All posts filed under “Supper Club

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Leandro @ One Leicester Street

The start of something (utterly) exciting..

Where do I begin? The word “supper club” has been a distant memory, and being subjected to a communal table in the middle of an unpopulated dining room daunted me. The glimmering kitchen was my hope. So was the name Leandro Carreira, a chef who held senior positions at two of the world’s most inspiring kitchens Mugaritz and Viajante.

Leandro or Leo is at One Leicester Street for 3 months (until mid-June, I guess), doing what seems an understatement, a “supper club”. This is an 8-course menu with beverage pairings (by Talented Mr Fox) at £88. Chefs are keen to exchange thoughts and diners are encouraged to nose around in the kitchen. The cuisine is innovative – an epiphany both of taste and of thought process.

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James Knappett & Bubbledogs& @ The Critical Couple

Two teams of (English) husbands and (American) wives

David and Nicole Williams, collectively known for their blog of gastronomic detours and curation of Great British talents The Critical Couple, have entered 2012 not only with the continuation of their famed private charity “dinners” in support of Manna Society but also with an even greater line up of British chefs. (To dazzle guests in a matter of weeks is BBC Great British Menu 2012 champion Simon Rogan of Michelin-starred L’ Enclume and Roganic). The guest list comprises two parts. The first list is hand-picked, both from CC’s real life and electronic acquaintances, all of whom are asked to donate a minimum prix-fixe toward Manna Society. The latter list is put together by means of auctioning. Two seats (usually) are individually advertised for public bidding (via emails and Twitter exchange), and those who put in the highest bids win. The meals are sponsored by The Critical Couple themselves and their contributors; all the money received goes directly to the designated charity. You can find more information here.

The other couple, James Knappett and Sandia Chang, were the chef and the sommelier of the evening, respectively. Both carry an impressive CV. James has trained under Rick Stein, Gordon Ramsay and Thomas Keller and worked as a sous chef for Rene Redzepi at Noma. He returned to London as head chef for Marcus Wareing and later a senior development chef for Brett Graham. Sandia has graced the kitchen of Bouley and worked alongside (my superhero) Cesar Ramirez. She has also FOH-ed for Per Se, Noma, Marcus Wareing, and most recently, Roganic. With their quirky project Bubbledogs& – the “Sandia” bar that sells nothing but champagne and hot dogs + the secret “James” Kitchen Table with a focus on innovative and interactive dining – in hands, James and Sandia accepted the invitation/challenge to cook up visions of Bubbledogs& at The Critical Couple Dinners.

 

The visions of Bubbledogs&

James immersed himself in this challenging cooking brief and realised his visions of what could be served as part of the tasting menu at Bubbledogs&‘s own “kitchen table”. “Turbot” was a dish of raw thinly sliced turbot with pea mousse and segmented blood orange. It reminded of a delicate ceviche dish, though with the fish not too cooked by the citric acidity, allowing the purity of the turbot to shine through. “Mackerel” was striped, coated in deep-fried ginger crumbs and (also) served raw. The fish itself was delicate and well contrasted by the crispy fiery ginger. There were also additions of pickled green chilli and coriander leaves, cutting through the mackerel’s natural oily-ness with vinegar-ed piquancy. The marathon of premium quality fish continued with the “Salmon”. The fatty belly cut – think Balik Salmon or some served at few very fine Japanese establishments – was here smoked over woodchips and served with lime zest. Personally I would have liked a little more acidity to juxtapose with the moreish, oil-laced belly but the smokiness from the burning woods itself was enough pleasing distraction. “Scallop” was, arguably, the marvel of the evening. These were plump scallops taken from the shell and sliced at the second of their lively muscular twitching. The results were the cleansing sweetness and also the meat which was firm but yet tender and springy. The pairing with dill-ed lemon vinegar and wild strawberries was ingenious. The mellow fruit tangs from the strawberries and the layering of such acidity with herb-ed vinegar elevated the sweet purity of the scallop. The flavours got heftier with very chunky “Eel” – smoked and served with zingy horseradish cream. There was a kind of nose-to-tail twist as James garnished the plate with salted crispy eel skin and spine, both of which contributed unbelievable crunch to the succulent fish.

