Saturday, October 22, 2011

French Launderette Supper Club

It turns out there's a different etiquette when you sit down with food bloggers. Not only do you wait for everyone to be served, you wait for everyone to take a photo. Also, picking up bones and chewing is absolutely de rigeur.

I never intended to do restaurant reviews on this blog, but it seems criminal not to write about October's (second-)hottest ticket, seeing as I snagged a spot.

Sabrina Ghayour decided to spoof Thomas Keller's French Laundry pop-up at Harrod's, which comes in at £250, and asked on Twitter if anyone would be interested in a £2.50 pop-up. 'At last!' I thought 'A supper club I can afford', so I instantly said yes.

I've been slapping myself on the back for that decision ever since.

The canape was a salmon tartar cornet, with a sweet red onion creme fraiche. This was a Keller homage. I didn't pick up much red onion, but I did get a lot of lemon in the creme fraiche which I loved.

The cauliflower soup with Dorset black summer truffle was served in espresso cups, and was very thick. The spicing was spot-on, so that the cauliflower came through as a flavour of interest rather than a foul vegetable one gives away to one's boyfriend.
Etiquette problem though - how to eat it with no spoon and without dressing my nose in soup. I'm very grateful to Cookwitch, who went 'Bread!' and started us all mopping it up with the gorgeous bread.

For me, the starter was absolutely the stand-out course. I suspected I would like 'rolled loin of Gloucester Old Spot pork with wild mushroom stuffing, wrapped in pancetta and served with a tarragon sauce vierge', but when it turned up. Oh! It looked beautiful, naturally. The pork was probably the softest I've ever tasted, and when I read the Skinny Bib's review he said 'It was as if the pork was massaging my tongue'. 'Yes!' I thought, 'That's exactly it!' But that's not why it was beautiful. It helped, but the real beauty was the way the sauce cut through the richness of the pork. The olive oil was unbelievably good, I can still taste it now, fresh and cold. (Frankly, it deserves a plug: @nudoitalia)

The main was hogget. I've heard a certain amount about hogget, which is a sheep from 1-2 years old. (Lamb is 0-1). It's one of these cuts that's coming back into fashion. I don't like lamb much, but I did really like hogget. The flavour seemed to me much more subtle. As it was rack of hogget, this is where all the bone-chewing came in.

At any other event, anyone feeding me six wafer-thin slices of potato as a 'galette' would be in serious trouble. I'll let them off.

Dessert was a black fig and pistachio frangipane, made by Bruno Breillet. I'm going to big up Bruno here, because I follow him on Twitter, and there's something amazing about getting a blast of delicious-looking patisserie in my timeline. Imagine how embarrassing it would be if I'd eaten his food and it wasn't any good. It was gorgeous. Light, soft, with a complex marriage of fig and blended pistachios. (Oh, go on, stick me in Pseud's Corner).

Cheese. CHEESE. All British, naturally, and from a shop that turns out to be in Hampton, very close to where I grew up. Nuns of Caen, a sheep's cheese, was my favourite. The other one I'd go straight for in a shop again was Dirty Vicar (fnar!). Norbury Blue and one-that-unfortunately-I've-forgotten rounded it off. The chutney was unbelievable, the other thing I went away from the event tasting.

I have to mention the other major plus of the event, and I'm sorry if this sounds like sucking up, but I had a fantastic time talking about food-and-other-things with all my tablemates. Not a bad apple in the bunch.
They are: @theskinnybib, @sulineats, @cookwitch, @ailbhetweets plus husband, @goodshoeday and @goingwithmygut plus husband Babs. Also, Sabrina and her team clearly absolutely worked their arses off, and it was a roaring success.

Another bonus? I put in for the raffle, and won a cookery demonstration for two from Henry Harris of Racine, doing steak tartare, lapin a la moutarde, steak au poivre and petit pot au chocolat. A quick stress because it was on Thanksgiving, when Mum and I sing in the big American service at St Paul's, but it's in the evening, so I think we're going to have a fun girlie day out.

Su-Lin was kind enough to let me link to her Flickr photos, so you can see all that lovely food.

And @goingwithmygut runs Edible Experiences, which lists and reviews different food experiences - restaurants, cooking schools, supper clubs and so on - on which this blogpost is now linked.

Edible Experiences