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Perfume: an edible scent – we meet the chef inspired by Mandy Aftel…

There are few things that excite us more than perfume, as you may imagine – but pair that passion with another and it takes us to new levels of ecstasy.

Scented cocktails, fragrant chocolate… we devote hours of arduous research on such sensorial cross-overs for the greater perfume good. We’ve had several at-home suppers with bespoke perfumer Louise Bloor, to which our VIP Subscribers have been invited; and are always on the look out for more.

A friend alerted us to the concept of That Hungry Chef‘s pop-up dining club, and their themed meal – Perfume: An Edible Scent (Autumn Edition). Chef Pratap Chahal has years of fine-dining experience behind him, having worked for Gordon Ramsay, Raymond Blanc and The Cinnamon Club among others, before turning his talents to creating gastronomic experiences in more innovative and intimate settings.

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‘From the apothecary to the chef, the secret life of scent settles on the dining table for an exquisite dinner inspired by perfume, both ancient and contemporary. After months of research and experimenting, we’ve put together a menu like never before…

Inspired by Mandy Aftel’s book, Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent, we’ve incorporated the fleeting and surreal world of perfume into a fabulous dinner, using organic and pure natural essential oils, absolutes and essences. Ever wondered what tobacco, cedar wood, patchouli or oudh might taste like since they smell so divine? Come along and find out.’

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And so of course we did.

In the setting of Ben’s House – a deli and fine food shop in central London where everything is cured, created or crafted in London – a long table dressed with pumpkins stretched the length of the room. Sipping warmed rum concoctions infused with tonka beans, that smelled like something we would definitely like to douse ourselves in; we eagerly read the menu that awaited us…

Top Notes:

Welcome drink: Old Amazon tonka bean infused rum, coffee & coconut

Scented stories and nibbles

Mushroom & hemp seed bread, white onion & Oud soup

Middle Notes:

Bergamot & rosemary cured salmon, cucumber & mustard

Himalayan Screw Pine scented pheasant, green wheat & leg meat pilaff, apple & aubergine

Bottom Notes:

Carrot, patchouli & Atlas cedar wood tart, cassia ice cream

Chocolate, labdanum & tobacco treat.

Pratap explained that each course had been devised by the merit of ‘notes’ you would find in fragrances, and selected for how immediately apparent they would be while eating, and also for how long they would last on the palate. Ingenious!

As such, the tiny touch of oudh in the soup – which we admit did sound a bit scary – was used with such delicacy that it made the mouth tingle for what was to come. Bergamot cured salmon was a revelation – immediately enlivening, just as splashing on an eau de Cologne would be.

The Himalayan pine was resonantly spritzed over the meal at the table, adding real depth to the flavour combinations (and rather than tasting like an air freshener, it was more akin to eating the course in the middle of a fragrant forest). Most revelatory of all was the dessert – what looked like a rich chocolate tart was, in fact, black carrots – a peculiar but utterly delightful scented sensation that utterly filled the mouth and yet never overwhelmed (perfumed but not tasting like perfume, if that makes sense?) the flavours mingling and lasting (pleasantly!) well after the meal had ended.

The team from Wines of Momentary Destination paired their own unique wines alongside the meal, too – and were on hand to explain their grape adventures as we supped. Taking their passion for working with the finest wine producers and unusual grape varieties to produce small-bathces (sometimes fewer than 400 bottles), they travel around the world spending only a year in each location making the magic happen, then shipping it back home to sell in the UK. As a dining companion commented, ‘they’re living the dream!’ The dessert was paired with a wonderfully aromatic mead – made in Peckham (who knew?!) by Gosnell’s; with the rum having been provided by Rum Fellows.

We asked Pratap if he planned to do other perfumed meals next year…?

‘Most definitely! I have already got some stuff ready – balsam, petit grain, may chang, oak moss, Cepe to trial. I would love to get musk, ambergris… but that’ll be most expensive dinner in the world!’

NB: Heads-up to Cambridgeshire people – if your taste-buds (and nose) are quivering in delight after reading this – hurry to book tickets to Pratap’s one-night-only recreation of this meal near you…

Perfume: An Edible Scent – November 21st, Cambridgeshire, £40

See their website for further details and to book tickets (but hurry, as they usually sell-out rather quickly!)

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