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April, 2011

  1. Rare ‘Tea’ Lady Lunch

    April 29, 2011 by Dini

    Springtime Tea Luncheon:

    27th April 2011

    The Engineers Pub nestling in the heart of Primrose Hill was great gastro-pub that played host to an unusual tea luncheon jointly hosted by Ed (Manager) and Henrietta Lovell (The RareTeaLady and Tea Extraordinaire.) I say ‘was’ because this Autumn M&B pub chain overtook the pub and the Team and great offering has since moved to the Hampshire Hog (in Ravenscourt Park, London, W6).

    I’ve come across Henrietta Tea’s in fine dining restaurants such as Dinner and in the aisles of Waitrose. Her mission is simple, to introduce tea-drinkers to great quality loose tea and ‘de-bag’ Britain. Ed an appreciator of the ‘finer things in life’ brought the tea to life in another dimension by mixing them into alcoholic concoctions.

    *****

    To start the event with a kick, we were served a Jasmine, Elderflower & Hendricks Punch, using a heavenly scented silver tip

    *****

    Double baked Gruyere & Dorstone goats cheese soufflé, basil puree, tomato compote & confit cherry tomatoes

    Twice Baked Cheese Souffle

    With Iced Chinese Oolong cocktail

    *****

    Green Tea-smoked sea trout ballotine, pickled cucumber, fennel, shimijii mushrooms, seawater & Green-tea

    With Whole leaf Green tea

    *****

    Earl Grey infused crème brulee, Jasmine tea sugar shard & old English tea cake

    Earl Grey Creme Brulee

    With English Breakfast cocktail, orange bitters

    *****

    This was a light and well-balanced match of dining courses with tea cocktails, perfect for a Spring day. With charming dining company and great anecdotes from Henrietta, on her tea travels and suppliers, the afternoon was wiled away.

     My donation towards lunch, was in aid of The Hope Foundation – www.thehopefoundation.org.uk

     


  2. Chocolate Waterfall by Bompass & Parr

    April 26, 2011 by Dini

    Willy Wonka Cascade in B&P Style

     

    Chocolate was definitely on the cards when I booked my £6.50 ticket (in April 2011) to go to Bompass & Parr’s experience in Whiteleys. I’m a fan of the eccentric and innovative pair, their sell-out experiences certainly wow, dial up the senses and entertain.  They are also very PR worthy, as nothing is ever the norm, but this is good pushing the boundaries, makes life more interesting…

    Sam Bompass was at the entrance greeting all, we were given rain-proofs, involving us in the action, I wasn’t sure if I were being inducted to be an ‘Oompa Loompa’, but they weren’t actually needed.

    The waterfall itself was a chocolately cascade, I’m told was a 5 tonne pool, on a constant churn of 12,000 litres per hour. I don’t know what I expected… a lake rather than a type of vat, but I do realise, this was not easy to engineer and keep in good condition. Walking over a rickety wooden bridge (Indiana Jones style) to cross the stream of the waterfall, I was tempted to plunge in, just like Augustus Gloop, but I resisted thankfully!

    What I was interested in, is when I was going to sample the fountain’s offering? On exiting, we were allowed to bottle the fountain water, and flavour if we wished with cinnamon bark etc… That was the experience over, so a takeaway bottle that was not for direct consumption, it turns out the fountain is a ‘concentrate’ concoction, needing to be diluted or added to. Suffice to say, I’d have rather had something to try there and
    there to complete and extend the experience which was done in under 10 minutes flat. However, the chocolate is amazing as a hot chocolate and over ice cream.

    Note to myself: Don’t go to ‘experiences’ with Disney expectations… the magic isn’t always conjured up…

    Sign up to Bompass & Parr’s newsletter, for notification of their events

     


  3. The Modern Pantry

    April 23, 2011 by Dini

    St John’s Sq Breakfast

    21st April 2011

    The Modern Pantry

    The Modern Pantry resides in the heart of St Johns Square (Clerkenwell, London). Under the helm of New Zealander and pan-Asian, fusion cooking queen, Anna Hansen, I felt it was time to venture out and try one of her famous omlettes.

