Being good isn’t always easy, as a Welsh diva once noted, but sometimes it’s worth the effort.
The same can be said of the wonderful food served by Douglas McMaster at Silo Brighton, which has taken ethical sourcing, recycling and re-use to a whole new level.
Last month (May 16) the great Champagne House Charles Heidsieck hosted an event to recognise the efforts of the acclaimed food innovator, and to match some of his creations with their award-winning cuvées.
A zero-waste ethical restaurant and a purveyor of high-end Champagne may seem like unlikely bedfellows, but the combination of a master chef and master blenders was inspired.
The evening was part of the Charles Heidsieck Maverick Encounters events, aimed at celebrating individuals who share the qualities of the brand’s founder, Charles-Camille Heidsieck, “Champagne Charlie”, who had the chutzpah to take the drink to the US and carve out a huge new market.
This super little soirée was held at the award-winning restaurant/bakery/brewery and coffee house on Gardner Street and gave former BBC Young Chef of the Year Douglas the chance to do his very impressive thing and pair the no-waste nosh with Charles Heidsieck’s non-vintages, vintages, Rosés and the latest Blanc de Blancs.
First up was a demonstration of the ‘synergy between bread and wine’.
Bread, butter, and Champagne, three wonderful things of their own accord and, it soon transpired, a triumph when served up together. Doug churned up a trio of butters in front of our very eyes – virgin butter (churned less than traditional butter for a lighter texture), a smoked butter with seaweed foraged from Sussex shores, and a beurre blanc made with Charles Heidsieck Champagne.
The butters were teamed up with the Charles Heidsieck Blanc de Blancs, Brut Millésime 2006, and Rosé Millésime 2005, respectively.
Next up was a spellbinding six-course taster menu, sourced and gathered from the Downs and local beaches.
A simple but elegant dish of brined Sussex tomatoes (beautifully described by Doug as ‘porous orbs of joy’) pumpkin seeds and rose, tasted as good as they looked.
The salty hit of the tomato and the nuttiness of the squash seeds were perfectly balanced by the fruity and toasty Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve.
Another case of a beautifully dressed plate almost beating the flavour (almost) was the slow-grown shiitake mushrooms which were given an almighty wallop by three cornered garlic and British walnuts. The wild-garlic wonder would have overpowered most bubbly but not the aromatic and effervescent Brut Millésime 2006. Equally, the 2005 reserve (the bigger more complex older brother of the previous Champagne), held its own against another of Doug’s creations – pollack, brown butter and lemon vinaigrette.
In an evening which was far from fat-free this course wasn’t one for the weight-watchers. The fish was poached and cured in butter and the resulting butter breadcrumbs were a hugely indulgent addition to the dish.
Doug has the finest of fine-dining heritage, from, as has he put it ‘two and three-hatted restaurants’ and a beetroot course gave us a further glimpse into his technique and artistry. It featured a fabulous miso broth made from potato skins, layers of hispi cabbage terrine and a beetroot prune which had been dehydrated for two days creating a drier, fruitier taste, further amplified by a beetroot molasses glaze.
To compete with this complex creation the Charles Heidsieck contingent dusted off one of its finest Champagnes, the Rosé Millésime 2005. The vintage Rosé was described as ‘more powerful’ with more tannins and could cope with the huge flavours of the beetroot dish.
The exquisite food, made without compromise to the waste-free ethos and in tandem with the fabulous fizz, is proof that something noble and pure of spirit can also be a wonderful and refined treat.