Tudor Road

I think supper clubs are so exciting, everyone is a different experience as the host gets a free reign to show a bit of themselves. With no rules, no chef to answer to, it is interesting what arrives on your plate.

Ben Greeno’s supper club, Tudor Road, is certainly one I was keen to get to. It wasn’t easy to score a spot either. So why the popularity??

Ben Greeno is a guy to keep your eye on. As young chef he has worked at some of the best restaurants in the world. From Nottingham’s Sat Bain where his career quickly started to take off. Ben then moved to Kommandanten, Noma and The Paul, L’Grand Hôtel d’Uriage, Mads Refslund, Kittle House and Momofuku.

The evening started with a warm greeting from Ben, a glass of bubbles, olives and a chat with his other guests this evening, including his parents, brother and Ben’s lovely girlfriend. Sitting at the rustic table, opening my wine, I knew this was going to be good, I just had to hide my excitement….

Jerusalem artichoke, burnt butter, hazelnuts, feta and nasturtium leaves. A beautiful simple dish to start. The jerusalem artichoke left just a little slightly raw retaining it’s crisp earthy flavours joined with the salty feta, and buttery crunchy hazelnuts. 

I love the clean lines and flavours of this dish. Mackerel, cucumber balls rolled in burnt cucumber with dashi and coriander shoots. The dashi provided some complexity to the raw mackerel and the crisp cucumber balls, refreshing.

Slow cooked egg, ox tongue, beetroot and apple. Ahhh eggs cooked in a sous vide are oh so good. Slip your knife into that runny yolk and white and let it side between the little cubes of beetroot, crisp ox tongue and crunchy apple. I love the combination of flavours.

Rump of lamb, carrots, grilled pear, and pickled walnuts. Ben chooses fresh produce from the market on the day. I’m glad he thought these heirloom carrots looked good. Roasted they come out so sweet, and the rare lamb was softly tender.

Divinely smooth rich quenelle of chocolate with gentle turkish delight and soft creme fraiche scented with rose water. It was a perfectly simple dish to end the meal.

Square Mile coffee served in Scandinavian Eva Solo skins slipped over sleek Eva coffee jugs. Served with a mouthful of deep salted caramel chocolate.

You would expect to pay quite a bit for someone of Ben’s calibre and experience to cook your supper. Ben asks £40. Which is gracious considering that’s what is asked at most supper clubs.

I first met Ben at The Loft Project. He had just come back to London after spending some time at Momofuku. It was his final night of cooking and we had a 12 course meal with wines to match. He had really pushed the boat out at The Loft, I’m sad to say it was before I was blogging. I had intended to take photos but my point and shoot wasn’t going to cope with the mood lighting. Let’s just say it was a big night and Ben was a great host.

Coincidently this was to be Ben’s last night in the Tudor Road location. I felt like I had had a lovely meal at a friends place, such is the relaxed calm manner in which Ben serves his food. I can’t wait to see what is in store for Ben in the new year, you just know it will be exciting.

Pistachio and Pickle – a Diwali feast

We have all been down Brick Lane at some time or other in our London travels and found ourselves being coaxed in to a curry house for a bit of rogan josh and rice. Diwali night Pistachio and Pickle Supper Club was definitely not conceived on a walk down Brick Lane. I mean just look at the menu! This was going to be really really good!

More weekend tube engineering works was not going to stop me getting to this do, so I grabbed a ride with Fernandez and Leluu and off we went, tummies rumbling. We were excited too as Matt had become a lovely friend since we met earlier in the year at the London Bloggers Dinner.

We were greeted at the door by Matt and Steve (Matt’s partner in crime) and given a glass of bubbles to start the evening off.  Their lounge room had been transformed by a long dining table waiting to seat 11 of us, although last week for his first supper club weekend he sat 16. Was lovely to see some other food blogger and twitter friends had come along as well, Hungry in London and dnaequalsfood.

