'Damien Hirst Experience': Molecular Cocktails, Skulls & Chocolate
This dramatic edition of Cupcake Monday gets molecular and chocolatey, and skulls make an appearance, too! Over the Jubilee long weekend, I was invited to a two-day 'Damien Hirst Experience' as a guest of Le Meridien Piccadilly in London, in collaboration with Tate Modern, who are currently hosting a major exhibition of the British artist's key works. (The full review will follow later this week.) The themed evening began the moment we walked into our room (my husband was also invited as my guest), when we noticed on the desk the Damien Hirst volume that accompanies the exhibition, and a black glass tray with fresh strawberries and a crystal skull filled with melted, dark chocolate. We smiled and said "Ahhh...how clever!" and wasted no time dipping in.
Our first Damien Hirst Experience event took place in the hotel's Petit Trianon-esque Adams room, where we were warmly welcomed, amidst an amethyst glow, with a selection of molecular cocktails. They looked so good, and so interesting, that I am still lamenting not being able to try each of the five varieties offered. But I did get to three. (Luckily the dinner table was just a few feet away and I floated blissfully to my seat.)
What is a molecular cocktail? Molecular mixology uses the scientific equipment, such as blowtorches and vacuum sealers, and techniques, including airs and spherification, of molecular gastronomy to manipulate states of matter to create new flavours, feels, textures and visuals, tying in beautifully with Le Meridien's sensory-engaged approach to hospitality. What you get from the mixologist's magic is an intriguing, drinkable concoction - that may or may not require spooning up 'caviar', that just a few minutes previous, were a measure of rum.
These are the molecular cocktails we were served:
Passion Fruit Mojito-Syphon Soda: Passion fruit flavoured mojito served from Syphon soda bottle, with a foam texture;
Brambioli: Bramble style cocktail, served from small saucers and sliced green apple on the side, with a jelly texture;
Pina-cavia-da: Pinacolada style cocktail, with pineapple pudding and rum caviar on the top;
Apple martini: Classic apple martini cocktail with extra fresh apple foam on the top;
Classic Champagne cocktail: with caramelized brown sugar soaked with Angostura bitters.
The last three are the cocktails I tried and they were heavenly, and light enough that I would be able to enjoy each of the four courses of dinner - complete with drink matchings - that were to follow. This is a feat in itself!
Let's fast forward to the dessert course. The table was presented with a grand "Board of Discovery" of bite-size treats arranged around an irridescent skull that was specially crafted for the course by Michael Dutnall MCA, Le Meridien Piccadilly's Chef de Cuisine. The board was a hollowed-out log that I figured had to be about five feet long. And there was more. Trays of petits fours were placed around the table, and in front of each guest a plate decorated with Hirst's butterfly motif offered a lovely white and dark chocolate pannacotta. After this I attempted to balance my desire to try as many of the desserts as possible while ensuring my ability to get to my room without having to be rolled down the hall.
What was on the Board of Discovery?
- Chocolate mousse with salted Carmel
- Chocolate & Vanilla Ice cream Lolly pops
- Caramel Truffles on sticks
- “Antibiotic pills” - Chantilly filled éclairs dipped in white and red chocolate
- Butterfly pieces
- Ground praline and pistachio
And the Petit Fours:
- Tomato, Chocolate & Caraway
- Cherry & coffee bomb
- “The Firecracker” which was a caramel truffle with popping candy (this was wrapped in the Union Jack which you can see under the board in the photo above)
What a way to go out! If only I could have had half a day alone with that board. And the petits fours. And the gorgeously smooth chili and vanilla-infused gin and tonic served in the glass teapots, cups and saucers that reminded me of Cinderella's glass slipper, (but much better tasting):
This was one of the best nights I've ever had; it was great fun with lots of laughs, exceptional food and drink, and the theme was so thoughtfully carried through all aspects of the evening, that writing this I feel as if I'm back in Le Meridien Piccadilly's Adams room for another go. Just wonderful.
All photos (except the second) courtesy Dave Watts Photography ©