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3 May 2017


we've all heard of 'bring your own booze' dinner, and the concept of a 'pot luck dinner' - where you bring a dish of food to share amongst the group - isn't new to me, but this was my first time hearing of a 'bring your own plate' dinner. the invite came in from la belle assiette - the incredible agency of private chefs, to help spread the word about their bespoke cheffing skills. the idea: you bring your own plate to the party, and they'll fill it with a specially-designed course right before your eyes. sounded great to me, and i had some fabulous new plates to hand just asking for an outing, so off i went - charlie and her amazing crab plate in tow, for my first ever visit to l'atelier des chefs in marylebone.

with the accompanying drinks courtesy of nicolas feuillatte's beautiful range of delicious champagnes, especially the soft and creamy brut grande reserve which was a bloody delight to drink, our meals began with a pop! london's leading wine writer and sommelier douglas blyde took us through our paces with the intros to end all intros, before we cracked on with the task at hand: a three course, personally designed meal by our personal chefs for the evening. or so we thought...

i wasn't expecting to see a menu as i had it in my head that the meals would be designed around the plates we brought along - of which there were some utterly insane ones in the collection (a picture frame! a baby-food tray! a window sill planter!), but that wasn't to be the case. our starter was a hot mess. foie gras creme brulee? no no no no no. i'm no vegetarian, but foie gras isn't something you just put on a menu as a starter - it's such a table divider, isn't it? so, the meal for me started on the back foot, but i suplemented my lack of food with more of the bubbles, and some absolutely delicious fresh bread and olive oil. can't for the life of me remember the brand, but it was the best i've ever had.

second course was marginally better than the starter, with less duck liver and more actual food, but sadly, there wasn't a lot of it - nor was it very inventive. we had hoped that with such fabulous plates to hand, our meals would be designed to compliment them. charlie's plate had a giant crab and mine an array of blooms, and we were hoping our meals would be as quirky as our designs. but, our meal was served by the chef and described simply as "chicken and corn". that's all, just chicken and corn. 

considering our table was mostly press and food bloggers, i'm disappointed in our dishes to say the least. tables around us were served a variety of other meals, full of colour and texture and plated beautifully, yet our plates were full of a bbq and creamed corn, some sort of frothy maize mash (tried to ask the chef but his explanation was a bit confusing to me), and a sliver of chicken thigh. don't get me wrong: it was all very tasty, and well cooked, it just wasn't much to look at (or enough to eat), and that was a real kicker after the starter fiasco. more of that tasty olive oil (to mop up my tears) helped fill that chicken-shaped void! hurrah! 

the final course, was easily the best. it sort of looked a bit like overnight oats, but tasted a lot damn better: a rhubarb and ginger trifle with granola and pain d'epices, which in essence, is a delightfully tasty french sponge cake. this whole thing was the best thing i'd eaten all day - after charlie's vegan chilli earlier in the day, and toootally made up for the shortcomings in the first courses. i inhaled mine in about thirty seconds, while the other guests politely jabbed at theirs. heathens!

all in all, though the menu wasn't what i was expecting or necessarily to my taste, it was really cool to experience the la belle assiette team in action. whenever someone asks what i'd do if i won the lottery, my first response is always: hire a personal chef, and this agency just validates that desire. from as little as £39/head, a chef will design a menu, buy all the ingredients, cook, serve it, and clean all the dishes in the comfort of your own home. in your own home! it's certainly not affordable enough for me to indulge in the luxury every day, but for special occasions or as a one-off splurge, it's definitely something i am going to take advantage of in the near future. what about you?

*i was a guest of nicolas feuillatte, but all words are my own. obviously.

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