Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Eating Autumn at Bel Canto

Well, we hope you got your pork cheek fix since last week because… we have a new menu! That’s right, in honour of the days getting shorter, the leaves changing, and the weather getting cooler we have added some wonderful autumnal dishes to warm the cockles of your heart.

Boudin Noir
This Black pudding croquette is one of our favourite dishes which have revamped for the season. Served with apple purée and roasted apple it makes the most of warming flavours and seasonal produce and is made by hand in our kitchen. Want to try out some boudin noir at home? Click here to read the first ever post on the Bel Canto blog – a wonderful winter warming recipe with our French black pudding as the star!

Main Course
Pork Tenderloin
Not quite pork cheeks, but still delicious! This dish features a succulent pork fillet, wrapped in pancetta and served with caramelized pear, slow-baked cabbage and a light mustard sauce. Peppery, sweet, salty, and tender, this dish is the ultimate fancy comfort food and guaranteed to make you feel warm and welcome.

Apple Tarte
This French classic is the perfect end to a seasonal dinner. Soft sweet apples on crisp, buttery pastry with smooth vanilla ice cream – hungry yet?!

This autumn trio are best enjoyed with some of the finest opera around, performed by our fabulous singers so why not book a table and come try it for yourself?

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Welcome Autumn with some Pork Cheeks!

True food connoisseurs will already be aware that rabbit or fish cheeks are the most delicious, tender and juicy parts one can  eat! However, fewer know that pork cheeks too are a gourmet food not to be missed, especially when they are slowly braised.

Originally, people braised meat using embers below and above their casserole dish to contain the delicate juices and created a harmonious dish that preserved all its flavours. Of course, now things have evolved and newer techniques have replaced embers. Nonetheless, the result is equally delicious and the principle of searing meats or vegetables before letting them simmer for many hours has remained the same.

It is hard to tell when the first braised pork cheek was served in restaurants, as it’s never been documented. However, in the Middle Ages, pork was one of the most consumed meats in France. Vauban, Louis XIV’s minister, considered it the best way to fight hunger as “this animal is such an easy food that anyone can raise one, there is no farmer poor enough not to be able to raise one pig per year". Therefore, we are convinced that our fellow farmers wouldn’t have thrown away this ultimate delicacy. 

In recent years, braised pork cheeks have become something of a trend in French bistros. They are generally served with  carrots and potatoes and combine the savory taste of braised meat with a sweet note - often honey.

At Bel Canto, we did our own take on this dish to present you with a fresh recipe made of authentic flavours: Braised pork cheeks with caramelised carrots, crushed potatoes and a red wine jus

As we enter Autumn, carrots and potatoes are coming into season. This mouth-watering recipe represents the perfect combination of seasonal ingredients cooked with a modern twist. Carrots are amazingly flavorful when mixed with a sweet touch, which is probably why there is a huge consensus around the now-famous carrot cake. And what could possibly complement homemade crushed potatoes better than a reduced red wine sauce? Je ne sais pas. The French never miss an opportunity to cook with wine!

At Bel Canto, we couldn’t agree more with the old French saying "Tout est bon dans le cochon" - "Every part of the pig is good", and we think pork cheeks have their place on our finest tables. So, next time you visit us, try our pork cheeks because it might just become your favorite bit!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

All You Need to Know About the Barber of Seville

Giaochino Rossini – bel canto heavyweight, gourmand and composer of this week’s opera of choice – The Barber of Seville.

Born in Pesaro in 1792, Rossini was one of the most prolific and successful composers of his day. Although he retired from music at the age of just 37, in that time he wrote 39 operas, chamber music, sacred music and an array of piano and instrumental music. He wrote amazingly quickly as well, averaging two operas annually over his 19-year career (and some years as many as four!) and reportedly completing the Barber of Seville in under 3 weeks.

Despite a disastrous opening night, Rossini’s opera buffa in two acts went on to become a storming success and remains one of the top 10 most-performed operas in the world. This month it is on at the Royal Opera House, so we have a taster for you, to get you in the mood.

