Magical treats for diners

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By George Hinton

A HARROGATE hotel which has opened a new restaurant is bringing a touch of Heston Blumenthal-style molecular gastronomy to the town.

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The people behind Signatures in the Kimberley Hotel on King’s Road are hoping the technically accomplished dishes on the a la carte menu will make the restaurant a popular place for local diners, not just with residents of the hotel.

The new menu was created by executive chef Maciej (pronounced Magic) Bujakowski and food and drink manager Andrew Hargrave, who both started at the hotel in July this year.

They decided to split the menu into different sections with the a la carte dishes being the ones where Maciej show his flare and knowledge of molecular gastronomy. Any four courses off the a la carte menu is £24.95.

Andrew said: “Maciej and I both spent quite some time throwing ideas about of how to be different from everybody else; to give a unique dining experience as well as value for money.

“After many hours of meetings and deliberating with the rest of the team we came up with the idea of Signatures and the four course a la carte menu. We couldn’t see anybody else doing anything similar in the area.

“The aim is for it to be similar to a taster menu but one that doesn’t limit diners to what they can eat like some taster menus do.”

The highlight of the evening was a cookery demonstration given by Maciej where he got to showcase his skills. He rolled his sleeves up and strode confidently to a desk. On it were various tools and ingredients.

The first gadget he brought out was a smoke gun in which he showed how different types of wood chips, such as cherrywood and hickory, can be used to enhance the flavour of simple food such as mashed potato.

Next he brought out some unusual ingredients including sodium alginate, calcium chloride, sodium citrate and xanthe gum, which he added to two bowls of water. This enabled him to create liquid bubbles of intense flavour - he used an apple concentrate.

The process is known as spherification and can really add to the flavours of a dish, not to mention make it look interesting. The smaller spheres are similar to a caviar and are created by placing droplets of the liquid into the solution using a syringe. The larger ones are almost like a small egg yolk and can be made placing the liquid in a teaspoon into the solution.

Last up was a tool using nitrous oxide to create foams and mousses.

First impressions of the food are very promising. On the opening evening a selection of mini sample dishes which all appear in the a la carte menu were served.

The cold canapés included tian of marinated feta, roasted peppers and olive tapenade and potted ham hock with homemade piccalilli.

The latter was particularly good, with the ham full of flavour and very tender and the piccalilli, which was deconstructed with the vegetables containing all the perfectly balanced tart flavours.

The hot dishes that were served were seafood bouillabaisse, goat’s cheese bon bon with tomato and basil jam; pan-roasted duck breast with gratin potatoes, orange scented creamed leaks and port jus; and slow roast belly pork with dauphinoise potato, apple scented jus and pork crisp.

They were all superb. Of particular note was the pork which was incredibly succulent and bursting with flavour which was well complemented by the apple scented jus. The orange-scented creamed leeks also worked well with the duck.

If I had any criticism it would be that the bouillabaisse needed to be more seasoned and the duck was a bit too fatty.

The puddings I got to sample were an excellent cheesecake and a soft-centred chocolate pudding with raspberry and mint sorbet. The sorbet was particularly tasty and worked well with the chocolate pudding.

Andrew said: “The a la carte menu is designed to let people be a bit more adventurous with what they eat with exciting flavours coming from Maciej’s creative streak combined with his Heston Blumenthal style molecular gastronomy – it’s very exciting to watch. The team in the kitchen are constantly creating new and exciting dishes based around Maciej’s flair, I know this as I’m usually one of the guinea pigs and am always in the kitchen to see what he has come up with next!

“All produce is locally sourced and everything is made in house. The homemade chocolate and chilli ice-cream is sublime.”

The other menu sections are grill, traditional and specials. Traditional mains start from £8.95 for a trio of Yorkshire sausages with onion gravy and creamed mash. From the grill menu, for £10.95 you can get a homemade burger of beef brisket or a gammon steak. A tuna steak with wasabi and lime mayonnaise is £14.95. Steaks start at £16.95 for an 8oz sirloin.

Chef Maciej is originally from Krakow in Poland where he completed a four-year chef degree at college before going on to start his professional career.

In 2002 he took part in an international food competition in Innsbruck in Austria with the Polish Under 21s team for which they received a bronze award.

He came to England in 2004 and started work as a commis chef in a multi-AA Rosette restaurant in Hertfordshire.

As his grasp of the English language improved so did his ability to work with food, becoming a sous chef position 18 months later.

He then went on to work in Whitby for two years before moving to Harrogate for his first spell at the Kimberley Hotel in 2009 as second chef.

After a year and a half he took the opportunity to move on to his first head chef position before returning to the Kimberley as executive chef in July to help develop Signatures.

His interest in bringing science into cooking came when he was part of the Polish Society of Chefs & Pastry Chefs in which he participated in many of the courses that involved molecular gastronomy. Those courses gave him the basic knowledge of the science which he has developed in his own way over the years in the kitchen.

Maciej said: “It’s early days yet but what we would like to achieve over the next 12 months is to build a good reputation as a unique dining experience, with good service and value for money. It’s a very cosy and inviting restaurant and that’s what we want people to enjoy – a nice relaxing evening in the restaurant with family and friends, enjoying good fine dining.

“Next year we’re aiming to enter various food awards in and around the Harrogate area. We’re very confident we can pick up an accolade or two!”

george.hinton@ypn.co.uk