Then came an interval of light snacks. “Cod Roe” was finely whipped and served with nori-sprinkled pork crackling. I was somehow won over by the following dish of “Pea” in form of two sweetened filo pastry sheets glued together by mint-infused pea mousse and covered by a blanket of salt-cured pork fat. The sweet nuttiness from the peas came through and juxtaposed brilliantly with the umami depth from the salted pork. This inventive sandwich not only epitomised fun dining but the British sense of humour at its best. I moved on to this healthy polychrome of “Tomato”. There were variations of heirloom tomatoes served at room temperature with compressed cucumber, (orange) melon, chopped and dehydrated black olive, and cous cous. James skillfully combined and balanced those disparate elements with smoked creme fraiche. The latter contributed oomph and wonderful heaviness of sort (stopping the dish from being just a salad). I also liked the mild peppery kicks from the nasturtium petals. “Egg” has somehow become James’s signature, and in this dish there were not one but two kinds. Pheasant egg (I think) was poached for gelatinous unctuousness. The yolk was then separated and served on a crunchy assortment of lightly pickled seaweed. On top was sesame seeds and grated dehydrated scallop roe (the other “egg”), which released an intense sea salt aroma once in contact with the heat from the egg yolk. The croutons completed the dish with butter-scented texture.

There were two “fish” and two “meat” courses but they arrived with “extras”. “Oyster” was a combination of supersized Cornish oysters and turbot. Both the oysters and the turbot (the skirts meticulously trimmed into identical kernal) were poached in butter to perfection and garnished with sea vegetables. (I noted sea purslane, samphires and sea beans). The sauce was an upgrade of your typical buerre blanc as it was prepared using the juice from roasted turbot bone and finished off with yogurt foam. The astringency from the foam was well countered by the more full-bodied white butter sauce and provided elegant comfort to this dish of seaside freshness. Equally original was “John Dory” with textured cauliflowers (butter poached, carpaccio-ed, roasted, puree-d) and almond shavings. Full of marvellous textures. The nutty oil and the sweetness from the cauliflower became dimensions to the masterly roasted fish. As this had so far been a feature without carb (bread), James enticed us with “Truffle” – a miniature serving of home-made macaroni sauteed, very humbly, with butter and finished with wild garlic, wild garlic flowers and summer truffles. The boldness from the wild garlic flower married harmoniously with the earthy truffle. This was a simple dish that showcased not only the aesthetics of food plating (flowery!) but James’s well-grounded knowledge in foraging and making the most out of the foraged items. Contrary to the amicable “Truffle” was “Chicken” – a skewer of two hearts cooked with beurre noisette and elderberry capers and toppled with smashed crispy chicken skin. A innovative, heart-warming concoction (pun intended) for a few (including me) but the others around the dinner table were too shy to consume the creamy offal. “Venison” brought a few back to their comfort zone. The high-quality loin was seared and served with its own jus and a splash of parmesan emulsion. Decent, though I was blown away from the subsequent “Beef”. James grilled and slow-cooked the cut, known commonly as Jacob’s Ladder (thin rib?), for 10 hours. The result was one of the most memorable piece of beef I’d ever eaten. It fell apart in my mouth, but the enjoyment did not end there. The disc of bonemarrow released a smokey aroma that persisted, alongside the sweetness from multi-textured onions and the pickle-y punch from enoki mushrooms.

I reached.. the cheese course billed as “Caviar”. There was no word play but this dainty avalanche of burrata (still with a little chill) with a pristine quenelle of caviar. The buttery creaminess of the cheese went nicely with salted caviar pearls. The grapefruit slices complemented the dish with a citric boost. “Rhubarb” was prepared as compote and served with silky, acutely sweetened panna cotta. This is another of James’s signature as the panna cotta is layered with olive oil, which renders a distinctly uplifting floral aroma. “Pear” – as cake and pear slices – was paired (my pun is lame, I know) with sweet cicely, dehydrated liquorice powder and liquorice ice cream. The cake was spongy and moist; the ice cream provided anise-y zings.

