In his early twenties, following an apprenticeship with Max Magarian of Chez Max, Theo Randall started work at The River Café where Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers made him head chef and a partner in the business. It’s a measure of this man that he is held in such high esteem by his peers.
In November 2006 Theo opened his own restaurant, Theo Randall, at The InterContinental Park Lane. September 2008 saw the restaurant receive its first gong – ‘Italian Restaurant of the Year’ at the London Restaurant Awards. Well that’s not bad for a non-Italian lad. It’s good to know that passion, dedication and just being good at what you do can lead to success.
Theo’s restaurant boasts one hundred and twenty four covers (plus a twenty-seat bar area). It’s a convivial and contemporary space with a floor plan that provides intimate corners for couples and plenty of elbow-room for groups. But it’s the food that is the draw rather than the fine linen and etched glass.
For those who want to add to their own culinary repertoire, Theo Randall hosts cookery classes on the first Saturday of each month. Each class will focus on a particular subject and February’s was Antipasti, but Theo offered far more than the technique for opening a jar of olives.
His menu changes with the seasons. He searches for the best and freshest ingredients, and the end result of his labours proves the worth of this philosophy. The crab was truly fresh, alive and kicking, well, waving legs anyway. I love crab but have never been sure exactly of the method for dispatching one: it’s simple when one is shown. Here, in essence, is the reason why such a close-up and personal relationship with a man and his crab is far more informative than trying to learn from line drawings in a cookbook. Suffice it to say I now know the secret for humane and quick execution of my lunch.
The aim of the morning was to allow Theo to share some of his knowledge on everything from choosing the best quality seafood to using some less-common vegetables, and where to source the ingredients. He doesn’t assume you are already a skilled cook, and his personable manner ensures that not even a novice will feel intimidated.
Theo is a ‘natural’, and far removed from the ranting egotistic articles that too often ‘grace’ our TV screens. He is charming, funny, calm and engaging. All a good teacher should be when dealing with flames, and crustaceans that could break a finger. He teaches through demonstration, which is comforting for those who would rather not show their own skills or lack thereof in a public arena. One relaxes, takes notes, asks questions and, yes, tastes.
The crab was followed by Beef Carpaccio. This is a stunner of a dish which relies on good ingredients and a little cheffy know-how. Simple to prepare before your guests’ arrival and not as expensive as one might imagine. No, the beef fillet isn’t cheap but Theo showed us how to make that meat stretch to feed a crowd. It’s a treat but accessible.
Squid is my favourite seafood and Theo showed us exactly how to prepare these aesthetically unappealing cephalopods. I realise that I have been doing it wrong for years. Nothing to it really, but you need someone to show you the ropes. The seafood was cooked with chilli and anchovy, and served atop borlotti beans and salad. We witnessed the preparation of five antipasti in all, each one a different character requiring different cooking methods.
Your class will start when you meet the chef. You’ll spend the cooking lesson in the restaurant kitchen which is quite an experience for any cook. Then it’s on to wine tasting. The restaurant sommelier talked us through three wines and he found his pupils to be enthusiastic, fascinated and thirsty. We tasted, we discussed, we received advice on food pairing, and we enjoyed.
Lunch was served in a private dining area and reflected the quality that we had come to expect from the restaurant and its staff. We started with a salad of crab, although not the one we had seen prepared in the kitchen – we had already devoured him …or her. The braised shoulder of lamb which followed was meltingly tender, with a rich and flavourful sauce. The lemon tart was tangy, and striking to behold. The amazing yellow/orange hue was due to the eggs which our waiter assured us came from hens that had been lovingly reared on carrots. A delicious dessert with vision-enhancing properties. The red wine flowed and the conversation was punctuated with praise for our chef and mentor. A Saturday well spent and thoroughly memorable.
Theo Randall Cookery Class starts at 9.30am but don’t expect to leave till 3.00pm-ish. The cost is £150.00 per head but that does include not only the class but the superb lunch with unlimited wine. You’ll also receive an information pack with the recipes for the dishes you watched being prepared, and a note from Theo inviting you and up to five guests to a guided tour of the restaurant kitchen, a homemade dessert platter and a champagne cocktail when next you book dinner at the hotel. My fellow students were already planning their next visit for either a meal or another cooking class. This would make an ideal gift for a food lover. A whole day of entertainment in one of the most welcoming of London’s smartest restaurants.
Dates for Theo’s next available classes are here – book early to avoid disappointment.
Phone 020 7318 8747 or email email@example.com to guarantee your place.
Masterclass review by Chrissie Walker © 2018