Wednesday 19 December 2012

The Cookbook Club with Neven Maguire

The Cookbook Club is a unique concept: a chef hands out his/her most recent cookbook to a restaurant team who recreates a selection of his/her signature dishes from it.

Elaine Walsh, owner of The Cookbook Club, kindly invited me to her most recent event with Neven Maguire as chef/author who presented his latest cookbook: ‘The MacNean Restaurant Cookbook’.

The dinner took place at ‘Verres en Vers ‘, The Radisson Blu Royal hotel’s restaurant. The room was spacious and elegant, decorated in a contemporary design.

Elaine Walsh and her close friends were all glammed up and welcomed each of the 128 guests. There was a seating plan at the entrance, which Elaine had carefully thought out. We were seated beside 6 people we didn’t know, who we chatted to during the meal.

Elaine gave a brief welcome speech to her guests before Neven Maguire talked us through his love of cooking Irish products, his career, the success of the MacNean House restaurant and of course, his last cookbook.

Neven Maguire and Elaine Walsh

All diners were served an appetiser of organic salmon sausage with creamed leeks and lemon butter sauce (p. 94 of Neven’s book) and then had the choice between 3 starters, 3 main courses and 3 desserts, all recreated from Neven’s MacNean restaurant cookbook, all for just €35 per person.

The kitchen team at 'Verres en Vers'

I ordered the Tempura of Sole with curried mayonnaise and chili jam (p. 25). I liked it, the batter was light and the mayonnaise gave a little kick to the fish but I must say that Mr. FFID chose the best starter. He had the delicious duck confit with crispy vegetables (p. 39).

Tempura of Sole

Duck confit and crispy vegetables

Mr. FFID and I both ordered the trio of chicken with baby carrots (p. 98) for the main, actually so did many diners. I wasn’t disappointed; the trio consisted of stuffed chicken thighs, braised drumsticks and sautéed breasts. My favourite was the braised drumstick; the red wine sauce was the tastiest. The chicken thighs were served on top of a carrot purée, which matched very well.

Trio of chicken with baby carrots

We ended the meal with the toasted coconut and Malibu parfait with pineapple carpaccio and coconut sorbet (p. 159). The exotic flavors and the lightness of the dessert were perfect to wrap up the meal on a sweet note.

Delicious dessert

All the courses were plated just like in Neven Maguire’s cookbook. I usually struggle with 3 course meals but the portions were just the right size for me and I ate everything without struggling to finish or being too full.

During the meal Elaine went from table to table to greet her guests and make sure they were having a good time. Neven Maguire also talked to all of the diners in a very approachable way.

His cookbook was available for sale on site at a discounted price and I couldn’t resist getting my copy signed by the man himself. Of course he asked me where I was from, I’m very far from looking or sounding Irish and he made me smile, when after I said I was from France he replied, “So you must know about good food”. He’s such a gent.

I totally enjoyed my first Cookbook Club evening. I didn’t know what to expect and thought it was a delightful and original social event. It’s an opportunity to meet other foodies and of course a way to meet well-known, talented Irish chefs.

Before leaving, each guest could collect a box of mince pies from under the Christmas tree, which made the evening even more special.

P.S. While I was invited to this evening free of charge, I have never been asked to review the event and the views expressed above are entirely my own.

The Cookbook Club