This was, by all means, an incredible marathon for a meal and James has proved through his 19 dishes (with hardly any repetition) his own talents and versatility as a chef. It is also noteworthy that after his many years at Per Se and Noma James has, rather than emulating the styles of world’s greatest chefs, applied his knowledge from his training and experience to develop a unique style of his own. He has emerged as a champion for fish and seafood marrying premium produce with skills to enhance such high quality ingredients, interweaving innovations with identifiable British comfort. And it is very, very exciting to see how this will pan out at The Kitchen Table @ Bubbledogs&.

PS I also came home with a takeaway of “Bailey’s” – a Bailey’s-flavoured marshmallow cube coated in chocolate and spray-dusted with gold. Pixie finished it off while I was asleep and sadly she was unable to express her thoughts in human terms..

More photos on The Skinny Bib Facebook here..

 


 

BUBBLEDOGS&

70 Charlotte Street
London
W1T 4QG

www.bubbledogs.co.uk


CLICK HERE FOR DETAIL ON THE CRITICAL COUPLE DINNERS 2012

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Leluu Vietnamese Supper Club

The Queen of Supper Club

Uyen Luu needs no introduction. She entered the London food scene a few years ago, shook it all up with (Fernandez &) Leluu Supper Club, and given the proliferation of supper clubs these days, has become a somewhat inspirational figure. Certainly, there had been a lot of expectation on my part (especially because I had to drag myself all the way to Hackney), which by the end of the night, was surpassed.

Leluu Supper Club is held at an undisclosed location in Hackney. The dining room was demurely lit and well stacked with disaporatic memories. I walked past some old pictures in old frames portraying Vietnamese people who should now be very old. Uyen’s relatives, perhaps? A kind of setting that made me reminisce of my own past, my old childhood memories. For me (who is also from somewhere else but Great Britain), this was not just a house but a place that took me into a very genuine somewhere-else. The crowd of the night were more of social flirts with an interest in food, rather than strong-headed food addicts.

 

Vietnamese with Home-y Sensitivity

Uyen has a very good repertoire of Vietnamese dishes and in one sitting at Leluu Supper Club she parades 7 or 8 of them to us. The suggested donation is £35 and you will have to BYO.

I started with Dill Fish Cakes – finger-shaped white fish kneaded with dill, deep fried and served with sriracha chilli sauce and cabbage leaves. Very springy texture. The flavour of the fish came through nicely with a hint of dill. No oily aftertaste. Summer Rolls containing pork and prawn were also expertly prepared. Uyen’s was more complex than any Vietnamese restaurant standard of summer rolls because she was very generous with the herb filling. (There were perilla, coriander, dill and a few kinds of mint). The result was an explosion of refreshing fragrance that I never experienced anywhere else. I also found her Bun Bo Hue so extremely appetising that my bad photography couldn’t justify. Again there was the herbal complexity in the spicy, bonemarrow-infused soup (which claimed a good diluted sweetness). The beef slices were paper thin, hence a great meltingly chewy sensation; the red onions were added at the right minute so they were perfectly simmered but retained crunches; the big bowl of lime and chilli wedges on the side were a thoughtful touch. Bo La Lot – minced beef in betel leaves – boast a subtle touch of lemongrass. The peanut dressing – peanuts, vinegar, sugar and chilli – was balanced, adding piquant taste and nutty texture. Chicken, Carrot and Banana Blossom Salad – lightly dressed by sweetened vinegar – was invigorating, a healthy filler dish. And the savoury train ended with Grilled Lemongrass Pork Skewers. Well marinated for juicy tenderness and aroma. I could do with a little more charred edges for intense smokiness. My only criticism of the evening would be that Orange Pancake did not wow me as much as it should have. It would have been amazing if the orange pieces were slightly cooked and oozed sweet, citric syrup. The hostess mingled with us sharing thoughts and giggles at the end.

