Two chefs, four hands and eight signature dishes. When I received an email with the opportunity to sample food from two incredibly talented chefs who would for one night be working together in the kitchens of the gorgeous Franklin Hotel – Starhotels Collezione, I simply couldn’t resist. A special culinary alliance between Michelin starred chefs Alfredo Russo and guest Chef Reif Othman (Chef of the Year and Best Innovative Chef of the Year – Dubai) for an exclusive collaboration of eight delectable courses and pairings of carefully selected wines from Italian wineries – Bastianich, Moschioni & Dorigo.
To kick off our evening we popped into the hotels bar for a glass of Champagne and some rather heady cocktails. The hotel itself is absolutely gorgeous, set in a Victorian building which is surrounded by the lush green Egerton Gardens and a plush interior designed by Anouska Hempel’s.
Sat down at our table and introduced to the menu, creations from both chefs started to arrive. First out was from Alfredo and his take on the oyster. Served in a Martini glass was a scoop of what I believed to be an oyster ice cream/granite. I don’t usually reveal this much but I eat almost everything the world has to offer – apart from oysters. With that saying Alfredo’s recreation was utterly divine and I throughly enjoyed the freshness of it and pure taste of the sea. It paired very well with our glass of sparking Italian Blanc de Blanc from Dorigo and I think I may be even closer to not disliking oysters.
Next up for our culinary evening was the duo of otoro with nori and squid ink crackers. I’m not entirely sure of the composition of this dish but the otoro fish was served in two different guises and both were impeccable. Especially when eaten on the black squid ink and nori crackers which added yet another depth and taste of the sea. The spoonful of caviar was a lovely extra bit of decadence too.
Star dish for me from the entire meal was the chilled capellini with steamed scallops. The thin pasta was the perfect side of al dente and so unbelievably silky. Steamed scallops were as fresh as you could imagine and a helping of grated truffle adding yet another depth into the dish. The cup of egg with warm tomato and mozzarella was another stunning creation and while presentation was simple, the flavour was singing – especially while sipping on a lovely chilled glass of Friuli Colli Orientali Sauvignon from Bastianich.
More generous portions of carefully constructed dishes arrived and I quickly realised I should have skipped lunch in preparation. Seared turbot with codfish espuma and white asparagus in milk came from Reif’s mastery and was an utter delight. Everything was perfectly cooked, the turbot melted in the mouth and cream sauce blended everything together so well. Another star dish was this veal tongue with green sauce from Alfredo. It looked magnificent and it tasted every bit as good. A dish I’d love to eat all over again.
Slow cooked guinea fowl breast with parsnip puree, savoy cabbage and truffle jus. Another fantastic plate of food and that topping of crispy skin and silky truffled jus was heaven. What I loved most about this course was the sheer perfection of it all and the thought that had clearly gone into it. Never overcooked and never lacking in flavour.
With just enough room for dessert and our last glass of wine we finished up on this vibrant creation from Alfredo utilising all the flavours of “cassata” which is usually a rather old-fashion dessert from Sicily but here it’s been given a nice modern twist and new lease of life.
A stunning meal and a few too many wines later it was time to leave, but not before we met the chefs, Enzo Casati – Managing Director of Starhotels Spa, organisers and wineries involved during this special evening. I’m a regularly traveller to Dubai and finding two talented chefs here in the UK where their culinary home is Dubai and also Italy – I can’t wait to discover their cooking again soon and of course return to the beautiful Franklin Hotel – Starhotels Collezione