DUSK (new Michelin-inspired menu) – Brentwood, Essex
THIS RESTAURANT HAS SINCE CLOSED DOWN!HALAL STATUS Fully Halal food & drinks menu • BYO alcohol • Shisha served
Our award-winning Head Chef Stephen Gomes has put together a menu which we believe is of a Michelin standard – Sharif Uddin, DUSK co-owner
We had the privilege of being not only one of the first to visit DUSK back in 2019, but also one of the first to review their ambitious menu, albeit during their soft opening phase.
Yet, even at such an early stage, it was obvious that the good folks residing in Brentwood, Essex, had been blessed with something special, with the restaurant going on that year to emphatically win #FtLionAwards Best Dessert of the Year.
Having invested £1 million into this 400-cover venue, which included procuring the talents of a chef as renowned as Stephen Gomes, it was also obvious that restaurateurs Sharif Uddin and Shakil Islam had their sights set on something big.
Well, as we reported last week, DUSK has introduced a molecular gastronomy menu, carefully conceived during the pandemic lockdown by Chef Gomes, with one eye on a Michelin star.
“Our award-winning Head Chef Stephen Gomes has put together a menu which we believe is of a Michelin standard,” Sharif Uddin informed us during the review.
What Stephen has imaginatively created is two tasting menus: a 7-course called ‘Expedition’ for £89, and a 5-course called ‘Journey’ for £69, both of which can be enjoyed with a speciality Tea Flight (developed in partnership with Azanti Sober Lifestyle) for an additional £20, which you’ll struggle to find elsewhere.
Chef Gomes revealed: “I’ve designed the menu to tell a story and take the diner on a culinary journey, based on the inspirations from my grandma, my father Chef James, Roald Dahl and the science of spice.”
We had the pleasure of trying not just the full 7-course ‘Expedition’ menu with its respective Tea Flight (£109), but also two courses from the ‘Journey’ menu.
This Tea Flight was, indeed, an exceedingly interesting concept, with even more intriguing beverages, strategically introduced at various stages to help enhance the overall experience of the meal.
The most exciting of the bunch has to be the CBD, especially with DUSK being the first restaurant we’ve reviewed to showcase this newly touted health-giving concoction. Fittingly presented in laboratory beakers, this turned out to be a mild citrusy affair, with the addition of the lemon and lime pearls providing that occasional sharp fruity burst.
For those not in the know, CBD (Cannabidiol) is extracted from cannabis! Now, before y’all flip your lid, allow us the opportunity of preempting any hasty accusations of non-Halal product-promotion. While it’s true that CBD can contain small traces of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is an intoxicant; in this case, not only is just 2.5ml of CBD used, but, having turned to award-winning beverage company Cannasa as a supplier, whose products contain absolutely zero THC, DUSK’s CBD drink is completely legit.
In fact, according to Cannasa’s owner, Matthew, the legal limit of non-traceable THC allowed in food or drink in the UK requires to be less than 0.2%. In Cannasa’s case, they actually go the extra mile by having a 3rd party accredited lab double-check their drinks to ensure there’s no THC in their plant-based products.
What’s more, we also enjoyed both the Kombucha, with its citrus and mint undertones and green tea aftertaste, as well as the addictively soothing Mint Tea.
Without ever forgetting the 24ct gold leaf bling on top, not only did the ultra smooth salmon paste, with a touch of the pistachio coming through, accurately represent the top portion of a cheesecake, but the dill bread easily mimiced its biscuit base.
Taking it down in one is the way to go. A light starter so good that we could easily have devoured half a dozen more before moving on.
What really brought this deconstructed spring roll alive, both visually and orally, is the playful way in which the apple gazpacho was made to overflow into the main dish, courtesy of a surprising reaction producing plenty of foam and bubbles, to add a subtle sour note to the umami-richness of the tender and chewy strips of wagyu beef.
By the end, we enjoyed the delicious meaty mixture, that had collected at the bottom of the plate, with the accompanying pastry sticks – provided, no doubt, for textural contrast.RECOMMENDED
As for the colourful mango salsa and the sweet chilli, then they managed to provide just enough acidity and heat to make this dish sing.
We couldn’t help but wonder though, how much cleverer it would have been had the plastic covering, which emerged as oddly chewy in texture, actually contributed an additional flavour. In any case, we can completely understand why the Atlantis is the Chef’s personal favourite.RECOMMENDED
Following an amuse bouche of watermelon foam as the palate-cleanser, we were presented with, quite literally, The Log.
But it was precisely the off-kilter nature of this dish, particularly given the flair and ingenuity of those that came before and after it, which made this a peculiarly memorable one.
The rusticity of the éclair seemed to have not only been shrewdly designed and executed to compliment the overall display, but its light crispiness turned out to be the perfect foil against the smoothly textured aubergine filling.