    Clerkenwell has become quite a destination for treats, with: Bistro Loubet, Zetter TownHouse, Coach & Horses, St Ali, Daddy Donkey & Prufock all providing class-act offerings.

    Onto the business of eating… a leisurely start with Bucks Fizz (complimentary from the house, as it was my dining guest’s Birthday). A very nice gesture, to start the proceedings with indeed.

    Breakfast:

    Grilled chorizo, caramelised plantain fritters, poached egg and slow-roast vine ripened tomatoes (£8.70)

    The Birthday Diner’s selection: The plantain acted like a hash, soaking up the juices from the runny poached egg and oozing oils from the fried chorizo. The cherry tomatoes bursting with freshness, giving the dish that touch of acidity.

    Fried plantain & cherry tomatoes

    Sugar cured New Caledonian prawn omelette, green chilli, spring onions, coriander, smoked chilli sambal, toast (£8.90)

    My selection: The chilli sambal is something quite typical for me from Sri Lankan cooking, adding a chilli-vinegar zinginess to the rich heady omlette. The prawns were juicy and this reminded me a little of fabulous omlettes I’d had in Vietnam, stuffed with prawns and various herbs. I loved it and was a real treat, to add to my favourite breakfast lists.

    Sugar cured prawn Omlette

     

    With St Ali’s across the road, The Modern Pantry has stiff competition on the breakfast/brunch front. I have recently heard numerous complaints from diners on twitter regarding poor food execution and service … I have to say that both were exemplary on this occassion, but it does worry me that things can alter that much. I’ll recommend it, for an innovative menu, great use of ingredients and chaming atmosphere, but I’ll allow you to make your own mind up on this one.

     
    The Modern Pantry: 47-48 St John’s Square . Clerkenwell . London . EC1V 4JJ
    Telephone: 020 7553 9210
    Website: http://www.themodernpantry.co.uk

     

    Modern Pantry on Urbanspoon


  4. Jason Atherton’s Pollen Street Social

    April 19, 2011 by Dini

    Opening Night @ Pollen St Social

    18th Apr 2011

     The excitement was at fever-pitch the week reservation lines went open for Pollen Street Social (PSS), similar to that of Heston’s ‘Dinner’.  They only seemed to be advertising the telephone reservations line and not the website booking system, why I don’t know to increase hype from engaged phone lines. I managed to get through and landed myself a table for the launch night. Fellow tweeps also declared their attendance, so I knew I’d be in good company. Excitement was also spurred on when the menu was posted on the website the weekend prior to opening, but without prices. Chat ensued ‘Wonder what would the prices be like’ and ‘Ooh, I recognise that from Maze’ etc.

    On arrival we each received some PSS Keys, a nice touch (we presumed for sort of gift on exit). The decor is light and airy with a very eclectic mix of ‘Art’. The restaurant has 4 different areas: tapas/cocktails bar, dining area, dessert bar and private dining downstairs. The dessert bar I find an interesting concept, which I’ve experienced in New York, Singapore and of course at William Curley’s (here in London). In some respects I wonder if it’s a Restaurateurs’ clever ruse for table turning in a polite manner. But, all the same as a fan of desserts, I love the idea and showcase of the concept.

    When seated I especially liked the little handbag stool brought over; thankfully I had my worthy enough ‘Julien MacDonald’ that night. The menu in the first week was hot, cold, mains and desserts. We were told that the restaurant concept was all about sharing dishes, so noted we ordered several dishes from all section to ‘share’. Not my favourite word unless of course I suffer from food envy and then I’m always willing to cheekily share. I guess it’s appropriate if you’re with a loved one, people you know well, but I’m not usually in the habit of dunking my egg with acquaintances or heaven forbid, had I been entertaining clients on business. Thankfully, Jason has reviewed this and has now halved and combined the original list of 16 hot/cold starters, of which a tasting menu could now be created. Most recently Jason helped judge the 2011 heats of  ‘The Great British Menu’ , the theme being sharing. I did have a little chuckle at this…fine words but a hard task to master indeed.