Poppadums and homemade pickles to start. Lovely soothing mango chutney, coconut and sesame pickle and a perfectly balanced hot chilli pickle. I want the recipe for all of them!

Bonda and dumplings were lovely and crispy on the outside with herby potato inside.

Then came some yummy lentil soup made by Steve.

Matt has a friend named Kush, a very entertaining Indian friend who talks about how his mother served Indian every night except one “English Night”. His favourite was fish fingers. I’m sure they were not as posh as Matt’s though.

Wood Pigeon with lingonberry masala, coconut carrots and panch phoron potatoes. Soft medium rare woodpigeon served on a bed of spinach, and lingonberry marsala, worked so well with the game.

Homemade Paneer with tomato and onion pickle.  Can you believe Matt made his own paneer!!! I was so impressed, light and soft inside and lightly fried so there was a dry and crisp texture to bit into.

Dessert was Bebinca cake with pistachio kulfi. Made from a 400 year old Goan recipe, 20 eggs, sugar, rice flour and coconut milk and baked in layers this was one great cake. It is thought that the recipe first originated from Portugal. Filipino’s also have a version of bebinca cake, known as bibingka cake.

For afters was Chai tea and gulab jamun. Those little shiny oval balls looked amazing but I couldn’t fit another thing in. Going on the rest of the night’s food, I’d say they were fabulous.

Pistachio and Pickle is one amazing Supper Club. The food is definitely a cut above, and all for £35. It was delicious, interesting, beautifully presented, timely and satisfying. A little surprise goodie bag was also presented to us on the way out! A cute jar of homemade mango chutney, indian incense sticks and pistachio soap.

You must take a visit to Pistachio and Pickle. I’m only disappointed that I won’t be able to go to the next one and every one there after.

 

Anna Hansen at the Friday Food Club

Anna Hansen, a New Zealander who started her career in London with Fergus Henderson at the former The French House in Soho and then with fellow New Zealander Peter Gordon at Green St, The Sugar Club and with him opening The Providores. She bravely decided to open her own restaurant. A scary venture and not without it’s perils along the way. Whilest setting up The Modern Pantry, in Clerkenwell, Anna was told to ‘forget it’, ‘cut your losses’, before she even opened but I’m glad she has a persistent drive, that spurred her on, and so The Modern Pantry was born.

This was my second visit to The Friday Food Club, the first being the Mark Hix Takeover. So I knew I was in for a treat. They were generously hosting another dinner in support of the charity, Chance UK.  Anna had also given up her free time to help them raise some money. Friday Food Club hosts, Lee and Fiona are lovely, welcoming and fun. They have a beautiful historic flat and in Blackheath. I knew the way.

The usual Friday Food Club welcome a glass of de Chanceny Cremant de Loire Brut was accompanied by some Krupuk quail eggs with a chilli lime dipping sauce. Perfectly cooked little balls of quail egg covered in egg yolk and rolled in crumbled Krupuk and crispy deep fried. Krupuk? I hear you say, what if I said it is what prawn crackers are made from. Oh ahha I hear you say. So when deep fried they puff up around the egg, clever huh. The thick chilli lime dipping sauce coated and stuck to the krupuk so it reached your mouth without dripping off everywhere.

Sugar-cured New Caledonian prawn omelette, spring onion, coriander with a smoked chilli sambal is a signature dish at The Modern Pantry. A softy fluffy omelette encasing flavoursome prawns, nudged into fusion with a smoky sambal. I have to say, I think prawns from the Pacific are some of the best in the world. They seem to have so much more flavour.

Pan fried cod, chorizo and clams, squid ink mash with samphire. This was my favourite dish of the evening. The squid ink mash not only looked interesting but tasted fantastically creamy with a hint of natural squid ink . Little clams from Cornwall, soft flakey cod, salty samphire and little bites of chorizo all holding their own big flavours but together not over powering each other.