What really caused us to cock a brow, however, was the way in which its smoky earthiness, interspersed by the fruity hits of the pomegranates scattered throughout, worked in tandem with the superbly soft and chewy, broccoli-filled charcoal macaroons, whose gentle sweetness lingered pleasantly in the background.RECOMMENDED
The focal point here wasn’t so much the compartment in this thali being set alight in situ at the table, but the way in which this came together with the trio of baby lamb chops, smartly stacked on high and surrounded by blackened violet rock potatoes and streaks of red and yellow sauce, to successfully represent a campfire this dish is named after.
Not only were these expertly charred, French-trimmed chops ridiculously tender, thanks to the sous vide process of cooking championed by Chef Stephen, but marinated in a lightly spiced fenugreek masala before being uniquely paired with a bubblegum flavoured sauce that offered that subtle sweetness. As peculiar as that may sound, believe it or not, it actually worked, particularly with the hint of mint also materialising.
We then had the accompanying extras that included a zingy coleslaw; a pickle hummus, which we enjoyed with some bread; and a delightfully tasty ghost reaper gravy, which managed to retain that distinct flavour sans the intensity of heat. Overall, this was a memorable one.RECOMMENDED
First of all the lobster, which was beautifully cooked and drizzled with a light cheesy sauce and briefly grilled before serving.
Secondly, a brittle pastry base that contained radish and yellow beetroot juxtaposed with dainty salad leaves, lemon-flavoured foam (or air as it’s known in fancy food terminology), and a few blue pea edible flowers for that splash of colour and light floral aroma.
Comprising of similar halves meant for two, we nibbled our way here, there and thither, encountering an array of tastes and textures that ranged from the decadently hearty, though rather dense, slice of chocolate cake; a cinnamon doughnut with a crispy exterior; and a lavender and blueberry panna cotta which delivered on the necessary wobble.
There was also enjoyable homemade vanilla ice cream alongside chunks of strawberry sorbet and passionfruit sorbet, both erring on the icy side, with the former pleasantly refreshing, but the latter eye-squintingly tart.
The best of the lot though was the banoffee cheesecake, that was light and creamy; a caramel tart, which was scrumptiously sweet and sticky, and came with a brittle shard; and a subtly sweet, creamy bowl of charcoal vanilla mousse – almost rice pudding in consistency – which we couldn’t get enough of.
We also had the privilege of trying the following two courses from the smaller 5-course ‘Journey’ menu starting with The Bao.
Although the pillowy bounciness one looks for in a perfectly executed bao wasn’t quite achieved here, the exceptional quality of the venison somewhat made up for this little lapse.
While the distinct umami flavour of the lightly marinated meat had nicely soaked into the bun, the peppers provided that light smoky edge to every bite. Taste-wise, there was no faulting the sophisticated undulation of flavours we enjoyed throughout.RECOMMENDED
And last, but not least, our inaugural DUCK ‘Bollywood’ biryani! And what an exceptionally mind-blowing first experience it was too, with this turning out to be one of the best biryanis we’ve ever had.
While there’s no doubt that the more fatty duck meat would have played its part in imparting that extra dimension, the standout feature of this dish was the balance of spices.
Presented in a clay bowl and topped with a charcoal covered paratha (be prepared for some black fingers by the end), we first enjoyed the creamy-cool sensation of the yoghurt globule, before carving open the paratha seal and being engulfed in a steamy waft of spicy aroma.
Given the biryani’s glistening sheen, it was obvious this was going to be an endearingly moist affair, and so it turned out. What we encountered was a masterfully-balanced mixture that managed to magically deliver one gentle wave of spices after another without ever overwhelming the senses or overpowering the palate.
Add to that the cooling nature of a creamy raita and a house salad, and this is going to take some beating when it comes to the future of biryanis. An #FtLionAwards end of year contender? Don’t bet against it.
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Can you imagine our excitement, therefore, when exclusively informed by the owner of a Halal restaurant that their multi-award winning chef, who boasts 2 AA Rosettes, has been hard at work preparing a menu that's aiming for a Michelin star? After all, how many Muslim restaurateurs do you know of in this country that are literally aiming for the stars in this respect? It shouldn't come as much of a surprise when we tell you that no single menu has excited us more in all this time than DUSK's.
And what a menu it is too, with Chef Stephen Gomes having channeled all his years of gastronomic knowledge and wizadry into helping DUSK achieve the goal of becoming the UK's first Halal Michelin restaurant.
While we can only imagine how difficult it is to put into place all the necessary parameters and conditions required for such a feat, this new menu was exceptionally good and only a few tweaks away from achieving a task that's perhaps even more difficult - gaining a perfect 5/5 from FtLion.
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