    I need to come back to try out the cocktail list, it’s immense, with a great feature on gin and ‘food-driven’ cocktails. On the night I had an aperitif of a ‘Ramos Gin Fizz’, it was pretty heavy, but taste wise, I could get the hints of mango milk and black olive caramel. On the food, I really can’t complain, the dishes that myself and my fellow two diners had were beautiful in presentation, well executed and a pleasure to eat. There were some stand-outs: The English Breakfast, The Aged Casterbridge Onglet and I have to say all the desserts we tried (of which we had 5!).

    The Dessert bar had only 6 seats available along the front (on the first night), however there were 2 on either of the sides, I don’t really know why these weren’t offered; instead of making us wait half an hour? In my opinion the only dish so far that grants ‘theatre’ is the Fruta Cru with dry ice. The other desserts are works of art, but more so watching gentle assembly, rather than being wowed by say molecular gastronomy.

    I popped into the kitchen to say ‘Hello’ to Jason, he seemed calm and collected, there seemed to be a relaxed vibe to the kitchen, not a pressure cooker at all. However, to add to Jason’s first night nerves, it was the night of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, so around 10pm the restaurant was awash with critics, PR’s and notable chefs such as T. Keller, D. Boulud and I. Chan. What amused me is that the restaurant was fully booked (praise to the PSS Team they took 5000 bookings on the first day) and these esteemed chefs had to plump for eating in the bar area.

    The first instance where I was ‘chef struck’ that night is having Alexis Gauthier dining right next to our table. I managed to corner him when I was exploring downstairs. Embarrassingly, I gushed as to how I was a fan and asked for his photo. I don’t know what came over me (the wine probably!). Worse still I had camera fail, he was amused and put me at ease, saying until recently he had the same camera. I told him that I was starting a blog and PSS would be one of my first posts, he wished me well and departed. Woe betide, I seemed to feature in his blog the next morning (I had no idea he kept one) he was critiquing the ‘me-first’ culture of bloggers and mentioned me. Somehow he had misunderstood, I was not attempting to be first to blog at all and it was merely supposed to be one of my first blogs. Hey ho, fame before publishing, so yes, it probably was ‘unsexy’ to ask him to pose by the meat ageing cabinet, and yes hopefully ‘I will learn’ – Thanks Alexis! I love the fact that he was in fact first to post, so watch out bloggers, chef’s are now out there too…

    The morning after was spent enjoying my ‘goody bag’ received on returning the key. A PSS tea bag and some lovely financiers, a nice touch indeed. I’m wishing Jason luck in his first solo restaurant, it’s great to see the Team taking feedback on board and making quick changes. There is great attention to detail and staff are so friendly in all manner of communications (phone, email, twitter), so will go back to see different menu changes and to sample a cocktail or two.

    Be aware of: Pricing can add up, if you wish to get a gist of the offering, try the set lunch menu, with some nice dishes created for it.

    Take time to: Explore the different areas of the restaurant and sit at the actual Dessert bar, probably the highlight for me, as it was nice to see and also peek into the kitchen from there too.

    Pollen Street Social
    10 Pollen Street
    London, W1S 1NQ
    020 7290 7600
    http://www.pollenstreetsocial.com/

    Pollen Street Social on Urbanspoon

     


  5. Ice Creamists ‘Taste’ Session

    April 16, 2011 by Dini

    Thankfully, ‘Baby Gaga’ wasn’t in stock!

     14th April 2011

    In 2010, The Ice-Creamists hit London, first in a much lauded upon pop-up in Selfridges in Oxford Street… here their Absinthe over ice cream stole the show. Then, in the summer of 2011, worldwide ripples unfortunately not of the raspberry kind surged across the world. The cause?:  ‘Baby Gaga’ a breast-milk ice-cream, which caused outrage and intrigue selling out and consequently being banned by the council.

