A taste of tomorrow...
PUBLISHED: 13:03 09 October 2017 | UPDATED: 13:03 09 October 2017
Food writer Becky Alexander visits one of the district's hidden gems - The Stables restaurant at Oaklands College.
I love visiting Oaklands College; their catering and hospitality department is one of the best in the country and it is always interesting to see what they are up to. It is also always humbling to see what amazing food 17 and 18 year olds can produce – including far better pastry than me!
Last week we had dinner in The Stables restaurant to celebrate the start of the new academic year. As you drive into the college through the pretty grounds, The Stables is the first main building you reach, and you enter through a cobbled courtyard.
The kitchen is open plan so you can see the students at work, and they can see the paying guests – it must train them to be fearless! The college trains front-of-house as well, so you are welcomed at the door (bookings are essential) and service is excellent throughout.
On the evening we went, the level 3 (most experienced) students were cooking a fine dining menu: I chose salmon mi-cuit, with cucumber jelly and pea shoots; steamed cod with mussel broth and root vegetable tagliatelle; and lemon and poppy seed tart with raspberry sorbet.
The salmon was delicious – perfectly cooked using the sous-vide method, and went very well with the cucumber jelly. The cod was also excellent, and I loved the tart (great pastry as I mentioned before). The wine list was sensible and served well. I sat with the deputy mayor of St Albans, Cllr Jamie Day, and he was pleased to be able to order a local beer (The 3 Brewers). The Stables has just been awarded its first AA College Rosette for fine dining, so very well done to all tutors and students.
Students go on to work in fab places, including many London restaurants, including Michelin-starred. I was impressed to hear that one current student had negotiated work experience at Tom Kerridge’s Hand and Flowers in Marlow, which is quite a coup.
Locally, chefs have gone to St Michael’s Manor and The Grove, among other places. Last week, Harry Lumsden, a former student and former Young Master Chef of Great Britain, and now head chef at The Great Northern, picked up an award at the Food and Drink Festival Awards.
If you would like to book for dinner, The Stables is open on most Thursday evenings. They do themed nights such as Asian cooking and Steak night as well as fine dining, and the Christmas menu starts at the end of November. Menus for three courses cost £15–£19.95. Call 01727 737357 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book.
You might have seen Oaklands college at the Street Feastival two weeks ago; their tractor and pop-up farm were very popular.
“Showing the upmost respect to the meat we use” was the theme of the butchery demonstration led by college master butcher Kev Speed; the demos were well-attended and the meat was packed and sealed for sale.
The students really do get to learn about the whole food process, which is needed more than ever in the UK; we are getting too used to not thinking about where our food comes from.
The next big event for the college is the Young Chef of the Year competition held in February. This is open to secondary school students and is an excellent chance to check out the college facilities, especially if you are thinking of food as a career. If you are interested, email email@example.com to register (there is still plenty of time). Who knows where it might lead you?