ginger slices and marinated cucumber pieces with satsuma sauce dressing vied for our taste sensation. The lessons learned in a London-based ‘Sushi and Sashimi’ course were well fulfilled. For such delicate offerings, it was a surprise to feel full so quickly.

I’m not a particular fan of restaurant reviews, but I have to admit there are some pieces that catch one’s attention. Locally, for example, Grace Dent’s piece on the renovated Beaumont Hotel in Hexham has helped to create a special buzz, an atmosphere of expectation and a shared delight in the accomplished delivery there of excellent food. We had a brilliant lunch at the Beaumont, the other weekend, for a dear friend’s birthday.

More typically, I really relish home-cooked and served food. But we don’t tend to create well-honed reviews of the meals we’re served in our own houses, do we? That seems like a shame, because the love and care that goes into serving wonderful food, day in and day out, do really deserve a conscientious reception. Creativity grows from creativity, and the preparation of food for our nurturance is perhaps the most basic, and most fruitful, of the creative endeavours.

As I contemplate the mountain of washing up, and then plunge into the fray, I salve my conscience for not replying to this largesse by a thoughtful creation of my own. The washing up, at least, is my consistent, if minor, reciprocation.

But I really should have taken a series of photographs of the incredibly tasty pork belly stuffed with apricots and herbs, that graced our Sunday dinner table, along with the parmesan-sprinkled parsnips, the roast potatoes, the mixed vegetables and the exquisite gravy, all of which complemented the crackling so well, as washed down with crisp white wine. And then I should have written a comprehensive review of this second taste experience of the weekend, supplementing the few words I’d managed for the sushi extravaganza. Instead, we cleared the family table and, replete, laid out the big board game for a foursome adventure throughout the railways of Europe.

And so I didn’t. Until now.

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