You’ve probably been told before to "stop and smell the roses", but eat them? Many flowers aren’t just beautiful to look at—they are delicious, too. From the common tulip to the exotic Asian flower thien ly, London’s leading chefs dish the dirt on their pick of the bunch this season.
"Flowers not only add a touch of elegance, they also add a unique flavour," says Tom Aikens, who at 26, became the youngest British chef ever to be awarded two Michelin stars. "During Chelsea Flower Show (24-28 May), Tom's Kitchen Chelsea creates beautiful floral specials." Look out for salmon with nasturtium, poached chicken with marigolds, and sweetened ricotta with elderflower and rose poached rhubarb.
"We use flowers a lot in our food at spring but we have one rule: they must be an integral part of the dish," said Head Chef Skye Gyngell, who has perfected a humble dish of grilled prawns in butter with the addition of capers and garlic flowers. "We love candy rose petals, and borage flowers are wonderful with crab or scattered over summer desserts." Head here for a seasonal feast in a restored 19th-century drawing room of neoclassical landmark Somerset House.
At Club Gascon, Pascal Aussignac is not only executive chef but an award-winning florist. Every Tuesday at 5am, he visits the famous New Covent Garden Flower Market (not to be confused with Covent Garden) incorporating what he can into his cooking. He recommends tulips: "The stems have an asparagus-like flavour and the flowers are herbal, grassy in taste." Order the spring tulip primavera with quinoa and courgette—it looks almost too perfect to eat.
"I enjoy using nasturtium," says executive chef Dominic Teague at Indigo at One Aldwych, which made headlines last year when no-one noticed it had become entirely gluten and dairy free. "It has a delicate flavour yet it has a bite to it—and it looks pretty." You’ll find it here alongside organic Rhug Estate pork and breast of Highland partridge.
Over at House of Ho, modern Vietnamese cuisine is still traditional at heart. "We use water lilies and thien ly in our Hanoi grilled red snapper, hot and sour both dish," says chef Ian Pengelley. "Thien ly grows all around the countryside in Vietnam and its sweet taste is perfect to add to broths."
Or why not make someone’s day with a Chelsea Flower Planter cake from the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge? One bite and you’ll agree, the only thing better than receiving flowers is eating them.
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