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The Metropolitan’s new private dining menus are all about vibrant flavours and colourful ingredients. We put the summer offerings to the test at an exclusive tasting
In terms of his remit at the Metropolitan hotel, executive chef Nicola Ducceschi is upfront about the Nobu factor. ‘We’re all in its shadow a bit here.’ On the plus side, since he and his team don’t have their own restaurant to play with, they can dedicate themselves to the hotel’s top-drawer bespoke private-dining offering. This year, Nicola has introduced a series of ‘Eat the Seasons’ menus, kicking off with a spring tribute to his Tuscan roots, and moving into summer with canapés and sophisticated barbecue food inspired by outdoor home entertaining.
Our tryout kicks off with prawn ‘lollies’ that have been dipped in wasabi mayonnaise, coriander and crushed popcorn; tender curried chicken and lemongrass kebabs; and chargrilled courgette and crab rolls with spicy cashew crumble and Vietnamese nuoc cham dipping sauce, which have a distinct but manageable kick. It’s very much party food, to be served with cocktails, and taking the place of a conventional sitdown starter. The Asian flavours, with which Ducceschi became adept at using during a stint working in Bali, are perfect for summer and, while the recipes are well-travelled, much of the actual produce is British – and strictly seasonal.
The first of the more substantial dishes we try is barbecued prawns on rosemary skewers with red-radish salsa and mint-marinated courgettes, which showcases Ducceschi’s globetrotting style and continues the alfresco entertaining theme. Dainty lamb cutlets, grilled and served on quenelles of crushed peas, with Indian-style fennel chutney and tiny blobs of cumin-infused carrot purée, are a highlight, matched with a light, fresh red Grenache/Syrah from Château Pesquié in the Côtes du Ventoux in southern France. For the canapés, Ducceschi suggests a fresh, aromatic white wine such as a Riesling or Sauvignon, the classic matches for Asian cuisine.
To round the meal off, we try a light and summery trifle, served in a Martini glass – pretty and easy to eat. The idea of combining apricot with jasmine came from a pastry chef friend of Ducceschi’s: apricot purée is simply infused with jasmine tea, and layered with a light and creamy panna cotta, with a crunchy peanut topping, and raspberries to dig down for. The menus can be served for two or 20, in a private dining room, or a suite with views over Hyde Park. ‘Everything is totally bespoke,’ says Ducceschi. ‘We hardly ever say no to a request – in fact, we never say no.’ v&e
For more information on the private dining rooms and event spaces at the Metropolitan call 020 7447 1000
This article first appeared in Square Meal Venues & Events, summer 2011