The principal characters of Rossini’s work may well be known to you as it is based on the first play in a trio of works by Pierre Beaumarchais and is the prequel to the Marriage of Figaro. Rosina goes on to become (spoiler alert) Mozart’s Countess, our hero is the Count Almaviva, and Figaro is a servant-turned-barber who lends a helping hand.  Our villain is the doctor Bartolo, Rosina’s guardian who plans to marry her for her dowry and Figaro-lovers will know (more spoilers) that he turns out to be Figaro’s father in the next play!

We open – as one might expect – on a street in Seville, below the lovely Rosina’s window. The Count has disguised himself as Lindoro, a poor student, to make sure Rosina loves him for him, and not just his title. At Figaro’s suggestion, he disguises himself as a drunken soldier billeted to Bartolo’s house as an excuse to see Rosina. This he does, and he and Rosina manage to swap letters – although Bartolo does have his suspicion.

Act Two opens with Almaviva in a new disguise. This time he is dressed as a singing tutor, come to fill in for Rosina’s normal teacher – Bartolo’s old – and, supposedly, ailing - friend Basilio. The Count gains Bartolo’s trust by showing him Rosina’s letter and telling him he aims to discredit Lindoro, who he believes to be one of the Count’s servants, wooing women on the Count’s behalf. This works like a charm and, when Figaro arrives to shave Bartolo, the lovers have time to confer.

Later that evening, Almaviva and Figaro climb into Rosina’s room via the balcony and the Count reveals his true identity. Then they very nearly mess everything up when they are caught by Basilio and the notary (who is there to marry Bartolo to Rosina instead). Thankfully, Basilio can be bought, and agrees to act as a witness to Almaviva and Rosina’s marriage. Bartolo arrives, but it is too late – the couple are happily married… but they let him keep the dowry anyway!

On its first night, the work received a terrible response – so terrible in fact, that Rossini hid backstage so as not to hear the boos on the second night. Thankfully, this time he was met with thunderous applause, but we think you should buy a ticket and make up your own mind! 

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Bel Canto is Back...with Burgundy!

Bel Canto is back! After a long month away, we are open again for business and we have been making some changes – starting with a new wine list. We have added a range of new premium quality wines, we are focussing more heavily on the best of France, and we have now started serving some of our finest wines by the glass. Most importantly, today we are going to introduce you to two of Manager Ilya’s new favourites.

Although the weather is still unseasonably warm, this is Britain – which means colder days are only a short time away. Autumn to us means red wines, and our new wine list has some wonderful choices.

Gevrey Chambertin, Harmand Geoffroy, 2012
This fabulous autumnal wine comes from the famous commune of Gevrey-Chambertin in the Côte de Nuits subregion of Bourgogne. Thee vineyard is owned and run by Gerard Harmand, the son of a diplomat, who took over the estate in 1990. Over the years, Harmand Geoffroy Burgundies have risen through the league tables to become one of the top burgundies in the premiership.

In-keeping with AOC regulation for the region, this hearty red is made with Pinot Noir and demonstrates many of the main characteristics associated with Burgundies from this region. It is intense and potent, with notes of blackcurrant, cherry and liquorice. With a fine minerality and punchy middle-weight flavours, this lovely wine goes perfectly with some of our favourite autumn foods, from grilled red meat to hearty stews (including its natural regional pair, boeuf bourguignon).

We recommend you try it with our fabulous braised Pork Cheek, served with caramelised carrots, crushed potatoes and red wine jus.

And if you fancy a glass rather than a bottle, why not give our next choice a go?

Pinot Noir "Buis d'Aps", Vignerons Ardéchois, 2014
Another fabulous Burgundy for you now, with this unique new addition. Made by Vignerons Ardéchois, a group of co-operative wineries in southern Ardèche, this Pinot Noir has more in common with Pinots from the Languedoc than it does with a classic Burgundy wine. The group was created in 1967 and now comprises 14 wine cellars, elaborating around 70% of the total production of PGI wines in the Rhone-Alps region. Unlike its fuller-bodied cousin, the Gevrey Chambertin, this light red can be served cool and pairs well with charcuterie, smoked fish, and milder cheeses.
We suggest pairing it with our revamped cheese board, to help you finish the evening on a fantastically light note.

