Unless you live in Padstow, where it’s almost impossible to avoid a Rick Stein restaurant or take your holidays in Cornwall you’ve probably never had a chance to eat Rick Stein’s cooking. Even then, with his TV commitments and trips to Australia where he now spends a good part of the year, you’d be lucky to find him behind the stove.
So all credit to restaurateur Rebecca Mascarenhas who lured him to take part in the pop-up she’s been organising this month at her Putney pub The Phoenix to raise money for Action Against Hunger’s Haiti appeal.
As with other high profile chefs (Philip Howard and Bruce Poole are two others who have lent their support to the fund-raising effort) Stein’s two nights this week were a sell-out. And we weren’t short-changed. He and his team - drawn from the Seafood Restaurant and protege Sam Harrison’s two restaurants, Sam’s Brasserie and Harrison’s - served a delicious no-choice four course fish dinner: well, three courses and a wildly indulgent chocolate fondant pudding which by that stage I was too full of fish to enjoy.
We started with some delicious fat roast langoustines with a Pernod and olive oil dressing, followed by a classic Provencal fish soup with a very garlicky rouille which went perfectly with a savoury white Santa Duc Sablet Blanc 2007 from Yves Gras. The main course was a really sumptuous dish of brill with mushrooms and truffle, a lovely foil for the lush Pieropan La Rocca Soave 2007, available at the knock down price of £25 - the same as Majestic is currently charging for it. (All the wines were supplied at cost and given minimal mark-ups.)
Stein came out afterwards to chat to the diners and is just as relaxed and expansive in the flesh as he is on TV. My elderly mum, who is very taken with him, would have been thrilled.
£50 of the cost of the 60 tickets went to Action Against Hunger’s Haiti appeal which makes this initiative a really worthwhile fundraising effort. At the time of writing there still seem to be tickets availabe for next Monday’s dinner which is being cooked by Patrick Williams and Rowley Leigh’s son Toby of Age & Sons in Ramsgate.
If you’re not sufficiently near London to take advantage of it you could of course organise your own fundraising supper and contribute the proceeds to Action against Hunger. You could even have a go at cooking a Stein menu: You can find the langoustines recipe here, his fish soup recipe here and a similar but truffle-less version of the brill dish in Stein’s first book Taste of the Sea (though it may well be in one of his other books which are unfortunately over in our house in France. If I track down a reference I'll let you know.)