I can’t think of a better way of getting your hands dirty than in a big sharing bowl of Singapore style wokked crab with Thai basil.  Big Cornish crabs wok cooked in a fantastic sauce of sweet palm sugar, soy sauce, sour tamarind, smoky pimento,and a hint of a chilli.  I love getting stuck into food like this. A little bit more chilli for me please.  Breaking the long crab arms to scoop out the sweet crab meat, it’s a voyage of discovery. The sauce/broth at the bottom of the bowl was too good to leave behind and I slurped it up with my dessert spoon. No one else at the table seemed to be interested in the bowl then. I sound like such a glut, but it would have been a crime to leave it behind.

A new spoon in hand and I was ready for dessert. Sticky coconut balls stuffed with umeboshi and palm sugar, coconut sorbet, tamarind caramel topped with micro red shiso leaves. What I like about Anna’s cooking as that it is never boring. Her coconut balls were filled with umeboshi, the japanese pickled plum sauce,  interesting but not my favourite dessert. In Japan umeboshi is commonly served as a condiment to rice or tucked in a rice ball wrapped in a nori sheet. The coconut sorbet complemented the sweet/sour caramel very well.

Anna describes her food as fusion, and she realizes that it’s not for everyone, but a style you should not dismiss. She certainly pushes the boundaries in terms of unusual flavours and textures, but she makes them work. If your a fusion fan, you will love Anna Hansen’s style of combining unusual flavours. If your not a fusion fan, why not? Don’t be boring, try something new.

Chefs London – a supper club on the move

I really can’t remember how I came across Chefs London, I think it was twitter related. I was having a crazy supper club booking night (I booked 7 all in one month, crazy). The guys behind Chefs London are, surprise, two chefs, Daniel Doherty and Thomas Cenci. Both have super busy jobs and decided to start doing supper clubs without even going to one themselves. They just liked to idea of meeting interesting people in a relaxed environment were they can chat with the people eating their food and see their reactions while they eat. Instead of sweating in a hot kitchen in the middle of service plating the same dishes each day.

For me the interesting and self-inspiring aspect to Chefs London is the fact that they don’t base themselves in one place. They hold their supper club in the houses of gracious friends. Not without the reward of a complementary cooked meal for the hosts, of course.

These little starters of confit duck with pork belly topped with a baby cornichon were a great opening taster to the Gascony menu they had prepared for the night.

Their take on real Gascony food was of good rustic comforting fare. Could one complain, I don’t think so. The whole meal was a surprise as they don’t disclose their menu. Even on arrival there you have no idea until it’s sat in front of you. This allows some freedom to change the menu if required, I quite like surprises, in any case.

The next course was a real winner in my eyes, ethically produced foie gras with homemade toasted fruit loaf and a Sauternes reduction. Being chefs, Dan and Tom have the ability to source really top ingredients. I had nearly given up eating foie gras, hallelujah someone has had the sense to farm ‘greedy geese’, who just eat everything in sight, instead of the tube ramming force feeding that goes on. This is something I need to see in person to be absolutely convinced, I’m thankful just the same. It was not too rich but well balanced with the fruit bread. They let the produce speak for itself, simply deveining it and lightly poaching the soft buttery goose liver.

You could probably guess what was coming next, Cassoulet. Saved by the fact that there are so many ‘right’ versions of this dish they decided to make their own take on classic comforting Toulouse favourite. It was full of the bold flavours of confit duck and Toulouse sausage. The sausage was another ingredient the guys had source through the chef connections. It was juicy with a high pork (and garlic) content. The duck moist and falling off the bone. Delicious rustic fare.

What would be a French meal without a cheese course. Goats cheese from the base of the Pyrenees melted on torn bread. Oh yes this was rustic but at this stage of an evening chatting to a table of 7 new people, one was glad of the easy, tasty pleaser.

