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.