By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
Available for a limited time only, Aurelio Morales is currently in the driver seat of Hotel Café Royal’s Domino Room and ‘The Domino Effect’ residency series, following the success of two-Michelin starred Spanish chef Paco Roncero’s stint in the restaurant’s kitchen alongside Executive Chef Andrew Turner. Having previously worked alongside the likes of Ferran Adrià at El Bulli, and Paco Perez at Miramar, 32 year-old Aurelio Morales has become considerably well renowned as the Head Chef of Madrid’s Ramses which is spread across five spaces (Room Delicatessen, Laterraza, Petit, Champagne Bar and Suria). Now, for the first time ever, a handful of diners are able to exclusively taste Morales’ Molecular Gastronomy in London, offering a seven-course tasting menu.
Upon clambering the stairs onto the first floor of Hotel Café Royal, just steps away from London’s vibrant Piccadilly Circus, the first thing to cross our minds is the longing for a hi-tech Air Conditioning unit will save us from the thirty-something degree temperature outside. Unfortunately not, although given the choice, we are seated alongside an open window that allows a refreshing breeze to waft into the decadent dining space. Every shade of Gold visible to the human eye adorns the décor; walls and low ceilings, making us feel as though having just stepped into the wildest dreams of Gianni Versace. Soon after we take our seats, a specially crafted cocktail – The Richer – lands onto our table (that’s the beauty of exclusively tasting menus) comprised of Veuve Clicquot Champagne, Belvedere Vodka and Orange Blossom cordial, providing the perfect antidote to the extreme heat and setting us up for the first course to arrive.
To put it simply, the food served by Aurelio Morales for this menu is “interesting”. The precision and technique demonstrated is incredibly commendable, yet some of the flavour combinations are a little peculiar, and are to an acquired taste, to say the very least. The Gazpacho served in a test tube-like glass, accompanied by a wedge of Confit Salmon is delicious, the Pork and Apple dish features superbly executed Pork Belly (crispy crackling and melt-in-the-mouth fatty Meat), accompanied by an Apple Macaroon that somehow works alongside the Pork. The Emphasis on chocolate and Arbequina Olive Oil and Baylands Fruit Surprise are exquisitely pleasant, and the Turbot dish (although Fishier than most Turbot dishes I’ve had the pleasure of tasting) was also satisfactory. However, it’s unlikely that the raw Fish filled ring of White Chocolate, topped with Caviar will appeal to even the most adventurous of London’s foodies. Joined by a phallic wafer that’s filled with Smoked Sturgeon and Pink Salt. Indeed, Chocolate does work alongside a variation of Meats, notably Foie Gras and Venison, but Fish and Chocolate are not best of friends, and hopefully never will be.
Top marks for invention, presentation, and bravado; but sometimes simplicity is key to provide an outstanding evening of gluttony.
Aurelio Morales’ residency at The Domino Effect runs until July 11th 2015 and the seven-course tasting menu is available from £85 per person, and Hotel Café Royal can be found at 68 Regent Street, London, W1B 4DY.