So come on in and give our new wines a try!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Eating Like a Provençal Made Easy

When the sun shines over our beautiful city of London, it’s time to eat light, delicious and healthy recipes from Provence, South East of France. A Provençal recipe naturally involves a lot of locally pressed olive oil. After all, it is the predominant ingredient of our wholesome diet and it should be consumed everyday.

Today, we are suggesting that you prepare a three-course meal, or four if you have some cheese, that evokes a Summer day in this beautiful part of France!

Tapenade for Starter:

In France we often start a meal with an apéro: some nibbles with a glass of crisp white wine, a rosé, a Ricard, a glass of squash or any refreshing drinks. It marks the start of fun moment where friends and family are sharing a fantastic time together around the table. To offer your guest something else than just olives, saucisson and sun dried tomatoes, open their appetite with some Tapenade. 

-       250g of black olives (pits removed)
-       6 anchovies fillet in oil
-       3 teaspoon of caper in vinegar
-       1 garlic clove
-       10 cl of olive oil

Mix everything very finely with a blender before adding the olive oil to obtain a smooth paste.  Serve it with toasts or raw veggie sticks, close your eyes and enjoy the sun!

Ratatouille as a Main:

If you are from south of France, you most certainly can’t envisage a Summer without a ratatouille. Made with seasonal veggies this dish is colorful, succulent and extremely healthy.

-       4 big onions
-       5 garlic cloves
-       2 aubergine
-       5 courgettes
-       6 big tomatoes
-       ½ red or yellow pepper
-       1 bay leaf
-       1 thyme branch
-       Olive oil
-       salt and pepper

Melt the onions and garlic cloves in a big pan with some olive oil. Cut the veggies in big cube of 2cm. Add the aubergine and cook for 10 minutes. As the aubergine will soak a lot of olive oil be generous and add some more as needed. Add the courgettes and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes before adding the tomatoes, the thyme and the bay leaf. 30 minutes later you are ready to serve 8 guests. If like us, you are a wine lover, our tip is to add a glass of white wine like a Picpoul de Pinet with the courgettes.

A ratatouille can be eaten with any kind of meat, fish and BBQs; you can make a tart with the leftovers and it can even be savoured cold.

Strawberries for Dessert:

The French like to finish every meal with some tasty cheese and many of us must conclude with a sweet taste. As strawberries are in season, we suggest you to have them for dessert. With very little effort you can turn this summer fruit into a simple and yet transporting salad.

-       250g of strawberry
-       4 mint leaves
-       ½ lemon juice
-       15g of sugar

Cut the strawberries; add the lemon juice and the sugar. Make sure you make it before the apéro starts to obtain a succulent juice. Add the mint leaves before serving.

Voila, in about an hour you prepared a typical Provençal meal that is perfect for any Summer days. Perhaps you are thinking that a three or four-course meal is a bit excessive when it’s hot outside but, in reality, taking the time to relaxed while eating fresh seasonal products is extremely good for you!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

London Opera in August

You have the food, you have the wine, now all you need to complete the Bel Canto experience is the music. Sadly, August is a quiet time for London opera, with no big productions on at the Royal Opera House or the English National Opera. However, there is always music to be found, if you know where to look! Thankfully, this week, we have spared you the trouble and done the looking for you.

The Proms.
One of the biggest and best classical music festivals in the world takes place in London every summer and this year we have selected five of our top vocal proms between now and the beginning of September.
  1. Prom 44 – Shakespeare: Stage and Screen – RAH – 7:30 –Thursday 18th August
  2. Prom 45 – Janacek: The Markropulos Affair – RAH – 7:30 –Friday 19th August
  3. Prom 46 – Mahler’s Ruckert-Lieder and Mozart’s Mass in CMinor – RAH – 7:30, Saturday 20th August
  4. Prom 54 – Collegium Vocale Gent and the Budapest FestivalOrchestra – RAH – 7:30, Friday 26th August
  5. Prom 57 – Thomas Larcher, Wagner and Richard Strauss – RAH –7:30, Sunday 28th August


