Reviewed by Lynn Short
I was thrilled to be allocated this review especially as it was something my husband and I could enjoy doing together.
The Half Day Cooking Class voucher was sent to me directly by Buyagift. It came in a presentation wallet accompanied by a gift notification, Buyagift’s terms and conditions and a description of the experience. There was clear information on how to book the experience and check availability. The booking was done online, although there is a telephone number for anyone who is having difficulty. The process was straightforward – in fact it must have been because I am generally unhappy about/useless at booking things online and tend to panic – and I made a successful booking. I had to activate my voucher on the Buyagift website and could then link to the Smart School of Cookery website.
There are 4 venues to choose from (Danbury, Maidenhead, London or Stansted) . I wanted to participate in a course at the London venue (Tower Hamlets) so I selected that venue and then looked at their course timetable. There were so many courses to choose from, among them Simple Curries, Luxury Pies, Artisan Baking, Sushi and Japanese, Sausage Making and many others. After a discussion with my husband we chose to do the Patisserie Course.
The venue was easy to find and is roughly mid-way between West India Quay DLR station and the Museum of London, Docklands. The door was opened a few minutes before the course was due to start and we were shown where to put our bags and coats. We were then told to wash our hands and were supplied with plastic aprons. There was a row of chairs for us to sit on facing a “counter” on which were hobs with ovens below. The ingredients for the three items we were going to make were laid out and ready to be used.
The tutor introduced herself and her assistant and explained how things would proceed. Basically, she would tell us how to cook the chosen items and we would be invited individually to undertake part of the processes. We were going to make Profiteroles, a Chocolate Roulade and Tarte Tatin. My husband was the first person to be called out and he started the profiteroles by making the basic dough. While he was doing this another participant was asked to start combining the ingredients for the roulade. One by one everyone became involved in some aspect. I had to squeeze the profiterole dough out onto the baking sheet using a piping bag and we were shown a technique for doing this successfully – I have always been hopeless at piping with a bag and generally use the cylindrical metal icing sets, but I managed this quite well. People were slicing apples, cutting up strawberries, selecting flavours to add and making fillings. I was asked to beat the mascarpone and then add sugar until I thought it was the right degree of sweetness – this was wonderful as I had to keep tasting it! I was full of admiration for the gentleman who successfully rolled up the roulade.
Throughout the course we were given useful tips and we could ask as many questions as we wanted. The tutor was delightful, very friendly and helpful and gave great encouragement and praise. Her assistant was busy clearing away and washing up the utensils etc. as we finished using them.
All three creations turned out very well. It is not permitted for food to be taken away from the venue so we had to eat it there – such a hardship! It all tasted lovely and of course everyone had their own preferences. I think the roulade came out on top for me and the tarte tatin for my husband.
This venue can take 20 people per course but on this occasion there were only 8 of us so we probably had more opportunity to be hands on. The weekends are usually busier than mid-week and our course was on a Tuesday afternoon (This Buyagift experience is available Monday-Thursday, approximate starting times are 10am-1pm for morning sessions and 2pm-5pm for afternoon sessions).
Now I have a confession to make – I am not actually very keen on cooking although I do prefer doing deserts to other dishes. My husband loves cooking and he is very good but he does not like doing sweet things. However, having done this course I feel more inspired to tackle something else and my husband thoroughly enjoyed the experience, in fact so much so that we will be booking ourselves on to more courses in the future.
This was a wonderful experience, it makes an ideal gift and I would thoroughly recommend buying a voucher for the Smart School of Cookery from Buyagift.
Price: £79 (was £198)
For more information or to buy this Buyagift experience click here.