This was, bluntly speaking, a very well-oiled supper club. Soulful ambiance. High-standard dishes prepared with a home-style consideration. This care about food, to me, sets Leluu Supper Club apart from a food experience at many Vietnamese restaurants in London. I was very impressed, and I will surely return!

Uyen also writes a very unique blog Love, Leluu which includes many insights to her character, cultures and recipes!!

(I also nicked a photo – the summer rolls – from Uyen’s blog to use for my opening and hope she doesn’t mind).

 

RATING: 4.5/5

LELUU SUPPER CLUB

Somewhere in Hackney
London

All detail can be found on Love, Leluu here.

 


Read more about Leluu -- Supperclub on Edible Experiences

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Ben Spalding @ The Loft Project

Young Chef(s)

Not often did I see Ben Spalding pose and smile for a camera (even his mate didn’t look convinced) but, well, he did today whilst plating up some marvellous dishes for enthusiastic diners at The Loft Project…

Ben and Loft, of course, needed no introduction. Say, 10 Courses + Wines + Fun + (Very) Young Chef = £110. While meals at The Loft do not always deliver at the same level of fabulousness, Ben’s cooking does. This time, he was set for a more “mature” mode.

“Mature” yes.. I was speaking of Ben’s stint at The Critical Couple a few months back when I felt excited at eating desserts off gardening sacks and spades. That sort of things.. but at The Loft there was no play and foreplay but a solid meal with creative sparks.

Tucking in…

A parade of scrumptious nibbles, from Colchester native oyster with lavender & lime vinegar, and crispy onions, scallops with black grapes and cauliflower, to rose veal and San Marzano ragu. My favourites, I must say, were the joyful “pizza delivery” – stringy, cheesy and toppled with a mountain of truffle, which released heavenly aroma and ruptured my taste bud – and the robustly velvety pheasant and liver with ropergreen and linseeds. And, soon after, the meal kicked off with this spectacular display of bread in many forms and sweetest Emily, newest to the Roganic family, while Zeren of Bitten Written dashed about with gorgeous wines.


`’Deer” arrived as lightly smoked roe deer with original beans and roasting jus. Very moist and complex in taste. The grilled lettuce that accompanied provided juicy crunch. I particularly liked “Crab and Shrimps”. Fresh flake-full of crab meat was stacked up a pile with grapefruit and bilberries and garnished with a school of Looe shrimps. The citrus-y and fruity sweetness marked a delicate balance, while the light smearing of yogurt made the dish so lubed with velvety milky-ness.

 

The meal picked up its pace with Richard’s introducing me two plump, clay-clad & marjoram-ed batons of King Richard. I couldn’t help but wondering if this was a pun intended scenario! Never mind..

So, the edible Richard returned with sweet onion jam, pine nuts and autumn truffle cream. A dish of vegetarian luxury. I felt the warm cream gushing down, many bites of nuts well coupled with sandy chopped truffles that tickled my tongue. The leek was cooked to retain some crunch but not to turn stringy. A mesmerisingly great dish (which you might be able to have a taste of this at Roganic!)

More excitement? I had this “Oyster and Oyster”, a truly unique encounter of firm, grilled oyster mushroom, marsh herb and young beetroot VS hot and intense oyster (as in sea oyster) consomme. The innovation paid off in this layering of texture and depth of flavours. Earthy mushrooms with sweet and crunchy beetroot, carrot and radish. A pleasantly seaside fragrance in the background and a more direct note of herb. The Other Bib described it as a “posh borsch” and utterly loved it!! But, this majestic offering seemed to work against the following dish of “Pot Roast Parsnip”. Ludicrously and appetisingly sweet and nutty from an orgy of ingredients, say vanilla and brown butter, honey and almonds, wherein the snow peas and the celery leaves were made to submerge. It was a decent dish but felt slightly less dimensioned than what preceded it.

