What do you get the man who already has quite a lot? From previous man-present-buying experience, I have found it best to mentally file away any mention hobbies or interests throughout the year. An interest in F1 (noted. Fast car experience day) a brief dalliance with fishing (potential camping weekend away) talk of a holiday in Portofino (I’m not made of money).
Over the many years I have been wracking my brain for man presents, there is one theme to which I always return: food. Tired of sifting through the mental filing, I just came right out and asked my boyfriend what he wanted for his birthday. He said he had always liked the look of Theo Randall’s food on the telly and fancied eating in his restaurant in the Intercontinental, Park Lane. Perfectly do-able. But it felt too easy – where was the anguish? The brain-wracking? I went on the Theo Randall website to book us in. Hovering there, on the right of the tool bar, a word caught my attention ‘Masterclass.’ Genius. Theo hosts masterclasses to showcase a whole manner of cookery skills, from fish to pasta, sharing over 20 years of experience. Each one perfectly showcases his signature Italian style. Each one costs £200 per person and includes a masterclass in the morning, wine tasting with Theo’s Head Sommelier, a three-course lunch with paired wine and copy of Theo's first cookbook 'PASTA'.
It was pulling the purse strings too tightly for me to attend the class with Neil, but Theo’s fabulous PA, Maria Wrazen, kindly organised for me to attend lunch for a reduced fee.
Neil told me all about morning. They arrived at 10am and had coffee and croissants before following Theo into the kitchen. His was quite a small group (there were only five people all together) and each of them said how brilliant it was. Theo taught them how to cook several fish-based dishes which they also tasted along the way.
While the group learnt some fish-cooking skills, I attempted to cross the cobbles on Hyde Park Corner in rain and vertiginous Gina heels. Turns out they’re not called ‘limousine shoes’ for nothing. I finally made it and fist-pumped the air at the exact same moment a handsome Sheik emerged from his dulled metallic red supercar. An excellent start.
After hobbling down the marble stairs, I joined the group, together with Theo’s Head Sommelier, to learn all about Italian wine. It was a fascinating experience – anyone would enjoy it, whether your knowledge of wine is ‘it contains grapes’ or ‘this one’s oaky with notes of coffee.’
Lunch was as delicious as expected, which began with a glass of prosecco and tasty fresh bruschetta to get our juices flowing. Next up was a mouth-watering starter of smoked eel, followed by a meaty beef main with the most flavoursome tomatoes I have ever tasted. Theo emerged from the kitchen and took time with us, telling us where our food was from, why the combinations worked and how we could achieve similar results. He is a generous man and a brilliant chef. Many of Theo’s ingredients are imported from Italy and you can tell by talking to him, that this is something he is truly passionate about. Any ingredients that have not been delivered from Italy are selected from some of the finest producers in the UK. It goes without saying that the products are seasonally selected, and the menu adapted accordingly. Dessert was a gorgeous lemon tart – the perfect end to a rich, delicious lunch.
Our group was great fun and it was with great reluctance that we said our goodbyes. We all agreed that it had been a really special day – the ultimate gift for anyone who loves cooking...or eating. We’ll definitely be returning to Theo Randall’s restaurant again soon.
To book a masterclass, call 0207 318 8747 or email Maria at firstname.lastname@example.org.