Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The Most Musical Christmas - Perfect Party Preparations

So, you have the food and you have the wine – now you need the music! Wow your Christmas party guests with a live opera performance to get everyone in a truly festive mood. Our singing waiters are the perfect entertainment for a refined and sophisticated party and are sure to inject culture and fun into any occasion.

Meet the Singers
Each and every one of our singers is a professional opera performer who has been trained at one – or several – of the finest musical institutions in the world. From the Guildhall School of Music and Drama to the Boston Conservatory to the Royal College of Music, our singers come with résumés and repertoires as long as your arm, so you know you will be entertained by the best. Our singers come from all over the world, and have performed all over the world, on stages in Sydney, performances in Portugal and, of course, in various famous opera venues across the UK.
To find out more about the singers, and learn each of their stories, head to the “Meet the Artists” page on our website, here

Hire the Singers
Our singers are available for any number of events – from private parties to corporate functions – and they will add so much more than world-class music! Free to act as waiters or servers, they can also interact with your guests, telling them the stories behind the operas from which they sing and the characters they play. Perfect for a gathering of opera lovers, or merely of open-minded culture fans, eager to learn something new about this historic art form.

You can hear our singers by booking a table with us or clicking here to catch snippets from our Bel Canto CD.

All of our singers booked up? Fear not, you can still enjoy some operatic flair at your party with our fantastic Christmas opera playlist – a combination of our favourite arias with some of the most beautiful Christmas choral music.

Click here to listen to it all.

  • Flower Duet – Lakme – Délibes
  • Stille Nacht – The Three Tenors
  • Casta Diva – Norma – Bellini
  • Lascia ch’io pianga – Handel
  • Ave Maria – Schubert – Luciano Pavarotti
  • Christmas Oratorio BWV 248 – J.S. Bach
  • Zadok the Priest – Handel
  • Libiamo - La Traviata – Verdi
  • Habanera – Carmen – Bizet
  • Papagena, Papageno – The Magic Flute – Mozart
  • Il est né, le divin enfant 
  • In Dulce Jubilo
  • Personent Hodie
  • Triumphal March – Aida – Verdi
  • O Come All Ye Faithful

Interested in hiring our singers for your event? Simply head to the website here and fill out an enquiry form.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Delight Your Guest with Exquisite Wines - Perfect Party Preparations

An elegant French dinner table needs to feature exquisite fine wines to be a success. This gets even more important at Christmas when we are serving the most noble and delicious specialties France has to offer. To make sure you are ready to host the perfect party we are revealing some of our tips to make your evening magical!

Champagne is the Master of Ceremonies and perfect for kicking off and conclude all beautifully celebration. It can be paired with most, if not all, delicacies from canapés to desserts and gives a luxury feel to your dinner. Because Christmas only happens once a year we recommend you amaze your guests with a well-known bottle like a Roederer, a Ruinart or Bel Canto’s Dom Perignon.

However, if Champagne is a bit out of your budget, why not pair last week’s Vol-au-Vent with a fantastic Pessac Leognan Blanc or with a Chardonnay from Burgundy. With a crisp and fresh Saint Veran, Meursault or Chablis you have the guarantee that your guests’ taste-buds will remember this treat for a very long time.

Every French family will have some traditional foie gras at Christmas and, in fact, there is no Christmas dinner without it. If you plan on having some too, we recommend pairing this specialty from the South-West of France with a sweet and fruity Jurançon or a Sauternes. However, again Champagne will be your best ally in seducing your guests with the ultimate luxurious experience.

For French wine lovers, Christmas is perfect occasion to open the exquisite bottles they preciously kept secret in their cellar. It’s the time they open their finest vintages from Bordeaux, such as a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a Chateau Pichon Longueville or a Saint Emilion.

There is indeed no better time to open your favourite bottles than at a Christmas family dinner.  So, visit your cellars, buy the bottles you always wanted and share the love with the people you care most about. After all, Christmas is the most beautiful time of the year and we all deserve magnificent wines. 

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Canapés with Class - Perfect Party Preparations

We know it seems a bit too early to be thinking about Christmas – but a chill in the air means it is on its way and the best Christmas party… is a stress-free Christmas party! To help you get organised early, we’ve come up with our top tips for throwing a festive bash with a difference, and we’re starting with the food!

No good party is complete without food and no fancy party complete without canapés! The trend for serving these tasty, savoury bites at parties began in France in the 18th century. The perfect counterpart to an aperitif, the name comes from the French word for sofa, because the garnish sits on the bread, cracker or pastry as a person sits on a couch!

We Brits picked the trend up towards the end of the 19th century, but have continued to be inspired by that nation of gourmands, hence that 1970s favourite - the vol-au-vent.  

So called for its extreme lightness, the vol-au-vent (which means “lifting in the wind” in French) consists of a hollow pastry cup with a savoury filling made from meat, fish or vegetables. The story goes that the vol-au-vent was created by the Father of French haute cuisine, Antonin Carême in the early 19th century. His signature filling of minced chicken and breadcrumbs with mushrooms in a madeira sauce – called the financière – was the inspiration against our own. One of our new menu additions, the Bel Canto vol-au-vent contains sautéed mushrooms with a rich truffle sauce, perfect for Christmas.

Other French Christmas Canapés to try

Pork Rillettes
Salmon Mousse
Cheese gougères
Chicken liver pâté
Devilled Eggs  

A French party tradition for the ages – what could be better? And for more inspiration on how to throw the perfect Christmas party – stay tuned over the next couple of weeks, for drinks and entertainment tips or why not pop in to Bel Canto and sample our light-as-air vols-au-vent for yourself?

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!