Learning to cook at The Gallivant

Cooking courses with lunch included are becoming a feature of foodie life. Richard Harvey, still inspired by memories of Harry Palmer whipping up a treat in the kitchen, headed off to try one run by The Gallivant at Camber

I  owe Michael Caine two debts of gratitude. Back in the Sixties when girls rarely made passes at men who wore glasses, the heavily horn-rimmed Caine made specs sexy (even if some of the chaps who wore them weren’t).And then, as Harry Palmer in an iconic scene in the movie The Ipcress File, he made an omelette for Sue Lloyd, and in that pre-Jamie Oliver/Carluccio/Floyd era, suddenly it was OK for men to know how to cook. So, in common with a growing army of would-be chefs, I booked myself on a cookery course at the local adult education centre, thus beginning a lifelong love affair with all things culinary (even if I still can’t make a decent omelette).But if omelettes are one thing, grilled red mullet with palourde clams, samphire and vegetable vinaigrette is something entirely and scarily different.One man dedicated to taking the fear out of fish cookery is 35-year-old Bruce Wilson, head chef at The Gallivant, the chic and recently relaunched hotel bistro at Camber, formerly known as The Place.It was the sheer quality and profusion of the fish swimming off the Sussex coast that brought Bruce to The Gallivant, after a career spent in the kitchens of some of London’s most celebrated restaurants.Now he is spreading the gospel by hosting a fish cookery course at The Gallivant  – From Boat to Plate – and, later in the year, is running other courses on preparing meat and game.Appropriately, the day started with a visit to Rye fish market, where manager Russell Drew delivered a refreshingly down-to-earth tutorial on what to buy and when, some graphic info on spawning and breeding, and demonstrated how to gut, fillet and skin a fish (a chunk of wood with nails in it and a pair of pliers came in handy).Back at the hotel, the group gathered in the demonstration marquee for almost three hours of foodie nirvana as Bruce prepared dishes which were easy to cook, great to look at, and a joy to sample. Like all good chefs, he blithely ignored puritanical guidelines on butter and salt.Using little more than a sophisticated camping stove, Bruce whipped up roast scallops in the shell with wild garlic butter; baked plaice with fennel and crab butter; sea bass escabeche; and grilled mullet with clams and samphire. Complicated? Not even for an indifferent omelette chef...The course is followed by a long and languorous fishy lunch, a steady procession of six starters, four main courses, and two puds, served on tasting plates for everyone to share. The lunch alone was worth a considerable chunk of the �95 price tag for the day – great value for money.

www.thegallivanthotel.comT: 01797 225057.

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