Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Elizabeth Cottam Former Masterchef Semi Finalist Takes Up Residency at The New Ellington Leeds

The New Ellington has completely bypassed my consciousness, despite being next to My Thai (at The Old Steps) and a hop and a skip away from (what was once) Baby Jupiter. That was until a couple of weeks ago when I learnt that Masterchef Semi Finalist Liz Cottam has taken up residence there.

Admittedly I dip in and out of Masterchef catching it when I can rather than watching it religiously but the episodes I caught with Liz in really impressed me, she is a talented lady and one to watch for the future as I expect big things and shining stars will be coming her way. I was therefore delighted when Liz contacted me and few fellow bloggers to ask if we would like to come down and test drive her new menu.

The night started with sparkling wine, not to be tiffed at as we were assured this was as good as champagne but without the location tag. I don't drink champagne that often but I have had bad champagne (cheap usually) and great champagne (normally more pricy) and this fitted quite well in to the latter category. Cuvee Passion is a French artisan wine, it sounds elegant, it tastes fresh and it looks stylish, I choose this over champagne any day. 

Once glasses had been topped up a couple of times we headed downstairs in to the basement where the dining room sits. It's not the best space, it comes across very much as hotel dining room and there's no natural light, any food bloggers nightmare. Try to see past this, perhaps by staring directly at your plate and you can be transported to a hip fresh Michelin star restaurant. 

Liz's four course menu is thoughtfully planned out, no ingredient is overlooked, each dish being loving created and paired, even the crockery is picked to make the perfect match. 

To start wild mushroom consomme, truffled gnocchi, mushroom puree and shaved fresh autumn truffle was placed before us. Such delicate flavours I had to pace myself to ensure I received a true taste of what was placed before me. With so many pizzas and burgers lately I feel I've lost my elegance in tasting, eating and almost enjoying food. All the salt has probably dampened my tastebuds too, time to start caring a little more. Time to start eating more starters such as this one. 

The fish course was fish pie, but not as you know it. Buttered poached halibut was soaked gently in a lobster bisque, topped with a salmon mousse and creamed potatoes. I used to think that I just didn't like fish, I just didn't like that 'fishy' taste. I was wrong, of course. I have learnt I do like fish, I just like fresh top quality fish. I liked this dish. I liked this fish. 

Lamb loin, slow cooked breast with pistachio and lamb glaze served with confit fennel and goats cheese was our main. The crisp charred lamb skin gave out the strongest flavour for me, with the fennel gently teasing the savoury from the breast and the goats cheese wrapping the dish together in a soft creamy blanket. This dish was superb and I could have eaten a portion twice the size. 

To polish off the meal dessert was rich chocolate cake, kirsch soaked raisins, sour cherry curd, cherry ice cream and whiskey ganache. A beautiful dish in a slap dash way leaving you to play with your food and bring together the ingredients for yourself, delicately experimenting with the different flavour combinations. In the back of my mind I kept thinking, poor D, he would have loved this. Fear not, he's not popped his clogs he just wasn't invited along... maybe he'll treat me by taking me back for a second taster (Hint hint if he still reads these!). 

Wine was served and paired with the food throughout the evening, although as always with my limited wine knowledge what went where is beyond me now. However top marks are to be awarded to their sommelier Rob Lorains who was gloriously passionate and taught me that non-vegan wine is such because it is filtered through fish bladder. I'd love to know how someone decided/discovered that fish bladder was the perfect filtering method for wine. Another thing I can recall from the night is that Rob is a fan of independent wineries, all of the wine he has chosen for the pairing has been sourced from independent and often family run vineyards, often tricky to do business with as if they go off radar for a bit you're a little bit stuck. You won't find these wines in the supermarket. That made it feel all the more special and unique for me. 

Liz won't be around The New Ellington for long, just 3 months at the time of writing,  so make sure to book ahead and book soon. I'm looking forward to following Liz's career as she goes up and up, as I'm sure she will. 

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