The Masterchef Restaurant is a 'popup' which brings together champions and finalists from the past 10 years to create bespoke menus for a five week period. We booked for lunch on the first Sunday ( 7th Sept) and our chefs were the 2014 winner Ping Coombes ( @wanpingcoombes ) and finalists Jack Lucas ( @jacklucas1) and Luke Owen ( @master chef_luke ). The popup is located on the South Bank in the Blue Fin Building, so called because it is covered in 2,000 blue aluminium fins, each with a metallic finish that changes the building’s appearance from different positions.
On arrival we were directed to the 11th floor roof terrace to enjoy a glass of champagne and to take in the stunning view of the Thames and London skyline which includes iconic buildings such as St. Pauls, The Shard and The Gherkin. The restaurant on the 10th floor was very contemporary with clean lines and lots of glass which allowed us to enjoy the views throughout the meal. The menu comprised 3 courses with a choice of two items per course each of which was attributed to the chef. We opted for one of each so we could taste them all and we were not disappointed. Not all were seafood of course but they are each worth a mention.
For starters, I had the Shellfish Arancini with prawn cocktail garnish which was the only dish designed by Luke. The crusted ball of risotto rice was packed with flavour and garnished with prawns and cocktail sauce. I admit I had slight worries by the thought of the seventies-style sauce but Luke had given it a spicy lift with chilli which worked perfectly. He explained to me later that the intensity of flavour in the rice resulted from the shellfish stock which he had prepared from prawn shells, celery, sherry and wine. The other starter was the Pork Sandwich designed by Ping. This was braised pork belly in a bao with crackling and sesame salad. The light steamed bun combined perfectly with the succulent meat and oriental sauce.
For main the Prawn Laksa was also one of Ping's creations. Laksa is a popular spicy noodle soup which is combination of Chinese and Malay cuisine. The aromatic, spicy broth was prepared with lemongrass, galangal (a root from the ginger family), coconut and shrimps. This was served with soft noodles, tiger prawns and garnish. A perfect combination and with Ping's 'special spices' the dish was light, flavoursome and satisfying.
The main course designed by Jack was Cannon of Lamb with a breaded shoulder croquette, pea and mint puree, mashed potatoes, anchovy vinaigrette and redcurrant sauce. The melt-in-your-mouth lamb was flavoursome and cooked to perfection with smooth creamy mash and intense pea puree…..delicious…... and that is from a seafood fanatic !
Ping's Pudding was Coconut and Pandan Panna Cotta with chargrilled pineapple, compressed mango, lime and lemongrass granite. Great depth of flavour here from the fruit together with delicate panna cotta reminded us of Ping's skill in creating successful combinations with all types of food.
Jack's pudding was Indulgent Chocolate Tart with orange yoghurt ice-cream, candied orange and popping candy crumb with an indulgent addition of edible gold leaf. All presented on the almost obligatory 'buttery biscuit base'.
All in all this was a great event with good service and excellent food. The atmosphere was convivial with no rush or panic (at least not at front of house) and we could take our time to enjoy it all. All three chefs took the time to engage with the diners in a very relaxed and friendly way despite the fact that they had just prepared lunch for 150 having already prepared brunch earlier and had dinner to come. So 'hats off' to the chefs but also to the organisers and support staff who created a very pleasant experience which in no way felt contrived.