On the kitchen inspection I expected the usual busy heads down affair but it was clean, benches lined with awaiting plates and a clean sink. Dan and Tom leaning against the bench chatting and having the occasional sip of beer??? Is this the mark of professionals or the clever type of menu they had chose for the night.

Dessert, an apple, Agen prune and Armagnac bake topped with a short pastry topped with clotted cream. Yes admittedly clotted cream is not typically seen as  French but Dan’s excuse was that we are British and we think it tastes good. Good enough reason for me. Served, like your mum, at the table, calling the portion size you wanted, was the beauty of such a small group.

Having a dinner party at your friends flats can limit the size of your party some what but at least you still get to have them and not at all. Dan andTom love the small intimate tables where everyone can chat to each other. They are starting to have a regular following of people on all sides of  London, depending on where the supper club is held. Well done guys, the winter roast with roast chestnuts is sounding pretty good….let me know.

 

 

Saltoun Supper Club

I have to warn you, I am a big Supper Club Fan. The Saltoun Supper Club was the first one I ever visited and I have a bit of a soft spot for the place.Arno Maasdorp is the man behind Saltoun Supper Club. After working in catering and restaurants for some 20yrs, collecting vintage crockery and trinkets along the way, Arno felt like really had no excuse not to start a supper club.  So in April 2009, Saltoun Supper Club was born. Tucked away upstairs in a terrace house in Brixton,  Arno hosts 14-16 people for dinner twice a week.It is not a supper club with big communal tables but one of  intimate dining tables. If you book for 3, you sit a table for 3. The space is cosy but not over crowded.  Surrounded by all the quirky plates, flowers, candles, bugs and a few stuffed birds, it somehow makes you feel at home. Well my home is not like this but I would be quite happy if it was.

There is a loft space where smokers can enjoy a quite cigarette without having to traipse downstairs in between courses.The courses are staggered depending on what time you arrived. The menu is fairly similar on each visit but, very well executed. Arno seems to have a talent for making things taste and look beautiful.

The starter is always a fresh flavoured surprise. This one was marinated ribbons of courgette with feta and herbs. I don’t know how he makes such simple ingredients taste so good.

This was one we had on another occasion. Broccoli and alfalfa sprouts with mandarin oil,  radish and ribbon carrots. A delicately flavoured dish, with simple ingredients, that was an excellent start to the evening.  It did make us laugh at the presentation. I had to show you.Entrée has always been Arno’s delicious gnocchi. Sometimes served with mushrooms or fried cauliflower and truffle oil. If you have never been truely convinced that gnocchi was for you, you haven’t tried Arno’s. Incredibly light but still holding a beautiful shape. I always look forward to this dish.On the last occasion we had duck rillettes with roast beetroot, cornichons and pickled onions, delicious! The gamey flavours of the duck and the sharpness of the cornichons and pickled onions, classic, great combinations.Main is a usually a hearty portion of duck, lamb or fish served with fresh crisp vegetables.

This is sea bream with a saffron sauce, roast onion, new potatoes, peas and broad beans. Every element of the dish was perfectly cooked, and brought together with the soft saffron sauce.

Desserts varies but the constant theme seems to be salted caramel, and Arno sure knows how to make it taste amazing. The first time I had it I was obsessed about it for weeks, trying to make it equally as good to stem the craving, but it failed to work. This combination of salted caramel, pecan meringue, and poached pears, was completely demolished by everyone at my table.

After all that you still have petit fours.

and the famous mint tea! I loved this teapot but Arno’s partner broke it!! Shame on you!

I always feel welcome at Arno’s, you get a real sense of his creative character with his ever changing nick nacks, and table decorations. His dishes are well cooked and beautifully executed. It’s a lovely place for a cosy evening with friends, eating alot of good food. You will definitely roll out of here with a full tummy and a warm feeling of a night well spent…

 

 

Mark Hix at the Friday Food Club

A lucky last minute call from Lee of the Friday Food Club and I was on the train to Blackheath to have my dinner cooked by Mark Hix!  Yes, Mark Hix!If your not sure who Mark Hix is and wondering why I was so nervously excited, I’ve linked his website here.  Mark  has such a long, illustrious history in British food I would hate to miss anything out.

