Exceptional in every regard!

I’ve been meaning to write my review of mine and my girlfriend’s evening out at Debut for some time. Usually I must admit that after a few weeks I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about the meal I’d eaten other than perhaps a few little details. In this case however I can remember every detail of mine and my girlfriend’s evening at Debut and that is because it was exceptional in every regard!

We arrived and were instantly greeted by a lovely member of staff who offered to take our coats and we were then lead with a few other patrons for our little behind the scenes look at the workings of Debut with guest chef, Richard Hughes. This felt like a real treat and I was quite excited being a keen amateur cook. We were seated in the lecture kitchen and treated an entertaining half an hour or so of culinary wizardry and background to the menu choices. Richard along with the staff made us all feel very welcome and explained briefly the menu we were about to taste. What a way to build anticipation!

Once concluded we were politely lead through to the dining room. We were provided with filtered water, bread and drinks orders were taken, and we ordered a delicious bottle of chardonnay, The staff in attendance were always on hand to pour more should we need it… I wouldn’t normally even mention the bread but I have to give credit here as this basket was absolutely brilliant. With several types of bread each more delicious than the last, fresh and perfectly baked I did my best not to fill up on bread alone! I felt a little pang of regret as I agreed to say goodbye to bread basket! I had my first course to enjoy so that softened the blow slightly. This was a set parmesan custard with a marmite palmier (love it or hate it? Love it!) The salty umami flavours of the crisp and flaky palmier cut through the smooth, nutty richness of the custard complementing each other perfectly, what an amazing start! The portion was just perfect, it didn’t outstay its welcome and being very rich it didn’t have time to overwhelm. We’d seen the creation of this delight being demonstrated earlier in the pre-dinner portion of our evening and the simplicity of the dish was evident so the joy of the flavours was testament to the skill of the cooks and the quality of the ingredients. Sometimes the simplest things are hardest to perfect.

This was followed by another of the demonstrated dishes of the evening. Blowtorched, citrus cured mackerel fillet with beetroot and vodka sorbet and a horseradish cream with fresh apple. This course had a real wow factor and was presented beautifully and simply. The sorbet had a bright and sweet finish combined with oily fish and zingy apple and a little kick from the horseradish. Again the balance of flavours was delightful. The skin on my mackerel was crisp and the flesh succulent and not at all dry, I’m not embarrassed to say I didn’t leave a single speck on my plate. Our third course was perhaps the weakest for me, this by no means classes it as a failure as it again was executed brilliantly. Smoked chicken and ham hock terrine served with muesli bread. The flavours were delicate, after the fish perhaps a little too delicate? Smoky flavours can be overwhelming but I did struggle to pick up smoked notes in this dish, again probably due to the previous course!

The main course was slow cooked beef cheek (12 hours I think) and it was among the most tender and delicious meat I have ever eaten, I think each mouthful was then followed by a sigh of delight from me which probably annoyed my girlfriend. The vegetable accompaniment was perfect with particular mention to the cauliflower puree which just was smooth as can possibly be and just so moreish along with the roasted red onions which were caramelised and not burned (which is often the case when you read this on a menu…). It was the kind of dish I could eat all day, comfort food doesn’t do it justice but I can’t think of a better phrase to sum up how it made me feel.

Phew, well with two courses to go we felt like we were perhaps starting to flag a little. It’s not often we sit to eat a six course meal. But we soldiered on… We needn’t have worried, course five was again a simple delight and it made me smile from ear to ear with every mouthful. We were presented with a flute of passion fruit posset small but perfectly formed, a taste of heaven. Course six was now in sight, the cold drizzly night outside was no match for the steamed clementine and ginger pudding with custard and shards of almond brittle. Boy oh boy, really lip smacking stuff the flavours all in harmony, perhaps being so full gave me a sense of euphoria or the wine had got to me but by this point I had proclaimed this the best steamed pudding I’d ever eaten.

We ended the evening with a little chat with Richard Hughes as he came round to great the patrons. Rightly so he was very proud of the amazing effort of all his cooks, I left feeling inspired by the brilliance of those young chefs.

What a wonderful experience, I am sure many of the students will go on to great things. This goes for the front of house staff too. You could sense many of these young students were nervous and they really worked through this to provide an excellent dining experience that I would recommend to anyone who loves food which is prepared honestly and with attention to detail. You can really tell that all those involved had a passion for what they were doing. To all at debut, thank you! We’ll certainly be coming back.