I was delighted to be invited to discover the catering capabilities of the Sodexo team, as part of a corporate hospitality demonstration at the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School. We enjoyed 7 courses, each prepared with a smile and finesse, and expertly matched with top quality wines.
We began by assembling our own canapes, which was fun. Lead by charming Executive Chef Stephen Frost, it was a relaxing icebreaker.
The three canapés were both contrasting and complementary. The Vietnamese beef on a leaf with peanut and sesame garnish was light, fresh and fiery.
The first of several tongue-in-cheek takes on classics, the “cheese and onion” piped cheddar mousse in a choux bun with crispy shallots was a delightfully savoury mouthful.
Lastly, the delicate charcoal black olive crisp topped with smoked aubergine, fresh baby basil and flowers was a pop of smooth garlicky moreishness; a real winner.
Our amuse bouche was an “ELT:” robust smoked eel, tomato and lettuce sandwiched between tiny brioche buns. Sweet, smoky and satisfying, it made me wonder if I could swap bacon for eel more often…
Apart from being an interesting alternative to pork, the chefs explained how using eel gave the dish a better price point too; one of the reasons they chose a particular cut of meat in our next dish. And it was clear that when cooked as well as this, cheaper cuts can be just as enjoyable as any other.
Indeed, our starter of beef ravioli was surprisingly made using ox heart. The bitesize morsels of soft, tender meat languished in a beef and red wine consomme, so rich and so delicious that I would happily have bathed in it.
When asked by a guest how easy it was to scale up these dishes for a big event, chef Ross told us how they had produced the ravioli for 900 guests recently. Furthermore, the Sodexo team believe in ‘just in time’ plating, i.e. as little as possible is sitting on plates in advance. This means guests enjoy fresher, prettier dishes – even if it’s more stressful for the chefs and waitstaff!
The follow up of seared tuna with sweetcorn and lime sorbet was interesting and well executed, but perhaps not something I would revisit. Served on a striking red plate, the tuna was soft and the sorbet sweet, but neither lived up to its predecessor’s depth of flavour.
When asked about the tuna and its sustainability, chef Stephen told us confidently that the Sodexo team do their best to source their ingredients from suppliers who are not only small, local and good for the community, but who follow good practice. All the items on their menus have a clear line of traceability, in line with customer demands. If your tuna must be MSC certified, it will be, and they can prove it for you. Impressive.
Our main consisted of spring lamb cutlets, cooked very pink, with seasonal Scottish veg including flavourful white asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli and punchy wild garlic. It was a generous portion and a beautifully presented plate that showcased the provenance we’re privileged to access in Scotland.
For a palate cleanser we enjoyed a grown-up slushie. A mix of ice, rhubarb and violet in a frozen lemon, it was a refreshing note before we moved on to cheese, and demonstrated the variety of dishes Sodexo’s chefs can produce.
For our cheese course, a slice of baked Clava, split and lined with truffles, was served with sherry-infused grapes (GENIUS!) and freshly baked bread. It could only have been improved by being served quicker so that the cheese was more oozy when it reached us.
We finished with a stunning sphere of chocolate mousse, with a blood orange gel in the centre and pieces of blood orange and pistachio on the side. Another example of gorgeous presentation, it was a very sophisticated version of chocolate orange. Using milk chocolate meant it was decadent without being too heavy as a finish.
With the main event over, we were invited to mill around the room, chat to staff and enjoy tea and coffee served with snowballs (a ball of Victoria sponge dusted in flaked coconut) and Buckfast truffles.
Throughout the evening, experience, knowledge and good cheer was evident in all the staff; from Sandy and Sarah running the event, through Stephen and his team of chefs and waiters. This undoubtedly bred confidence in the guests, who knew they were in good hands. You would certainly trust the Sodexo team to deliver what you needed for clients – but I’ll just take a bath of beef consomme, please.
Thanks to the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School and Sodexo for being fantastic hosts.
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