Then I had this injection of endorphin. A dish described to me as “castrated cock”. Nothing naughty in sight but this fleshly Norfolk capon cooked in its fat and served with crispy-skinned “Mr Little’s Yetholm Gypsy” and bok choi. The cock was soft and pleasant to chew. The jus was dangerously rich and with a strong blackberry hint. Good texture from barley and sweetcorn. A comforting dish.

Also oozing comfort was Ben’s cheese course of “Warm M’dor with Rosehips”, which was baked vacherin with pine and served with rosehip puree and toasted sourdough. The gooey cheese was scooped at table torturing those who were last in the serving line. Potent taste with a potent puree to compliment it. The sourdough was crust perfect.

Desserts were light. “Ginger Beer” came as crystal granita that promised most delicious gingery heat that one would expect, while “Salted Chocolate” was less straightforward. A deconstruction of salted milk chocolate, steeply sour sea buckthorn liquid, pear cubes and Astina. Personally, I felt the chocolate was too strong a flavour and undermined the gorgeous combo of garnish. I also wished the choc was more set as choco mousse as it would make the dish prettier. Promising flavouring, nonetheless!

Ben, done!

There was no better way to sum this up..

Ben’s cooking is expertly put together and very forward. I could taste dedication, ambition, sparks, fire and whatever there is you want to taste in a chef in Ben’s dishes. No unnecessary gimmick, no useless drama. While The Loft Project offers a superb platform for Ben’s innovations, I still felt it was yet to unleash his full potential that he had previously delivered at The Critical Couple.

But.. that is a good thing?

Yes. It urges me so strongly to follow this 24-year-old chef wherever he cooks and whichever marvels he will come up with next. And until he has his own restaurant I’ll free-fall on delights at Roganic where Ben Spalding plays the head chef!

For more information on The Loft Project, click here.

And for Roganic, here.

The Loft Project on Urbanspoon

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Tilda Diwali Supper Club @ Grazing Asia

After its launch in July, Grazing Asia Supper Club has already expanded into a Pan Asian super hub. The new and more intimate location, courtesy of GA founder and blogger Luiz Hara (@thelondonfoodie) is set in Old Street/ Islington, and the brand new hobs are ready to sizzle!!

The first of this new Grazing Asia Supper Club calendar was Diwali Supper Club hosted by Luiz and Maunika (@cookinacurry) and sponsored by household rice brand Tilda. 18 guests. Invitation only. I was not only in for a little bit of ceremonious lights, as Diwali would have it, but also a Pan Indian banquet.

Mozzarella-filled Tilda Basmati Sun-Dried Tomato rice balls were deep fried for raunchy crispy-ness and served with aromatic mint sauce, but I found more joy in murdering this plateful of chunky, gelatin-looking pineapple chutney with firm Paneer Haraa Tikka. Good, subtle hint of garlic and chilli to be balanced out by the sulphurous sweetness of the chutney.


The banquet followed…

We were encouraged to get on our feet and topple our plate with mountains of Pan Indian goodies. Food, as Maunika described, that could be found across homes in the subcontinent. I was particularly struck by the honesty of these gargantuan dishes in front of me. There were golden Keralan Fish Curry, perfumed Haraa Masala Chicken, glaringly red and mushy Baingan Ka Bharta, Lamb Yakhni Pulao and Roasted Cumin & Pomegranate Raita.

I picked bits.. and voila!

The fish curry was pleasantly done. Perfectly cooked fillets wondrously perfumed by the coconut milk. Delicate flavours. The aubergine dish had feisty kicks of ginger and chill. It gave me a tinkling sensation but was not relentlessly aggressive. The bowl of chicken thigh strips marinated and cooked in mint and coriander, however, was my favourite. Tender, light and fragrant. I mixed all this up with the rice slowcooked in lamb stock. It didn’t take me long to walk over for a second helping.

There came my demise. Two puddings..

