OK, so we didn't actually speak to him but we listened to what he had to say and had dinner "in his company" which was enough to leave us satisfied. I even failed to get a picture but, for the record, he is much shorter than I imagined.
Anyway, last night, we attended a fabulous dinner which marked the start of a student-led food festival Feast 2011. In writing alone, the festival impresses with the support of big name chefs and suppliers and in practice, it began with some enticing and delicious canapes slickly presented and served by students. These were cooked by Raymond Wong (Junior Sous Chef) and Greig Livingston (Commis Chef who began working at the Sheraton aged only 15) who both currently work at the Sheraton.
Chicken liver parfait lolly pop glazed in blood orange.
Pickled red cabbage gazpacho (this looked lovely and tasted good just oddly like pureed coleslaw).
We also nibbled delicious Shetland salmon tartar, smoked, dill marinated and fresh salmon with creme fraiche rosemary crispbread and sensational smoked venison with green lentils and coriander, crisp bread and avruga caviar. Perfectly complemented with Organic Duval-Leroy.
We moved through "the UK's greenest university campus" to our table for more eating.
The menu was:
Tortellini of Borders Roe deer, cauliflower cream, sauce grand veneur cooked by Lynsey McCallum (who traded Front of House for chef's whites in 2009 and is currently Commis Chef at Restaurant Martin Wishart).
This was paired with Cotes du Rhone Les Rabassieres, 2009.
Fillet of North Sea Hake (supplied by our favourite fishmonger Armstrong's), served on a salt cod brandade with crisp potato cooked by Roberta Hall (Sous Chef Castle Terrace).
Paired with Sauvignon de Touraine "Fleur de Printemps", Domaine de la Rochette, 2009. (we were lucky enough to sit next to the sponsor who enlightened us, shared his tasting notes and explained how this wine comes to be less aggressive than the usual Sauvignon - can't wait to get our hands on more of this).
This was followed by fillet of Buccleuch Beef Wellington served with celeriac puree and a red wine sauce cooked by David Miller (Sous chef at The Kitchen). See how our Wellingtons compare here or check out our step by step guide here.
Paired with Chateau du Taste, Cote du Bourg, Bordeaux, 2009.
Finally, a very excellent dessert of Valrhona Macae Chocolate Cremeux, salted caramel, milk sorbet cooked by Graeme Cheevers (Pastry Chef at Restaurant Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond).
Paired with Capercaillie late harvest Gewurtztraminer, Hunter Valley, 2008 ( interestingly, our expert suggested that had he been matching for this course he would perhaps have chosen a light port or red to complement the rich chocolate, pairing this wine with juicy yellow fruits or spicy rhubarb instead).
And then, coffee, tablet and a dram of cask strength Highland Park, Single Malt Scotch Whisky 4.149. Thanks to another diner at the table, we also learned a new way to identify the fruity tones of the whisky, placing a tiny drop into your palm (and rubbing it in just like a very expensive alcohol hand rub) before cupping the hands and inhaling! I've never smelt apricots in a whisky before...
Having enjoyed all of this it was over to an introduction by Martin Wishart and then Albert Roux for the after dinner key note. He fondly recalled his first visit to Scotland 55 years ago with his family packed into a Morris Miner and several cases of wine on the roof rack (having heard Scotland was dry on Sundays). He travelled north enjoying the hearty Scottish breakfasts in B and B's and eventually reached the "gastronomic desert" of Skye. He camped there and ate well, urging us to recognise that all you need to eat well is good ingredients which Skye has in great bounty. He shared his thoughts on the need for Front of House to be recognised in the UK as a profession, not a lowly job and offered his advice that, those in Scottish hospitality would do well to be more like the South Africans who recognise the potential of tourism and when visitors arrive, smile, broadly and wish unfamiliar faces a genuine and warm "welcome to our country". Having experienced unfriendly, sour faced awkwardness as opposed to a welcome many times over in Scotland, these are wise words indeed: "You have been blessed by the gift of food and beauty. I hope you realise that." Oh, we do.