Chocolate Fondant

With Masterchef back on the Telly ... what more appropriate time to post my chocolate fondant recipe (written for Happy Eggs) ?

Chocolate FondantServes 4

Ingredients:200g 72% cooking chocolate
200g Butter
240g Caster sugar
4 happy eggs
4 yolks
200g Plain flour


• Butter the inside of 4 ramekins, sprinkle with cocoa powder and place in the freezer for 5 minutes.

• Melt the chocolate and butter in a pan on a very low heat.
Tip: Alternatively, you could place the pan in a sink of hot water from the tap. This warms the mixture gently without direct heat.
• In a bowl whip the eggs, yolks & sugar.
• Fold in the flour and when mixed, fold in the chocolate.
• Pour the mixture into the 4 ramekins.
• Place in a preheated oven at 180°C for 7-10 minutes.

Tip: You can tell they’re cooked when they are soft to touch but are set, not liquid.

Tripadvisor - my personal view

I've rewritten this piece a few times so as not to respond emotively.

Its really frustrating to be targeted by a campaign of abuse by anonymous sources. This is exactly what the restaurant has been subjected to recently in a deliberate attempt to damage our business via the Tripadvisor website. Should I just ignore it and rise above it ? Maybe.

I like the idea of independant review sites but I genuinely have serious doubts as to how they can be valid, it is just far too easy to manipulate and fake reviews. I think they cannot be entirely ananymous without any review being suspect ... and I say this as a restaurant with many more positive than negative reviews.

Why the campaign ? I'm not sure, perhaps a member of staff that I have sacked or perhaps a competitor or someone I have upset ... I don't really know. I have only sacked staff go for reasons of incompetence, non-attendance (or both) so I guess there might be some resentment there. My local competition in town I have a good working relationship with and we share after work drinks so I certainly don't cast any aspersions their way ! We have had a few customers who take extreme umbrage, out of all proportion, to how we cook and/or serve food at the restaurant and to be honest I'm fine with them posting a negative review as we have a very defined style that will not suit everyone. We do go to a lot of effort to be clear about the style of the restaurant via website, sample menus and photos.

How do I know its a campaign not actual issues ?
  • The dishes that are referenced we don't serve (Rump steak)
  • The layout of the restaurant has been made up ('the cutlery was spilled outside the toilets' ... the loos are on another floor altogether)
  • Conversation that didn't happen ('Matt laughed at a fly in my salad')
The tone of some of the reviews is of such fury it actually makes me feel uncomfortable ... surely no one should get that upset over a meal ??

Don't get me wrong, there are negative reviews on Tripadvisor that are certainly fair and I'd love to be able to respond. We did have a vegetarian waitress who sneered at meat eaters ... for about two days until we parted company, some dishes have stayed on our menu for a long time, Fillet steak, bearnaise and smoked mash is a keeper but the goat's cheese salad has finally been replaced with a lovely goat's cheese pannacotta with beetroot crisps, poached and powdered rhubarb for the winter. There has been the occasional booking issue, some our fault, and some, I suspect a result of there being more than one restaurant called The Wild Garlic, at last count there are three in the UK I'm aware of.

I'm not going to respond to Tripadvisor, I find the anonymity of the site an invitation for some very unfounded reviews. I know approx 10% are fake for the reasons above. I know a number have been put up by a couple of single parties who have very strong ties to a competitor, I would like to think the competitor hasn't asked them too and they are acting out of a sense of loyalty. I know a number have been written as a result of me not acceding to blackmail and giving a free meal 'or we'll put negative reviews about you'.

If you are happy or unhappy with the restaurant in some way please post a comment to this blog entry, like all of my blog comments I will publish as long as you don't hide behind anonymity.


Masterchef 2011 (why I will be watching)

I will be watching Masterchef this year, I don't always watch the celeb or professionals but always the amateur series

Why ?

... as a fan of the program I've always enjoyed the honesty of the judges, John and Gregg, the aspirations of the contestants, the ones who flourish and the ones who's pomposity is burst with a truly awful dish. John and Gregg are not your friends who, at every dinner party, praise you for your 'wonderful cooking', they're direct and honest and more than a little painful at times. The 'journey' is a much copied format now but its always great to watch the huge leaps the semi-finalists take as they progress and get opportunities to learn.

... as a previous contestant and winner I have a huge debt and can share the highs and lows from a privileged perspective. I know a lot of the team behind the cameras, the directors and the brilliant and committed Series Editors Karen and David. I know the program is honest to its core, John and Gregg, the production and the contestants are kept at arms length from each other. I'm sure the production would have preferred a female finalist in the last couple of years but the judges are kept separate from influence and, I believe, only ever judge on the food placed in front of them. I know now Gregg and I are friends that I wasn't his favourite to win my series until the final day although I had no inkling when I was contestant which way either of them felt.

... finally as a restaurateur there are some wonderful new ideas and dishes, its great to see other kitchens (we cooks lead pretty insular lives)

The format changes this year, I don't know how similar to the Aussie or NZ Masterchef it will be but I do know the production team is basically the same as the previous series. I know they're a bit nervous of the new, more glamorous perhaps, format and studio losing the audience who like the grittiness of the original series but am confident there will be the underlying honesty kept which will ensure the series will continue as a success.

So good luck to the program, more importantly I wish the last few luck as they are now committed to cooking for the next few years, I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I have. I look forward to hopefully meeting you soon.

Series 7 Masterchef starts on BBC1 at 9pm this Wednesday 16 February
(I might be making a brief appearance on the 24th February)