I only managed a spoonful of this one. Bhapa Doi. A Belgali dessert made from steamed cardamom and sweetened yogurt and served with a drizzle of rich mango puree. The other dish of Tilda Rice Pancakes infused with cream and ginger looked sumptuous but alas(!) my trousers (and an expanding waistline) said no!!

Tilda Diwali Supper Club was good fun. Food of stunning proportion and authenticity. And, surely, there couldn’t be a more auspicious way to mark the beginning of the new Grazing Asia booking calendar.

Don’t forget to check out the Grazing Asia calendar for upcoming events of your choice(s) here.


Edible Experiences

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The French Launderette Supper Club @ The Chancery Restaurant

How much.. does £2.50 mean to you? One lunch sandwich? One and a half Big Issue? Nearly two third of a single Tube journey? But, for one night only at The French Launderette Supper Club @ The Chancery Restaurant, £2.50 set a whole universe of new socio-economic equations..

£2.50 = one ludicrously good 6 course meal = £3025 donation = many hungry mouths to be helped and fed via Action Against Hunger UK

And, all this wouldn’t have happened, if it weren’t for one fabulously cheeky British-Persian-food-blogger-and-event-organiser Sabrina Ghayour (@SabrinaGhayour) and her ad hoc team, including Simon Fernandez (@ferdiesfoodlab) from Ferdie’s Food Lab!!

The French Launderette Supper Club was, admittedly, a food spoof for the not-as-privileged. The inspiration came, of course, from world-renown chef Thomas Keller’s pop-up at Harrods that costs £250 per head. Here at FLSC diners were charged only 1% of the original TK price tag, a £2.50.

The food?

Sabrina’s menu briefly paid homage to Thomas Keller, her food idol, and departed for something comfortingly delicious. Fine produce. Competent cooking. Smart FOH. Crystal glasses. Yes.. that sort of things.

A French Laundry signature remake of Salmon Tartar Cornet, Sweet Onion & Creme Fraiche must have garnered Thomas Keller more followers. Chopped salmon swam down pleasantly in a velvety stream of creme fraiche. Delicate sweetness from red onion made it so unique. Then came a little cup of thick truffle-infused cauliflower soup and Rolled Loin of Gloucestershire Old Spot Pork. The loin was so tender I felt it was gently massaging my tongue, while the pancetta wrapping and the mushroom stuffing injected robustness. Good acidity from tomato and tarragon vierge.

The platter of Mackerel Carpaccio with Dill Oil and Beetroot Sorbet to share was a little more inventive. Most delicate and freshest mackerel slices were minimally dressed with horseradish, which proved an exuberant contrast to the chilled sweetness of beetroot. Not long after, a spectacle of Hogget Cutlets, Cavolo Nero & Black Garlic landed in front of me. This gigantic piece of teenage sheep was seared and roasted for an endearing pinkness. The black garlic jus and poached onion puree provided a complex taste of balsamic-like fermentation vis-a-vis unctuous sweetness. The only criticism was that my galette was too crispy.

I moved onto this delicious dessert of Fig Tart and Pistachio and Almond Frangipane, served with thyme-infused Creme Anglaise. Perfectly crusty base and a wonderfully nutty layer. I couldn’t help craving for one more piece!

And.. the cheese and chutney. Waistline expansion. Full stop.

The evening concluded with a very joyful prize draw. My fellow diners Su-Lin and Wen won some goodies.

I didn’t!

BBBBRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!

To sum up this meal, I felt buffed, stuffed and very happy. Sabrina is a feeder. Her food brings not only delight but also heavy comfort. Though this French Launderette Supper Club @ The Chancery was a one-off, I hope London foodies will get to see and taste more of this feisty lady whose gastronomic expertise does not just end here.

To keep yourselves updated, follow Sabrina Ghayour on Twitter @SabrinaGhayour and via her blog Sabrina’s Passions. And when the next reservation line is opened, you must grab your phone and act VERY fast!!!!

XXX


Edible Experiences