‘Complex flavours, inventiveness of menu and a modernist approach as young chef Emily Milne concludes the first round of this year’s Wirral Young Chef competition…..and all this in the superb setting of a 16th Century castle’
Driving through the gates which mark the entrance to Leasowe castle, a superb location overlooking Leasowe golf course with stunning coastal views of the Irish Sea, there is an instant expectancy that something nice is about to unfold, and it unfolds in the form of a bold young chef who cooks and bakes at the cutting edge of our culinary art, producing food that not only looks good, but tastes really nice too!
To Start: Trio of Lamb (Braised lamb rillette, cannon of lamb and sweetbreads with wild garlic purée, fennel and shallots)
We started with lamb ‘three ways’, a plump, slow braised rillette sat in the middle of the plate adorned with medallions of melting Welsh lamb (from the cannon-the meat from the eye of the loin) and finished with succulent sweetbreads, which admittedly are not to everybody’s taste, but gorgeously crisp on the outside disguising the fact that these are glands (there is no brioche in sight!).
This dish (like all the dishes that followed) was described by Emily in person, who explained the sourcing and provenance articulately, including the fact that the wild garlic had been nurtured by none other than the Leasowe Head Chef! My fellow diners questioned whether or not the rillette should be served cold, and as it is similar to a pâté, then yes, and the contrast in temperature to the medallions and sweetbreads really added something to the dish (think about warm chocolate fudge cake and ice cream-hot and cold at it’s best!)
Mid-course: Gin and tonic espuma, orange bitters , lime and lemon zest- an alternative to a traditional sorbet and a lovely way of cleaning the palate before the next course.
Main Course: Pan-Fried Lemon Sole (Served with warm jersey royal potatoes, herb salad, lovage butter sauce, grapefruit caviar, grapefruit gel and samphire)
For our second course we were treated to pan-fried Atlantic Lemon Sole (Emily was also impressively able to name the vessel that caught her!) sat atop crushed jersey royals which added a note of earthiness to the dish. After the first mouthful we realised that there was something special on this plate. Fish can, at times, just sit there as a backdrop for other ingredients…..not this one! There was a real delicacy and depth of flavour (undoubtedly an advantage of being cooked on the bone) and the lovage butter sauce and samphire helped to season the dish naturally, but for me the genius of this plate of food was the addition of the grapefruit caviar, leading me to the conclusion that lemon, as an accompaniment for fish, may soon have to claim jobseekers allowance it was so good! Technically, this was a faultless dish.
Dessert: Apple and Cobnut Crumble
Finally Emily’s deconstructed apple crumble - caramelised pressed apple topped with a green apple gel, macadamia and cobnut crumb, cobnut crémeux, vanilla panna cotta and apple crisps. With this course we immediately understood Emily’s ‘raison d’ être’ as there was an instant understanding of what makes this young chef tick, quite simply, all things pastry! This was light and shade on a plate, from the tartness of the pressed apple to the perfect wobble of the panna cotta and texture of the crumb, it was a stunning end to an accomplished night’s cooking.
To summarise, Leasowe Castle seems to have all the bases covered following it’s recent refurbishment. The Star Chamber restaurant, Knights cocktail bar and Brasserie 1593 are reminders of the castles history, and if this is the past then young chef Emily Milne represents the future. All up and coming chefs have a breakthrough restaurant, a place where everything starts to come together, and Leasowe Castle Hotel & Restaurant might just be the place where you heard Emily’s name first….watch this space!
Well done Emily, and good luck for the cook off which is taking place at Wirral Metropolitan College on Monday 3rd April 2017.
Tony Boustead (College Manager-Hospitality & Catering)