There will be a number of you reading this thinking ‘who is Richard Neat, & why does he warrant such attention?’. The answer is simple, to a generation of chefs he is a legend. At the age of 29 he became the youngest person to win 2Michelin stars, at the restaurant he co-owned with David Moore, Pied à terre. Only to give it all up & move to France, where he became the only British chef to gain a star in Michelin’s own back yard, with his restaurant called Neat.
Early last year Richard toyed with the idea of doing a pop up in late September / early October, sadly that never really happened despite some very kind offers. Then out of the blue, a PR company got in touch about ‘Richard Neat @ The Gallivant’, we spoke and eventually after speaking to the nice people at the hotel, was able to secure a table. Richard would be assisted by The Gallivant’s Head chef, Danny Perjesi, formerly of The Hamborough amongst others
The Gallivant is set back from the main coast road which goes between Rye & Lydd, and is opposite the beach which has been the backdrop to such films as; The Monuments Men, Carry On Follow That Camel & The Longest Day. It really is a beautiful part of the world. The hotel itself was refurbished earlier this year in a New England seaside style, lots of white distressed wood, giving it a rather chic & elegant look.
A simple no choice affair which originally was designed for about 30 or so people, about 50 people attended the evening such was the demand.
The canapés were a simple affair while guests chatted in the adjoining marque sipping an elegant prosecco. Whilst gougeres (a savory filled choux bun) have never really been high on list of canapé likes, the juicy deep fried ox tongue clearly made up for it.
A novel way to get the meal under way, Danny Perjesi served up a twist on the classic tartar. Replacing the beef with a very lightly pickled beetroot, and then adding the rest of the ingredients. The soft poached quail’s egg added an enriching contrast to the acidity & the pork crackling some texture.
Clearly another Danny Perjesi dish; a pressed pan-fried terrine, ½ a loin and casual garnish. The dabs of purée used a parsnip base as a vehicle to carry the horseradish, to good effect. For me the carrot & lettuce would have benefited from being served warm, rather than the fridge cold context of a salad. But overall the dish ate well with good flavours & textures.
With flavour combinations and a style of his own, this was a Richard Neat dish. The tower in the center was a pastry case which encapsulated the chilled vichyssoise. This added an extra texture as well as an usual way to present the soup. As you’d expect with a chef of Richard Neat’s calibre, the salad was a delicate balance of acidity & fragrance from tomatoes & coriander, combining nicely with the seafood.
Yet another Richard Neat dish, this time taking the ethos of doing a simple thing well. The cutlet had the fat trimmed away to reveal a glorious eye of meat, for me the real highlight of the dish was the ballontine under the cutlet. The combination of the offal sang in a coherent fashion, yet with each item being identifiable.
With Richard now done in the kitchen, he got changed and joined me at my table. Sadly, this was slightly to the detriment of Danny’s dessert. Although the picture really doesn’t do this dish any favours, it really was on the money in terms of flavours & textures, it just lacked an edge in the aesthetics department.
In conclusion – The nuts & bolts of it
I spent over an hour chatting to Richard, he gave his time quite freely and, as his 5Questions goes to prove, a very engaging chap. Occasional people would approach our table, nervous, yet also in awe of the man. He graciously spoke to each and every one of them, signing books etc, although you could tell the adulation didn’t sit well with him.
I’m sure age has mellowed the once tempestuous chef, whose drive & dedication made his name legendary in the UK culinary scene. To the point, where two waitresses wanted to say goodbye at the end of the night & thanked him by saying:
It was so nice to work with a chef who was calm & quiet.
Both us were agog, so much so Richard had to share this nugget with David Moore, his friend & former business partner in Pied á terre, who was also in attendance.
It was great to finally meet Richard, having written & researched so much about him and there’s no doubt that the food tonight wasn’t what he was doing at either Pied à terre or Neat in France. But The Gallivant was a perfect setting for the more relaxed Richard Neat, it is casual & classic in its appearance, with a young and youthful team delivering great service.
For me, some of the wines weren’t the best matches, often sticking to a tried & tested route; Rioja for the lamb & Sauternes for the dessert, and maybe this is where improvement could be found. Be bold, wine & food are subjective, but one thing is for sure, The Gallivant has a great future ahead of it.
Be sure to have a look at their website for other one night pop ups: The Gallivant
ChefHermes stayed at Point farm whilst dining at The Gallivant; an excellent alternative bed & breakfast, run by the charming Linda.
The rooms are of a great standard & an ideal base for exploring Rye & Camber