The Fields Around us and The Sea in Front of us
Three is the magic number at the Gallivant or so Chef Dan Perjesi would like you to believe
Article by Andy Barnham
Local ingredients for a restaurant is rather cliché and banal but does ill-justice to chef Dan Perjesi at the Gallivant Hotel. Rather the Gallivant is a small, family run, business and is helping support other similar ventures in the area. Thus as many ingredients as possible are sourced within ten miles of his restaurant; the local fishermen call him daily and the butcher delivers twice a week. Indeed the call today from the fishermen was to inform him that they wouldn’t be fishing for the next two days due to poor weather.
Hungarian by birth, Chef Dan has been in the UK for ten years and although he is married to a fellow Hungarian he believes his one year old daughter is going to grow up British – they are here to stay. If his current offerings are anything to go by, British food lovers will certainly want to keep it that way.
Influenced by French cooking at school, Dan still draws from his background of hearty and homely meals when the weather closes in and winter comes. Lucky for us that summer is approaching and the current menu, even if it is an interim one, allows us to try his idea of mixing texture, taste and colour from only three main ingredients per dish. Initially sceptical, he had to ask his suppliers to come and taste his menu before they would agree to deliver the exact cuts of meat and fish he required. As summer progresses, the menu will change every other week to reflect the fresh produce and as he says ‘too many ingredients’ to choose from.
His amuse bouche of carrot, beetroot and pumpkin seeds had a light touch, but it was the follow up of lamb tartar with quail’s egg and potato crisp that made the eyes widen and one sit up. If the meal had finished there, I would have left a satisfied and happy customer. As it was the dish had me wondering why I’d never had lamb tartar before. Setting the bar high, it was then interesting to see where the meal would lead. Starters of duck egg (with braised leeks and potato crisp) and wild pigeon breast (with cabbage and carrots) kept with the theme of three ingredients on a dish and did not disappoint. Having admitted in conversation that fish was his favourite dish, it would would have been remiss not to taste the dover sole (with buttered pasta and cucumber) on the menu as one of the mains. The flavour of the catch and the venison (with organic beats and black cabbage) conjured the taste and image of the sea and great outdoors respectively. Such results make it clear that Chef Dan’s efforts are paying off and as I ate the venison I was hugely thankful of his achievement at his success at bringing in local suppliers to complement his vision.
If we skipped on desert and shared the cheese board it was only due to the desire not to feel full and have to crawl away from the table. Consistent to the end the cheese was also from local suppliers and was a fitting way to wrap up the fare.
All in all, the meal reflected the anticipated summer; light, delicate and full of taste. Chef Dan’s aim is straightforward, to be simple and great. And if accolades come, they come. Until then he cooks for the love and passion of his profession.