The Friday Food Club is very close to Blackheath station and in the apartment of Lee and Fiona Behan. Their bespoke apartment, the old GPO studios, was once and art hall, a film studio, a ‘hotel’ of sorts and home to the London recordings of  the WW2 bomb sirens. I was intrigued, needless to say, and completely in love with the old glass windows adorning their lounge come dining room

Mark, who had been there all day, and Lee were still busy in the kitchen.  Most people had eagerly arrived, 16 people in all.  I sat at our table to read about the reason Mark agreed to cook (aside from being friends with Lee),  Chance UK.

This is a London charity who aim to help reduce crime and antisocial behaviour in 5-11 year olds, by providing mentoring programmes.  Seems even more relevant since Lee and Fiona had their bicycle and golf clubs stolen from the entry to their flat the day before. All proceeds from the night went to Chance UK and Mark gave his night up for free as well. The first tasty morsel to arrive at our table was a Friday Food Club amuse bouche, Deep Fried Quails Eggs with an Asparagus Puree. These were delicious! The breadcrumbs had been well seasoned and crispy! The yolk meltingly soft. I loved it so much I had to copy the recipe from their website. (click here and you can have it too).

Mark brought the next dish to our table and had decided to sit with us for dinner. Popping up and down to the kitchen, he still managed to look relaxed as though he was just having friends round for dinnerHow beautiful does this sharing plate look! Full of duck, chicken and quail eggs, some shelled, some not, sitting on a bed of cress, adorned with baby fennel and chervil. To accompany this Lee had made loaves of white bread, homemade celery salt and mayonnaise.All the dishes of the evening were paired with wonderful wines, chosen by Phillip Mouche. The seasonal mixed eggs were paired with Cremant de Loire De Chancenay 2008, France.De Beauvoir smoked salmon ‘HIX cure’ with shaved fennel salad. A simple, delicately smoked salmon, served with a Sauvignon Blanc Domaine Pont du Livier 2009, Loire, France.  The most interesting aspect to this dish being that Mark smoked this salmon himself. Actually he smokes all the salmon for his restaurants!

He had us all gripped in his story about how he used to smoke it at home but trundling down the backyard with trays full of salmon at 3am was not a good idea. You will never guess where he has his smokers now….on the roof of Selfridges!!! I’m inspired, although there is the slight problem of the absence of a backyard or access to Selfridges roof. The main attraction was Pan Fried Ling with Summer Vegetables, paired with a Sancerre Domaine de la Rossignol 2009, Loire, France. The conversation then turned to the ling, a fish you rarely see on a menu and one alot of us had never tasted. It was cooked perfectly, as you would expect, with an interesting texture. It was a kind of chewy fish, not in a bad way, just unusual. I always love a bit of nutty butter drizzled over my fish too. The broad beans, peas, beans and pea shoots, very British, were a good example of the great produce we have here.

Mark, who is known for his strong support of British food, believes we should be sourcing our fish from small quality producers. I agree, this will thus support not only our environment and economy but encourage the ‘comeback’ of good British fare.Dessert was one you might remember from ‘The Great British Menu’ where Mark served this for a banquet hosted by Prince Charles.  Perry Jelly with Summer Fruits and elderflower ice cream, served with a Prosecco Rose Follador Di Valdobbiadene 2009, Col San Martino, Italy.  Delicious! seriously delicious, not an morsel left on anyones plate.  Lee had made the ice cream in his Gelato 3000, and wouldn’t I love one of those!  I think Lee can’t help but experiment with it because the ice cream was actually a rich custard, elderflower and raspberry ripple delight!

