That's amore!

It's that time of year again. The cards have been in the shop for weeks.  Pink hearts festoon every shop - along with tacky teddies, devils and Coldplay CDs.  With two weeks to go you're either dreading the thought of sharing a restaurant with other apparently romantic types or you're sticking your head in the sand until the whole thing goes away and we can get on with more interesting things.

Okay, I'm a cynic (or hadn't you noticed?) but occasionally my heart does melt just long enough to write a post about Valentine's day which doesn't involve me complaining about the above for more than 1 paragraph. 

Anyways, now that that's out of my system spare a thought for the chefs, kitchen staff and waiters who have to work on this most romantic night of the year.  Just how do you go about creating that perfect atmosphere, or even harder - the perfect menu.  Luckily for you, Kurt Fleming, Executive Chef at ffresh Restaurant and Bar at Wales Millennium Centre, humoured me to an interview.

Executive Chef, Kurt Fleming (Photo: WMC)
How do you create the perfect, romantic menu?
That depends on who you are cooking for. First find out what they like and play to their strengths. If they like chocolate avoid the lemon cheesecake dessert, and go for something like a chocolate fondant pudding. That’s always a winner. Overall my advice is keep it simple as you don’t want to spend the night in the kitchen. A Spaghetti Bolognese never fails. Everyone has seen Lady and the Tramp!
On St. Valentine’s night I’ll be cooking for 70 couples in ffresh so I’ve put together a menu that offers something creative and uses award-winning locally-sourced ingredients but also, hopefully, something for all tastes. To start we have white bean and truffle soup, duo of salmon rillette and hot roasted mousse with pea puree and cucumber relish or rolled ham hock and rabbit terrine with red onion marmalade followed by roasted sirloin of beef, cottage pie, creamed savoy cabbage and puy lentils; halibut and oxtail, curly kale and wild mushrooms or pork belly, sticky ribs, black pudding mash and apple sauce. To finish there is an assiette of desserts to share including chocolate mousse, passion fruit crème brulee, vanilla pannacotta and gateau opera. We are also serving oysters in a sherry and shallot vinaigrette.

What do you think of aphrodisiacs? Are oysters and champagne cliched?
Sometimes it’s not the actual food that’s the aphrodisiac it’s how you serve it. Feeding each other oysters is far more sensual than eating them alone. Champagne is only clichéd if the person you’re trying to impress isn’t a lover of Champagne. But I love a good bottle of Pol Roger gold label.

This is where the magic happens! (Photo: WMC)
Any funny restaurant proposal stories?
When I was working at the Miskin Manor one fella dropped his fork on the floor. As he bent down to pick it up, his girlfriend thought he was proposing and shouted ‘Yes.’ Everyone in the restaurant turned to watch them and the man sat back in his chair and said ‘What? I was only picking up my fork!’ It must have been so embarrassing for his girlfriend.

What have you cooked to woo a potential partner?
A cold chocolate mousse – but I didn’t serve it with a spoon! It worked too. We now have a two-year-old son!

A big thank you to Kurt for agreeing to be interviewed.  If you fancy spending Valentine's Night at Ffresh you can see the full menu and book online now.


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