Passing the swarm of guests gathering in the bar of the Chester Hotel in Aberdeen, I was on a mission to get to the other side of the room.
It was a deliberate move, with the edge of the bar my target.
I positioned myself here knowing full well that the man everyone was talking about would hopefully come and address the room on this side, and so I wanted to make sure I could get a good look him because I had forgotten my glasses.
“I can see it in the kitchen, look,” an excited diner said, as a flurry of heads turned followed by phones popping into the air.
MasterChef: The Professionals judge and Michelin-starred chef Marcus Wareing was preparing for his first night at the Signature Food Festival, a charity event hosted by Chester Hotel owner Graham Wood and his wife Gillian.
The duo have already raised over £800,000 for local charities to date, and Marcus kicked off the 2022 event with sold-out events on Friday and Saturday nights.
A short video took our attention away from the chef when Graham appeared on screen. He highlighted the incredible impact the donated money has had on the local community and why the event is vitally important.
At the end, gasps began and a round of applause quickly followed as Marcus, who was now standing three feet away from me, entered. He was taller than expected, his slender physique, but it was his deep eyes and dazzling smile that captivated the room. The whole room smiles back.
Glass of Champagne in hand, the guests were invited table by table to take their seats. There were around 90 seats and the open kitchen, which featured the teams from The Chester and Marcus, was buzzing with activity.
Once seated, we were immediately served a slice of warm cereal bread, with room temperature salted butter ready to be frothed. It had a sweetness and the crunchy champagne went well with it, which was a great coincidence.
Marcus Wareing at the Signature Food Festival
The wine pairing for the first course began to flow. I was looking forward to the smoked mackerel and langoustine pie after watching the kitchen team prepare it as I passed on the way to our table.
Paper-thin, the pie crust was crisp and a mousseline of hollandaise with seaweed and caviar was poured over the ceviche-style mackerel. The langoustine was beautifully prepared and stood out, with a small dollop of champagne sabayon on top. It was rich in flavor and its meaty texture made me want to savor every bite.
The sprinkling of dried seaweed on it brought a different dynamic to the crisp white plate.
Next comes a roasted and marinated quail breast. A red wine pairing accompanied this dish, which also boasted fried bird leg.
My knife slipped through the brisket and I scooped up the delicious black garlic sauce it was sitting on. The tender carrot had crushed pine nuts on it and it too was soft to cut. The flavors were very thick and rich which meant the slightly smaller portion was appreciated.
We continued red while we were served the Herdwick lamb. It was seared to perfection and the lamb crunch is also worth mentioning as it was the best I have ever had. Crispy, yet chewy, it wasn’t teeth grinding like many before, it was subtle and full of flavor.
A black olive pissaladière was served, and the anchovy cream was pungent and demanded attention. The lamb gravy brought it all together and although a simple drizzle was poured onto the plate it was perfect.
Throughout the evening, Marcus had ventured to every table in the dining room, making time for each guest. It was nice to see each face light up as he engaged one-on-one.
As we ventured into the sweet, he returned to the kitchen and we were served nutmeg and custard with a delicious dessert wine.
If Christmas was a meal, this is it.
The consistency of the custard was like “magic” according to my boyfriend. Keeping something so soft and yet in shape seemed nearly impossible to him, but this was proving him wrong.
The nutmeg was very present and the pastry cream was not too sweet. A fig lay next to the main event and the raisin baking reminded me of the marzipan layer of a Christmas cake.
Last but not least was the verbena parfait. Another dessert wine was paired with this number which was much sharper than the previous one. It was a small work of art with dried raspberries in the shape of a honeycomb.
The raspberry and bergamot mousse was tart compared to the sweet olive oil sponge that balanced it out. The sponge was light and fluffy, and the dried raspberries gave a light crunch that added more texture to the dish.
To finish we were served tea and coffee with salted caramel chocolate vouchers.
The melted caramel inside melted in my mouth and even though the dark chocolate shell and cocoa were rich, I could have eaten them all night.
The meal from start to finish was impeccable. Not only were the kitchen team the pride of the Hotel Chester, but the reception staff were everywhere and it was so nice to see Graham and Gillian sticking around too. To me, it shows how passionate they are about this festival and raising money for charity.
Marcus Wareing is certainly a charming and interesting man and the time he spent outside the kitchen watching over guests was appreciated by all.
He even signed menus and books and took pictures, which everyone loved.
Signature Food Festival until November 19, when Scottish chef Lorna McNee will cook up a storm. The other leaders and key dates are as follows:
- Tom Brown: September 27
- Ken Hom: September 30/October 22
- Lisa Goodwin-Allen: November 11/12
- Sam Bains: 14/15 Nov.
Address: The Chester Hotel, 59-63 Queen’s Road, Aberdeen AB15 4YP
Such. : 01224 327777
- Food: 5/5
- Performance: 5/5
- Surroundings: 5/5
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[Marcus Wareing wows guests at Signature Food Festival 2022]