As many readers on this blog are likely to be ‘foodies’ in general, I guess most of you will have heard of the Masterchef TV series by now. It was first broadcast more than three decades ago in Britain, went off air again for a while before being revived in about 2004 or 2005. It’s effectively a cooking version of the X Factor I guess you could say. Open to everybody (which is part of the attraction of reality TV of course) amateurs can come and have a crack at preparing food for seriously intimidating people; first the regular judges and then (as the competition progresses) some of the most acclaimed chefs and food critics around. When I bought a gift box of Macarons from former contestant Tim Kinnaird’s shop in Norwich, England, I don’t think he was quite as intimidated by me as he probably was by somebody like Alain Ducasse!
Famous and acclaimed food critic I am not. But I’m a guy who likes his food and will give an honest opinion. So here are my honest thoughts on Tim Kinnaird’s macarons.
Tim was my family’s favourite contestant in Masterchef 2010. Not only did he come across as a rather humble and cracking guy, but he (like both of my parents) was a Norwich based doctor so we were bound to all have a bit of a soft spot for him I suppose. Tim (I don’t know why I’m referring to him by first name only; only that calling him ‘Mr. Kinnaird’ sounds a bit weird and it’s a bit rude to call somebody solely by their surname) decided to enter Masterchef to indulge his passion for food and his food career went from there. In fact, it went so far that he subsequently gave up his job as a paediatrician and instead started a business selling all manner of sweet creations.
Recently, he went one step further still and launched a new shop in the beautiful Royal Arcade in Norwich, England. As I’ve continued to both literally (on twitter) and figuratively follow his career since Masterchef 2010 ended, I thought it was time I popped in to buy some of his macarons and review them.
A gift box of 6 cost me £9, and I plumped for Salt Caramel, Peanut Butter and Jam, Gingerbread and Chocolate, Chocolate Orange, Lemon and finally Pistachio. Slightly surprisingly, I was served by the man himself… although not before a little bit of good-old fashioned English awkwardness. Just as I had opened the door to the shop, he had popped the rather loud coffee machine on. We were both then left with the socially difficult decision- try and shout over the noise and risk losing your dignity, or wait for the noise to die down with some prolonged awkward eye-contact and smiling. We both went for the latter!
After the initial delay, I was delighted to find that Tim was super polite just as he had appeared on TV. He quickly boxed up my selection and away I went, eager to get these down my throat as quickly as possible.
The photo above was the Peanut Butter and Jam. The order of the photos is as follows: PB and Jam; Chocolate Orange; Salt Caramel; Lemon; Pistachio; Gingerbread and Chocolate.
The box was simple and very easy on the eye indeed. Sturdy and secure, it housed 6 delightfully coloured macarons in a pleasing variety of colours; from green, to yellow, to orange. These certainly didn’t look boring!
His shop itself is minimalist but definitely cool. Most of you won’t have ever been to the Royal Arcade in Norwich before- it’s a nice, historic place but certainly very ‘traditional’ (read here: looking a bit dated in places!) Macarons& More is white on the inside and a bit more of a refreshing, modern kind of place. More my cup of tea.
Normally bloggers try and use ever more powerful language to try and convey everything we experience when reviewing food. Stuff has to be ‘massive’, ‘mega’, ‘huge’ etc. I won’t fall into that trap here- these macarons were actually very delicate and light. It was a real mix- an overriding soft sweetness but with loads of other little bits and pieces going on too; a little nuttiness; a little gentle buttery caramel; a little bit of savoury yet creamy peanut butter (which smelt superb). There was plenty going on, but nothing was in my face and especially dominating.
But these macarons definitely looked and smelt the part… they were alive and fresh.
And, being very straight forward and up front, they tasted magnificent. And I don’t just use that kind of big word glibly. I mean it, and all of the synonyms for magnificent apply to Tim Kinnaird’s macarons as well…splendid…gorgeous…grand…superb…glorious. They were all of them.
The Peanut Butter and Jam was what I had been looking forward to most and it didn’t disappoint. The sweet shell was initially firm but had a wonderful chew, and the moist contents were of the highest quality- a dreamy, creamy peanut butter paired with a tart jam. Next up was the Chocolate Orange which was excellent too. I’m always a bit unsure about chocolate and orange combinations. When they’re done well, the flavours complement each other fantastically, but people have a tendency to… well… ruin them! Not here though, there was a real fruity zing of orange accompanied with a subtle chocolate flavour.
The Salt Caramel was incredibly indulgent- buttery caramel with a firm salty kick to it. It was also a little more solid than some of the others to bite into…there was a little variety in the textures with some of the fillings moisture than others.
Very much at the moist end of the spectrum was the Lemon offering. Packed with a strong, cutting citrussy taste, the centre of the yellow coloured macaron was much like lemon curd with an almost ‘wetness’ to it against a crisper outer shell.
That left two. One of them worked wonderfully, whilst the other was the only real let-down in the box. The Gingerbread and Chocolate was perhaps my favourite in the whole selection- warming and slightly spicy, but with a big sweet kick up the backside as well (it was almost like a toffee/treacle kind of flavour to it alongside the traditional spice). And finally the Pistachio. I know that Pistachio is supposed to be a light and subtle kind of flavour, but it was just a little too much so for me. It was pleasant but lacked any kind of oomph to it.
But was I impressed overall? Yes. Seriously impressed.
The macarons that Tim Kinnaird sells are absolutely bursting with flavour. The Pistachio was a slight exception, but the other 5 were sublime offerings. £9 isn’t all that cheap, but I don’t think too many people mind paying a bit extra for the best, and that’s what these are- the best. The flavours are strong, indulgent and yet never overbearing. The textures are tantalising. The package as a whole that Tim Kinnaird’s Macarons& More brand offers is exceptional.
I found them exquisite to Eat, and I’d be absolutely delighted to either give or receive a box of these. After reviewing the Lucky’s Berry Velvet Tweedle Twins only a few weeks ago which smashed my highest rating score, I didn’t think much else would get close for a long, long time. But these macarons beat them. In fact they beat most things I’ve eaten in my 21 years on God’s green earth.
Well done Tim. You might have lost out in the final of Masterchef, but you have gone on and created some extraordinarily good things none the less.