04 September 2014

Aim for the Stars: Harrods Presents Stelle di Stelle

I was having a bit of a hectic week at work when I got an email that cheered me up no end: my friend invited me to join her for dinner at the Stelle di Stelle fine dining pop-up in Harrods on Tuesday night (she got tickets through work). Stelle di Stelle will, over the next five months, feature chefs from five different Italian restaurants with a total of 13 Michelin stars between them. Each chef has put together a four-course menu that highlights some of their signature dishes. The dinner sitting costs £160 — or £180 including a matching wine with each course. Stelle di Stelle, then, is an extremely decadent treat and I felt very lucky to have been given a complimentary ticket. [My ticket was given to me in a personal capacity and I wasn't there as a blogger; I just wanted to share my experience. As ever, my opinions are entirely my own.]

For the first month, the featured chef is Carlo Cracco from the Milanese Ristorante Cracco. We were dining the later sitting (8.30 pm), and after working up an appetite in the Harrods Food Hall, I was seriously hungry. The restaurant space itself is traditional and elegant: white tablecloths and exposed brick walls. We took our seats, chose the matched-wines option and waited as the food began to arrive. The September menu is available online here.

First, we were treated to some Grana Padano cheese and prosciutto di Parma, served with a glass of sparkling wine. I love Grana Padano and could probably have eaten more than the small serving, but it was probably for the best that I saved room for some of the other delicacies.

Next up was a 'deconstructed Caprese': a sorbet-like scoop of tomato pulp, served with basil and tiny chunks of mozzarella. It looked beautiful in its martini glass, and was accompanied by a glass of sparkling rosé. I'm a sucker for Caprese salads and this was a tasty and creative twist.

Dish number three was a Cracco speciality: the chef's marinated egg yolk. It looked a little like a regular fried egg, but the yolk had been marinated in sugar–salt solution for five hours, which gave it a unique, firm texture: quite unlike all the other eggs I've ever eaten! It came with a few tiny slices of courgette, which I don't normally like, but which was perfectly al dente. This course and the next were paired with a delicious 2011 Gavi di Gavi white. I don't like some white wines, but this was crisp and smooth, and I was glad we got two glasses. The next course was a langoustine risotto with pine nuts and green tomatoes. It was the most beautiful pink colour and the flavours were subtle and comforting.

The last savoury course included a veal fillet, capers, licorice, red onion and celery. I was worried that I might start to get full at this point, but the portions were, er, well-proportioned and so I was able to keep on enjoying my food. The veal was cooked perfectly, and the flavours in this dish worked very well together. As it was only a Tuesday, I started to get behind on the wine-drinking at this point, and although I didn't manage much of my Barbera, I did like it a lot.

Finally, it was pudding time: my favourite time. The featured dessert was a white chocolate panna cotta with a parsley sorbet and salted caramel. Yes, parsley. Yes, it does sound weird but the pepperiness of the parsley made a great contrast with the sweetness of the chocolate and the salty-sweetness of the caramel. Plus, it looked strikingly pretty on my plate. The matched drink for this course was a beer, which I didn't drink. It seemed like a bit of an odd pairing, but by this point I don't think I could have handled the sweetness of a dessert wine either. Just when we thought it was all over, they brought out some petits fours, a small glass of grappa and some coffee.

All in all, we had a great evening, with delicious and superbly presented food and drink, and Stelle Di Stelle would be a fantastic place to celebrate a special meal and to sample the work of a chef whose food is is not normally available in London. The price makes it a real splurge, but if you like fine Italian dining, you won't be disappointed.

Harrods Presents Stelle di Stelle (open until 31 January 2015). 87-135 Brompton Road, London, SW1X 7XL (Tube: Knightsbridge). Website. Twitter.

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