Allister Barsby Autumn 2017

Halloween has now passed and we have lots of lovely pumpkins left over in the kitchen garden which are being used for beautiful Autumnal soups and silky smooth purees for various dishes.  During these autumn months, hearty and earthy root vegetables are in abundance and we play around with these flavours to make the perfect garnish for our dishes.

One of my favourites is roasting swede with butternut squash, pairing this with a chestnut puree and camomile soaked raisins.  It makes the most amazing garnish for venison or game birds. We braise our Jerusalem artichokes and cut into little chips before they are deep-fried, which provides the most intense artichoke flavour around, which goes amazingly well with our Welsh beef fillet.

For me root vegetables are a favourite and there are many steps you can take to extract the most amount of flavour available.  After all extraction of flavour is our jobs as chefs!  Here are some of my top tips when cooking with root vegetables.

  • You must cook them until they are soft.  Only then do they release their sugars and become as sweet as they should be.
  • Season the vegetables early, when they first hit the heat of a pan or boiling water.  You want to cook the seasoning into the its core.
  • Don’t be afraid to pair herbs and spices to maximise the flavour of the vegetable.  For example, rosemary really does lift the flavour of swede, it’s incredible.  Thyme is an obvious one but when put with turnips, salsify or celeriac, flavour is enhanced.  A less obvious pairing is tarragon with carrots, but definitely one worth doing.  Play with spices too, a few cumin seeds sprinkled over roasting vegetables works wonders.

Allister Barsby, February 2017

At the beginning of February I was honoured and lucky to be part of the fantastic Chefs Night Out 2017 charity dinner, raising money for the wonderful Ty Hafan.

Ty Hafan is very special charity who offer comfort, care and support to life limited children and their families, there is literally no limit to the extent these guys will go to make every day these children have left as special as possible.

Chef's Night Out is in its fifth year and has become an important date in the annual calendar. It's a special evening which brings together 16 of the finest chefs from Wales and in the UK to cook for 16 tables of 10 guests, and each table has one chef cooking a four course meal for them. Nobody know who's cooking for who until the evening and at the end of the evening each chef is then auctioned off to go and cook at the bidders’ house at a date in the future.

I arrived mid-afternoon and the huge hotel kitchen was already in full swing and buzzing with chefs, all getting ready for their respective tables. I was preparing a menu of dishes from my a la carte menu here at the Grove so I was pretty much fully prepared which allowed me to spend some time catching up with a couple of the other chefs I know.

The kitchen was full of some amazing chefs and talents, including Hywel Jones (Lucknam Park), Hrishikesh Desai (The Gilpin Hotel), Richard Davies (Epicure at Celtic Manor), and of course Will Holland and Hywel Griffith from our sister restaurants Coast and Beach House. The food leaving the pass was simply outstanding and it was such an honour to contribute to such a worthy cause.

I was auctioned off for £3,500 which I'm thrilled about for my first time, some of the veterans of the evening were being auctioned off for £8000-£10,000. In total just over £150,000 was raised for Ty Hafan which is incredible. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and I have put myself forward for any further events.

Allister Barsby, January 2017

We start 2017 after a relatively smooth and stress free Christmas period at the Grove.  We hosted a variety of events including our Christmas Ball and New Year Celebration Gala Dinner and we hope it was enjoyed by all. 

Now into the new year and we've just announced our Events Calendar for the year ahead which is full of exciting experiences including our popular guest chef evenings. 2 Michelin starred Michael Wignall will be joining us from Gidleigh Park Hotel in March and acclaimed chef and Michelin starred James Sommerin is booked in for October. They’re both great chefs and we look forward to welcoming them to the Grove.

Me and my team in the kitchen and restaurant are always looking to push the food and service on, developing and improving every day. We're very proud to say we pick a lot of our fruit and veg from the kitchen garden but something we will focus on this year to learn and develop is Foraging. We already pick from our hedge rows and grounds here at the Grove but there is so much more out there. We're working with a local professional forager, Yun Hider, who will guide us through this and we can't wait to get started and see what we can add to our dishes.  Watch this space! 

Allister Barsby, December 2016

This time of year is always a busy time once the festive season starts.  Once the selected menus have been created and in between the celebrations, it’s always a great opportunity for me to get on with some menu development and make any changes just in time for Christmas.  

With that in mind, we’ve had some new introductions to the menu with a sweetbreads and scallops starter, which is proving to be a firm favourite with our guests.  Game season is still going strong so we have added some wild duck, which is served with sweet and sour cabbage, black garlic, creamed celeriac, chestnut puree and a mulled sauce.  The desserts saw the addition of an apple strudel soufflé, which is lightly spiced and served with an intense vanilla ice cream, it’s just perfect for this time of the year.  The base is actually made from a puree of spiced Cox apple that we blend cooked puff pastry into, no crème patissiere is added to keep it full of flavour.  A spoonful of apple and raisin compote is placed into the centre for some texture and acidity.  