To finish the meal Mark and Lee served a selection of British cheeses with a Cote du Rhone Domaine Bouvachon Nomine 2008, Rhone (organic).  I was too busy taking the opportunity too have my photo taken with Mark, and too full to taste it for that matter. Then I spotted something very sweet!How cool are these chocolates! Made by a friend of Lee and Fiona’s, Angel, from Vintage Patisserie.

I didn’t leave empty handed either. I got a little cherry and ginger muffin to take home (a Friday Food Club regular gift), which came in handy for breakfast the next day. Chance UK also gave each of us a card, to say thanks.BUT that’s not all, I left with such a buzz, I had such a great time! Lee and Fiona are such wonderful hosts. They really looked like they were having a great time too. Mark was relaxed and it was lovely of him to sit at our table and join in our conversation and food, cured salmon, and how to build your own wood-fired oven.

I wish I could pop along to all the dinner’s Friday Food Club are planning (yes i know the chefs they have lined up to come over)! When they are not having fun inviting fantastic chefs to come and cook, Lee (who is a trained chef) does do dinner. I hear his food is superb. You will definitely have a good time, enjoying good food and fun company.

Shacklewell Nights

After a four flight climb in skyscraper heels I finally arrived at Shacklewell Nights! It was a warm summer day, and even warmer on the top floor of this former fashion factory.  I was greeted with a cool glass of  Vino Verde Arca Nova 2009 (chosen by The Wine Sleuth, supplied by Casa Leal) and I set off to mingle. I didn’t get far once I met the lovely Gizzi Erskine and her boyfriend Dean. It didn’t seem long before we were given a generous top-up and shown to our table.

We had barely sat down when Dr G (aka The London Foodies’ partner) popped the pink bubbly all over my phone, camera, and into my handbag. If I was sitting 2 inches to the right I would have been drowned! No sooner had the waiter and Dr G cleaned up accident when the guy beside me knocked over a full bottle of wine onto his plate smashing it in half! I bet they thought our table was going to be a hand full! But they took it in their stride.

The first course was an inviting summer Brown Shrimp, Potato and Samphire dish. It was a lovely balance of salty capers soft waxy potatoes and those tiny brown shrimp. I did feel sorry for whoever had the task of prepping all those tasty pink curls.

Our second course was Braised Duck Leg with White Beans and Tarragon Aioli, but it was so much more! The duck was moist and fell off the bone onto your fork. The beans with bacon, braised in fino, chicken stock, white onion and sage with watercress, was a perfect accompaniment. The tarragon aioli accenting the duck with a slight citrus lift.

Then comes a simple Raspberry Sorbet, delicious and refreshing. A shot of vodka, from Sacred Micro Distillery in Highgate, was served with it.  It was a nice gesture but I think the sorbet alone would have been delightful.

Dessert is a Blackberry Fool, a thick concentrated syrupy blackberry layer topped with a gentle vanilla cream layer and then a softer mix of the two on top.  A crunch of toasted almond flakes sprinkled over the fool gave added texture. This was served with a thin shortbread of the most beautiful soft, buttery, crumbly nature.  Bless them, they brought some extra shortbread to our table.This is really not a typical supper club and the two collaborators, Claire Roberson (from the temporarily closed Green Onions Supper Club) and Jonathan Woolway (currently a chef at St John) feel that it is more like a pop-up restaurant (both pictured on the right below).  It would be impossible to serve this many people without the help of waiters and waitresses.  On their opening night they had 65 people and 45 the following night!!I managed to get into the kitchen to meet the crew and see the tiny space they have to work from. You could never plate up individual dishes from there, for so many. The shared plates worked very well for entree and main, and individual desserts.  Making this all work smoothly is no mean feat.  

I enjoyed the atmosphere created in this space, it felt like people were excited to be there. I certainly was, we had good relaxed food and a great table of company to share it with. Shacklewell Nights are running two nights a week, every two months until April. The four courses are £35 with an aperitif and is also BYO.