Our team member Sophie Flint visited Where The Light Gets In which is based in Stockport just before the UK's second lockdown. As restaurants across the country close their doors for a second time we want to remind you of the beauty of fine dining through our insights.

Take a read of her experience of WTLGI,a restaurant who’s menu changes with the seasons, providing locally sourced ingredients and flavours to guests, below is her write up about the experience...

"My recent visit to Stockport's Where The Light Gets left me wanting more, as each course came and went I was holding on to it hoping that the night could last longer so that I could savour this special time.

Unlike other dining experiences Fine Dining is not just about the food, everything matters and this was clear from the moment I made my reservation with WTLGI. After I hung up I was excited, and to be honest not really sure what to expect.

When we arrived we walked up the stairs to and from the outside we were the none the wiser about what to expect, however the front door to the restaurant was like walking through the wardrobe in Narnia, from being in the centre of Stockport we were transported to a magical setting, with a warm and calm ambience.

Inside it’s a spacious, open plan apartment, high ceilings and a few tables, no menus but this added to the surprise and anticipation.

I felt like I had an invitation to an exclusive show, the tables were set with chairs facing the open plan kitchen where I could see the chefs hard at work, the ingredients part of the decoration, with drying corn delicately hanging from the ceiling and jars stacked neatly filled with herbs and spices.

As a vegetarian options in restaurants can sometimes be limited, but here each dish was filled with flavour, texture and something different.

The first dish was halloumi beetroot and honey, it came delicately wrapped in perilla which is an edible leaf. Not only did it look special but it tasted it too. I was impressed, the halloumi which was made in house with locally sourced sheep's milk, had no unpleasant squeak to it and the simple flavours combined were soft yet delicious.

As I don’t drink alcohol we were given the option of a juice menu, which I was really glad about. With not drinking alcohol you can sometimes feel as though you’re missing out on an experience, especially when wine tasting is involved, however the juice pairing was a nice touch and I felt completely included in getting to experience how different drinks accompanied the dishes we were served.

The next dish was deep-fried fermented potato and smoked pear, the crunch of the lightly deep-fried potato was enjoyable and the flavour of the smoked pear really brought this dish to life.

Other plates we were served included new sweetcorn fabulous, a corn soup with a cheesy flavour which was made with fresh corn, Holbrook and celeriac, and Crown Prince squash tart which was made with local mushrooms.

My favourite dish was the Crown Prince squash tart which served with mushrooms, it was both sweet and savoury and the lightness of the pastry was extremely pleasant to taste. However, I also really enjoyed the sourdough bread and mushroom pate - it was addictive! We had to have a second order of bread, I have never tasted bread like it. The mushroom pate was incredible, I could have eaten it over and over!

When each dish arrived a different member of the team brought it over, they spent time explaining the components of the serving and how it was made. The herbs in each course were taken from the rooftop of the restaurant where they grow their own.

Having a member of the team explain each dish thoroughly not only added to the experience but it educated me on what I was eating and the components of it. It made me hungry for more experiences like this, as it was interesting to hear about and made me connect more with the food I was consuming.

The final dish was a sheep's milk pudding with plums and malt, a pudding which dates back to medieval times! It was an interesting texture, but the plums brought it a rich and fruitier flavour.

The whole night had a steady calmness to it, made pleasant by the attentiveness of the staff, the warmness of the interior and the tasty dishes. I felt cared for and more interested in the process of cooking than I ever had before, it was magical to watch the chefs working away as I anticipated whatever dish would be coming next.

When the final dish was served I have to say I was sad to know I had to leave, but I was also excited to book my next fine dining adventure!"

By Sophie Flint, The Food Obsessions PR executive

You can find out more about Where The Light Gets in on their Instagram or website.

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This month we spoke to chef, cookbook author, restaurateur Jason Atherton, who amongst all of this has appeared on several TV programs.

He shared with us how to create the balance to make a fine dining experience seamless and how restaurants will recover from the current situation with grit, passion and determination.

Jason is the brains behind ‘The Social Company’ which is a globally renowned restaurant group, including, the Michelin-starred Social Eating House and City Social, as well as 5 Social, The Betterment and Berners Tavern – named ‘the defining restaurant of the decade’. He has also opened critically-acclaimed restaurants in Shanghai, Dubai, St Moritz and the Michelin-starred restaurant, The Clocktower, in New York.

We found out more about him in our latest post...

When did your passion for culinary begin?

“My mum ran a guest house so I helped out with breakfast as a kid, that was really my first step into the kitchen.”

What are your main values when it comes to a fine dining experience?

“A fine dining experience starts from the moment the guest makes a reservation - the whole process from booking, to dining and finally leaving, needs to be seamless.

"The guest needs to feel like they are being looked after and that they can’t experience what they’re experiencing anywhere else. Their meal should be memorable; with every taste, smell and interaction being flawless, providing a sense of luxury and overall finesse.”

If someone was visiting one of your restaurants for the first time what can they expect?

“Beautiful food and wine, impeccable service and a relaxed, comfortable and social environment.”

What does fine dining mean to you?

“A dining experience that is elegant, memorable and faultless, offering unbelievably delicious food and flawless service, whilst remaining relaxed and comfortable.”

How do you think fine dining restaurants can recover from the current situation?

“Fine dining restaurants will recover the same as any restaurant at the moment, with grit, passion and determination. This situation isn’t forever, so as an industry we need to join forces and support each other to turn things around. Ultimately restaurants now need to make their guests feel safe and restore their confidence in dining out again.”

What’s been your best experience as a customer?

“It was at the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare, New York. It’s more than the dishes: both here and at Frantzén, they capture the restaurant experience perfectly and the creativity on show is unbelievable.”