We kicked off the celebrations with our annual Christmas Ball over the weekend, so we are now looking forward to a festive few weeks at Grove.  

Allister Barsby, November 2016

It's a busy season ahead of us here at The Grove and at the moment its quite like the quiet before the storm.  We've been pulling festive menus together for various upcoming events and group Christmas parties, as well as designing the menus for our own Christmas and New Year’s Eve Celebrations. 

As chefs we like to be spontaneous and creative and quite often think of a dish, do a little trial and error and as well as our tasting notes and wine pairings then then the dish could be on the menu the following evening.  Looking closely into the seasons and sourcing the very best of ingredients at that time of the year is crucial when designing dishes.  At the Grove we are so lucky to have such an abundance of produce coming from our kitchen garden so it really does make my job of dish development simpler.  Just a walk around the garden can inspire a thought for a new dish.

On the 24th of November we will be hosting our annual Italian Evening, showcasing our knowledge of Italian cuisine and cooking techniques, which is set to be a great evening with fabulous food and wines.  Starting with a crab tortelloni with lemongrass sauce, followed by a salad of marinated aubergine, prosciutto and figs.  After that will be a dish of Rose veal fillet, baby gem, roast garlic and Marsala sauce, a classic Affogato and then a Limoncello tart with mascarpone sorbet to finish.  I love Italian cuisine and cannot wait to get these dishes onto plates and to our guests!

Allister Barsby, October 2016

It has been a busy two weeks here at the Grove of Narberth, frantically changing menus to accommodate the produce of Autumn whilst getting ready for upcoming events from the diary.

Last Thursday saw Gareth Ward from Ynyshir Hall as a Guest Chef in the kitchens. His modern British cuisine with massive influences from Japanese food culture really was an experience and got the whole team thinking about food in a different way. With huge emphasis on impact of flavour in just a few mouthfuls per dish, his 12 course tasting menu was a big hit with both the restaurant guests and the staff here at the Grove.

The following day I visited our sister restaurant Beach House, in the Gower as a Guest Chef where later that evening myself, Head Chef Hywel Griffith from Beach House and Head Chef Will Holland from Coast cooked an 8 course menu for 40 guests. I took care of the fish course, pre dessert and petit fours, Hywel the starter and main dessert, and Will cooked the appetiser, second starter and main course. The evening was a huge success and we all had a great time cooking with one another. Watch this space for more 3 chef evenings coming your way in the New Year!

Allister Barsby, October 2016

The transition between Summer and Autumn is a fantastic time of year for any chef. The ‘Glorious 12th’ signals the start of the Game and shooting season with the first Grouse hitting the menus, matched with Wild Berries, you can’t go wrong. Quail will make way for Pigeon which is shot locally by our MP Simon Hart, and Lamb will leave our menu to be replaced by Venison. I love it, and although every season is beautiful in its own way, Autumn is possibly my favourite!

This change in season is emphasised even more by our kitchen garden.  Managed by Jerry and his team we are never short of the most amazing produce.  Having worked with kitchen gardens most of my career, the garden here at the Grove is the most productive yet.  Rows upon rows of crispy Chards, Kales and Cabbages, sweet Beetroots and Parsnips are in abundance, and all hit our menus as soon as they are ready.  And the anticipation of waiting for the first real frost to sweeten up the Jerusalem artichokes…  I can’t wait to get them on the menu! 

I feel truly lucky to be working with such amazing produce here in Pembrokeshire.

#DIDYOUKNOW

Get to know our chef

ALLISTER BARSBY

Executive Chef

Age : 28
Duration : 9 months
Previous : Gidleigh Park, The Bath Priory Hotel,
Read’s Restaurant with Rooms
Style : Refined, elegant and classic

Allister arrived in West Wales coming from 2 Michelin Starred Gidleigh Park where he was Head Chef for 3 years under the legendary Michael Caines. Having been moulded by one of the best chefs in the UK, Allister’s cuisine is a distinctive modern British style with a delicate touch of the unexpected. He focuses on extracting full and exciting flavours from every ingredient on the plate.

#DIDYOUKNOW?

If your kitchen was on fire, what would you save and why?
The chefs and staff… because without them it's impossible!

If you weren’t a chef what would you be?
Probably something involving art or martial arts (two very different things I know, but I was very good at both)

What’s your foodie guilty pleasure?
Wine Gums, I have an addiction

Sweet or savoury?
Savoury

What is your favourite food shop or market?
Rungis in Paris is insane, and most oriental markets

And for a blow-out dinner?
The Ledbury every time

What would your death row meal be?
Steak and a bottle of red wine

What is your favourite cookbook?
Eleven Madison Park or The Square: Savoury

What’s your top cooking tip?
Focus on flavour first, presentation last

What is your favourite foodie destination in the UK?
Devon and Cornwall, really great food and restaurant scene in the South West

And abroad?
Singapore

What ingredients are really worth forking out for?
Fresh, bright fish and quality meat