The alternative Glyndebourne, this boundary-pushing festival is back, and celebrating its tenth anniversary. Featuring new pieces by up-and-coming composers, as well as your old favourites repackaged, the only thing that could make Grimeborn better is if all the tickets were under £15… oh wait! They already are.
  1. Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro – Arcola Theatre – 16th-20thAugust
  2. The Mozart Double - Bastien and Bastienne and the Impressario, Mozart – ArcolaTheatre – 23-25th August
  3. The Perfect Picnic (opera theatre made using Mozart’s music)– Arcola Theatre – 11th-18th August
  4. The Dowager’s Oyster (Gilbert and Sullivan meets AgathaChristie in this new murder mystery farce, set in the roaring 20s) – 26-27thAugust
  5. Gianni Schicchi/Pagliacci – Puccini, Leoncavallo – 30thAugust – 3rd September

Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s famous “play with songs” is back at the National Theatre. Telling the tale of the scoundrel Captain “Mack the Knife” Mackheath, the various women in his life, and the various other characters of Victorian London’s sordid underbelly, a fabulous cast is headed up by Rory Kinnear, who you might recognise from James Bond…

Opera Della Luna – whose previous productions have received 4-star, rave reviews – take to the stage of Wilton’s Music Hall for the first time, putting on two one-act comedies by France’s answer to Gilbert and Sullivan, Jacques Offenbach. Singing new English translations of Croquefer and L’ile de Tulipaton, Opera Della Luna’s performances will take place today and tomorrow – there are still tickets available, but you better hurry! 

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Where to Buy Great French Wine in London

France’s long-standing tradition of winemaking is world-famous. A bottle of fine wine made at Chateau Rayas or at Chateau Lagrange contains a savoir-faire that was passed down through generations, the flavours of a delicious cépage and the unique expressions of a Terroir. Going to a cellar to find a French Grand Cru is discovering France’s prestigious history and landscape, and listening to a great sommelier is like poetry.

Brilliant wines are made all over the world but opening a glorious bottle of French wine means the certainty of being greeted with excitement, and the opportunity to appear as a fine connoisseur.

It is said that France keeps the best wine for itself but, luckily, London successfully managed to import some of its most exceptional wine. Whatever your budget may be, here is where to buy great French wine in London:

Find exquisite bottles at Hedonism wine. Entering this outstanding wine cellar located at the heart of London’s Mayfair is a unique dive into the world’s finest wines. With a collection of over 2,700 French wines, you will be advised by former sommeliers from Michelin-starred restaurants. Whether you are privileged enough to afford a priceless piece of history like a Vin Jaune from 1774 or an 1811 Chateau d’Yquem, perfectly aged, or if you are looking for an amazing cru under £30, Hedonism will offer you the crème de la crème.

Discover amazing Burgundy at Haynes Hanson & Clark. Britons are big fans of Burgundy wines and, if that’s your case too, you will be pleased to hear that their extensive Burgundy range includes many of the region’s finest Domaines. Here you can buy young wines and vintages ready to be drunk, as well as Grand Crus that need aging. Their staff are friendly and knowledgeable and even though they are located in Chelsea, their wines are affordable to all pockets.

Shop online at The owners source and handpick a huge collection of French wines directly from the producers and make them available online for our greatest pleasure and convenience. To help you make the right decision, they provide detailed descriptions, critics’ marks and customers’ ratings and reviews for each Domaine and bottle. If you are already wondering if they deliver to the UK and if their site is translated in English, the answer is YES!

We have mentioned but a few, but London offers a wide selection of boutiques where you can find excellent French wine.

Our last piece of advice would be to shop like the French. Many of us have our own personal reserve because once we find a wine we adore, we tend to buy more and more, and we don’t mind waiting a few years to allow our precious wine to age. Building your own personal cellar is within your reach. So, next time you find a succulent wine, go the extra mile and keep a few bottles. We are sure your friends and family will love you for it!