“The accessories hall of a department store is not the first place you’d go looking for a great cocktail bar, but The Fount Bar at Selfridges turns out to be a gem. Set amidst the bright lights and bustle of concessions selling Céline and Jimmy Choo, this 14-seater curve of white marble resembles a cross between an old school soda fountain and a futuristic space pod.
The theme is ‘purity’ but there’s nothing hair-shirted about the drinks….and the snacks are fiendishly good.”
Alice Lascelles, in The Financial Times
If you look at this year’s food and drink trends you’ll see that there is a revolution going on in the supermarket world: principally the internet is fundamentally changing our buying habits. Supermarkets are having to reinvent themselves, giving over space to wine bars and supper clubs.
But it’s not only supermarkets that are having to change. The same is happening to department stores. These emporia are now making room for blow-dries, yoga classes, and champagne bars.
None are immune, even London’s big three tourist draws, and one of them, Selfridges last year opened a very special bar right in the middle of its new accessories hall.
It not just the décor – old-fashioned red velvet bar stools contrasting with gleaming, ultra-modern white counters – that make this bar special. The menu has been developed by none other than famed, innovative barman, Ryan Chetiyawardana aka Mr Lyan, of Dandelyan fame, and it doesn’t disappoint – you can peruse it yourself by following this link.
Elevenses is a bit early for alcohol in my book, so I was more interested in the mocktails, the infusions, in particular the Aperitivo Tea – bitter rhubarb, citrus peel and stone fruit, served hot or cold. I asked Chiara a bit more about it and she explained, “we use Mr Fitzpatrick’s rhubarb and rosehip cordial to make this and the citrus peel is orange and lemon. The idea is to create an unalcoholic form of a bitter cocktail like a Campari Soda, or an Aperol Spritz”. Whatever the inspiration, it was excellent.
And then of course there were the snacks. Alice Lascelles in her review comments on the smoked nuts, the miniature vegetable crudités with bagna cauda,and the Noilly Prat soaked olives. I, on the other hand, plumped for the Lincolnshire Poacher straws with the truffled ricotta fondue.
Reader, they were wonderful! So, having asked about the basic ingredients, I attempted to recreate it and I didn’t make a bad job of it. Two things make it especially good: first, the dip is served hot…as a fondue should be; and second, the freshly shaved pieces of black truffle give off a harbinger scent for the anticipated flavour to come. Basically it smelt and tasted just the business.
My version might not look quite so professional…because I’m not a professional. But it is just as spectacular, and, though I say it myself, just as delicious. I added poppy seeds to the cheese straws to bring the whole together from a colour (or lack of it) point of view – they echo the black flakes in the dip.
However, if you want it to look more professional, you could blend the dip to make it smooth and leave out the shavings of truffle.
You can serve this with drinks…. but it’s also good enough for an informal starter…. or even, as I had it, as a sort of lunch with some turmeric tea.
Recipe for Lincolnshire Poacher and black truffle straws, truffle fondue
For six to eight…or four
For the fondue:
- 250g/8 oz ricotta
- 75g/3 oz/¼ cup finely grated Lincolnshire Poacher cheese (or any cheddar – for this link to find out more about Lincolnshire Poacher) – NB 225g/8 oz altogether including what you need for the straws
- 1 tbsp grated parmesan
- 2 tbsp – or more if it looks a bit solid – full cream milk
- Smoked salt, and freshly ground Indonesian long pepper
- 1 tbsp truffle oil (infused with real truffles, not synthetic flavouring)
- Some black truffle shavings
For the cheese straws:
- 150g/5 oz Lincolnshire Poacher cheese
- 200g/1⅔cups plain flour
- 1 tsp smoked salt
- 100g/3 oz/two-fifths of a brick of butter
- 1 egg, beaten
- Approximately 1 tbsp poppy seeds
For the fondue:
- Mix all the cheese and the milk together in a small saucepan, and heat VERY gently. If you make it in a copper saucepan you can serve it directly in that.
- Garnish with the truffle oil and the shavings of black truffle.
For the cheese straws:
- Preheat the oven to 210°C.
- Grease a big baking tray with butter.
- In a large mixing bowl mix the cheese, flour and salt.
- Mix in most of the egg and form a ball of the whole thing. (save some of the egg for glazing)
- Flour a cool surface and roll the pastry out as thin as you can.
- Cut into strips about 3”/8 cm long.
- Twist the strips and put them on the baking sheet spacing them out as much as you can.
- Brush with the rest of the egg and sprinkle over some poppy seeds.
- Bake about ten minutes until golden.
For another couple of recipes for GIANT cheese straws follow this link.