    A few weeks later I noticed a tasting of their new summer flavours… so yes this is a ‘complimentary’ in payment  post. Curiosity drove me into the S&M uniformed lair, where Matt O’Connor (Owner), ruled the roost. As this was a tasting, we were given samples to share of the complete Summer range, thankfully ‘Baby Gaga’ (now deemed ‘safe’ by the Council) was not on the menu!

    The alcoholic recipe twists to the ice-creams had been overseen by Alex Kammerling, a mixologist extraordinaire and all made fresh daily. I have to confess on occasions, whilst tasting there seemed to be more ‘theatre’ over taste, with the atomiser spritzing, blow-torch finishes and of course Absinthe via IV tubes. For me, the simplicity of a good, fresh ice-cream/gelato, served with love, is sufficient.

    Pre-Royal wedding, there were ‘cheeky’ takes on Will & Kate, I’m not sure if they’re holding out for a royal warrant, it might be some time coming… but perhaps it might be to Prince Harry’s taste.

    In the heart of tourist land, they are creating a brand for themselves with all sorts of merchandise… to top up the average spend per head and why not? I recently noticed these cheeky badges on their facebook page: –

    badges

    It is destination ice-cream bar to venture to, if you’d like to entertain with theatrical flourishes or treat your palate to flavours that push boundaries. It’s not for me, but glad to have had the experience.

    The Ice Creamists (Scream)
    23-47 The Market Building, South Piazza Covent Garden, W2CE 8RF
    Opening hours 12pm – 10.30pm, daily
    Website: http://www.theicecreamists.com/

     

     


  6. ‘MasterChef’ Friday Food Club

    April 11, 2011 by Dini

    Friday Food Club Meza Pop-Up

     

    Wednesday 6th April 2011

    Not a Friday, not in Lee (Creator in the Kitchen) & Fi (FOH)’s usual BlackHeath residence and not a humble supperclub menu like any other…

    Instead, I joined quite a few others in booking in for a special pop-up in Meza hosted by the Friday Food Club, pulling in a few of their friends… Anna Hansen (of The Moden Pantry) and these two:

    'Chefs' - Dhruv Baker & Lisa Faulkner

    'Chefs' - Dhruv Baker & Lisa Faulkner

     

    *****

    Soho Breeze

    *****

    Friday Food Club Amuse Bouche

    (Possibly the best amuse bouche I’ve ever tasted, with sweet green peas and chorizo, a vividly decorated and tasty delight)

    *****

    British Asparagus with Tarragon Butter, Deep Fried Burford Brown Egg & Parmesan Shavings

    served with

    Christophe et Fils Chablis 2009 (from Naked Wines)

    (Firstly, apologies for my photos, I haven’t done the Burford Brown egg justice. The ‘money shot’ indeed was on the slice when the yolk seeped)

    *****

    Pan Fried Sea Bream, Crispy Squid & Compound Butter

    *****

    Belly of Pork, Spiced Stuffing, Butternut Squash Puree, Pomme Anna, Apple Jelly & Coriander Jus

    served with

    Fairhills Vineyard Fairtrade Mendoza Malbec 2009 (from Origin Wine)

    (The spiced stuffing balls were divine as was the crackling, which I snuck extra’s of from the platter)

    *****

    Bison Grass Vodka & Mint Panna Cotta, Roasted Cardomom & Honey Figs on Shortbread

    served with

    Benjamin Dernault Montahuc 2007 (from Naked Wines)

    (The combo of Zubrowka bison grass vodka with creamy panna cotta wasn’t for me, however it did have a stunning wibbly wobble)

    *****

    Mint Tea

    *****

    I loved the fact that all diners, were given a Friday Food Club muffin at the end of the night. For those who could eat another morsel either there or in the cab home (which I couldn’t) or in my case, devoured for breakfast the next morning. It’s cute touches such as this that made me appreciate the night and value the efforts of our Host and Organiser – Lee (not forgetting wonderful Fi, not pictured!)

     

    Our Host - Lee

    Our Host - Lee

    To find out more details about Friday Food Club and future events, go to http://www.fridayfoodclub.com/