Advice you can give to a chef who wants to work at one of your restaurants?

“Passion is everything; if you have a can-do attitude and show respect, motivation and a desire to achieve and grow, you will succeed within one of my restaurants.”

If you could give any advice to your younger self what would it be?

“Have patience, listen and learn every day. Oh and maybe take a day off every now and then to relax!”

If you had to pick one dish to serve what would it be and why?

“At home I’d make classic chargrilled rib-eye steaks with chimichurri sauce. In the restaurant it has to be a pistachio soufflé which has become a real signature dessert at Pollen Street Social.”

What is your favourite ingredient to work with and why ?

“Sea salt – I love it. I even sprinkle it on ice cream; it really brings the flavour out.”

We will be sharing more chef stories as part of our project, so keep your eyes peeled! Join us on social media for updates.

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You might have heard of chef Adam Handling through his dining experiences in Chelsea and Covent Gardens, including his flagship fine dining experience Frog. Adam was tipped by Caterer magazine in 2013 at the Acorn Awards as one of the ‘30 under 30 to watch’ and since then he has been ever growing his culinary journey and racking up awards for his skills.

We caught up with Adam, who gave us a great insight to his world, including some tips for chefs looking to work for his group, advice he’d give to his younger self and what fine dining means to him...

When did your passion for culinary begin?

"I’ve always loved food and I enjoyed cooking as a child - one of my earliest food memories is making chocolate truffles when I was about 12. I think a lot of that has to do with my mum, who was a great cook, so I’ve always been interested in experimenting with flavour combinations but I didn’t know I wanted to be a chef.

"I knew I didn’t want to go to university, so when I finished by GCSEs, I joined Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland as their first ever trainee chef ten days after my 16th birthday. It was crazy, I’d never seen anything like a busy, fast-paced kitchen before but I fell in love with it and it’s where I felt at home."

What are your main values when it comes to a fine dining experience?

"There are the obvious ones - it needs to serve delicious food, it needs to feel comfortable, the surroundings and atmosphere need to work, and the service has to be great. For me, there also has to be something standout. Something different to anywhere else that’s going to make you remember that meal for the rest of your life."

What should people look for when it comes to getting the best experience from a fine dining restaurant?

"It’s not a physical thing - I personally don’t think there need to be starched tablecloths or fancy cloches. Fine dining comes in many different forms. What I look for is to be made to feel comfortable and feel like a valued guest.

"Food aside, it really is all about the service. You will remember great food, but you’ll go back for great service."

If someone was visiting one of your restaurants for the first time what can they expect?

"Something unexpected. I want to break the boundaries of traditional formal settings but not compromise on the quality of the offering. My food and the way my restaurants look don’t match. It’s most important to me that my guests feel comfortable, we don’t do formal or rigid. It’s a relaxed, comfortable experience with outstanding food and wine."

How do you think fine dining restaurants can recover from the current situation?

"I think they need to carry on doing what they’re doing, there isn’t much more the industry can do or give. Continue to serve great food, give people great experiences, and hope they continue to come back. If restaurants can afford to do added-value deals or offers, I would advise it. Restaurants are struggling but so are the people dining in them. Not every restaurant can afford to do that though, and that’s totally understandable."

What’s been your best experience as a customer?

"One of my favourite restaurants, which has sadly recently closed, was The Greenhouse in Mayfair. The food was absolutely incredible, I went back several times. That’s what makes a great restaurant - you can go back time and time again, and enjoy it just as much, if not more than you did the first time."

Advice you can give to a chef who wants to work at one of your restaurants?

"If you really want to work in my group, the most important thing for me is personality. The biggest factor in my decision-making process is when I actually meet them. I need to know that they will work in the team, but I also want to hear why they want to work for me.

"I want to know that they love it and believe in what we do. It’s so important to understand the food first, to eat the food first and know the kind of experience we want to offer our guests. Do your research and put in the groundwork."

If you had to pick one dish to serve what would it be and why?

"It changes all the time but at the moment, it would be my ‘Wagyu lobster’ dish, available on the tasting menu at Frog by Adam Handling in Covent Garden. It’s so simple but absolutely flawless in my eyes. It’s a perfect representation of the quality of the ingredients that come out of Scotland, and demonstrates that you don’t need to have a million ingredients and a hundred techniques to make an incredible dish.

"Sometimes, simple is best."

What is your favourite ingredient to work with and why ?

"That’s a very difficult one to answer, I love so many different ingredients so I don’t think I could pick just one. My favourite thing to do with an ingredient is find more sustainable ways to use it - finding different, unexpected ways to use parts of ingredients that are often not used and turning them into something delicious.

"That’s a big part of my entire restaurant group, and you’ll always find something unusual on our menus that you might not have been expecting to see, but are always delicious."

What’s your proudest moment as a chef?

"Winning Chef of The Year was a big one, but I would probably have to say opening my very first restaurant, The Frog E1, was one of my proudest moments. It was my first independent restaurant that was all about how I wanted to serve food. I didn’t have to answer to anyone or get permission to do certain things, it was 100% me.

"If the team and I wanted it to happen, it did. We put so much love and energy into that restaurant - we painted the walls ourselves, fitted all the fixtures ourselves (including putting the door handles on backwards). The restaurant was relatively small, and next to a car park in Shoreditch, but everyone absolutely loved it and I was so proud of what we had achieved together."

If you could give any advice to your younger self what would it be?

"That’s a tough one. If I could go back a few years and give myself some advice, I think it would be to not open as many restaurants so quickly. I would tell myself to have more time to enjoy the process rather than moving on to the next restaurant so quickly. I’ve loved all of my restaurants, but I think I need to chill out a bit more and enjoy them."

You can find out more about Adam here

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