Tag: underground restaurants

Almost 99 Bottles of Wine on the Wall…and Nearly 99 Courses to Follow.

Imagine a world where your bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich comes in one surprising multitextured bite of  Essence of BLT. Where Death of Elvis is a completely bizarre and completely delectable mouthful of  solid yet somehow softly melting banana, peanut butter, nutella and jam.  Where the cheese never seems to end and where the wine flows like the water dripping from the ceiling…

It sounds like Wonderland, but don’t be fooled by the 7 foot tall cross-dressing Alice in spectacularly tall heels opening the door. It’s 99, a pop-up restaurant run by friends Whetham and Dave, who have combined their impressive and inventive artistic, hosting, and culinary talents to create a spectacular and stomach-busting evening of performance, gastronomy and often a topsy-turvy combination of the two.

I was honored to be invited along to help out in the kitchen on the final night of 99’s first run. Donning pristine chef’s whites in the kitchen of their Victorian mansion in Hackney, I joined chefs Dave and Hugo to whip, dip, bread,  layer, chop, and see the magic happen behind the scenes.

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Butternut Squash Polenta and Other Mayhems: Deadpan Restaurant’s Opening Nights

So much has happened in the last few weeks. Amin is now gallivanting in Dresden, and Judy has proven a valuable addition to our kitchen cohort. We at Deadpan Restaurant had our opening debut a few weeks ago, and then a repeat event this past weekend. It was, in a word, insane. Five dishes, 12 guests per event, hours upon hours in the kitchen, and I don’t think I’ll ever look a pot of polenta in the eye again.

Let’s talk about the menu. Since we’re new at this whole restaurant thing, we haven’t really figured out how to simultaneously serve a secret supper and photodocument it, so bear with us on the pictures!

We started with a red wine oxtail and beef tongue stew, served as chilled, jelly hemispheres, with a layer of homemade Momofuku pickles on a toasted baguette round.

Probably the most challenging dish of the evening, our tongue-and-tail amuse bouche was cast in a mold designed and cut by Amin. Pretty cool, huh? We value the use of all parts of the animals we eat, and wanted our guests to do the same. To our surprise and delight, nobody tried to escape the event while we described this dish, and everyone cleaned their plate! On a side note, those pickles are so addictive and delicious – definitely at the top of my these-are-so-easy-to-make-i’ll-never-buy-them-again list.

For our starter, we served the dish that has been our pride, joy, and near-undoing for the last several months: pork belly with butternut squash polenta. Cured for two days in a mix of brown sugar, sea salt, cinnamon, cloves, star anise and black pepper, and then braised for upwards of three hours in a pot of chicken stock and Delirium Tremens (famed as the best beer in the world), this local pork from Autumn’s Harvest Farm is tender, buttery, and melts in your mouth. The butternut squash polenta is cooked on the stovetop and then baked (or is it fried?) on cast iron with a lot of butter. We made our sauce out of a reduction of the braising liquid and some Cornell Orchards cider. This isn’t actually the pork belly we served, but an earlier incarnation that looks mostly alike:

We also served some cider mulled with the same spice mix that we cured the belly with. Still with us, even through the bad flash photography? Our other three dishes, after the jump…

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Salt, Pepper and Reckless Abandon: A Lovely Evening At A Brand New London Supper Club

Salt, pepper, and reckless abandon? Sounds just like my kind of evening.

The adorable setting above, complete with handmade British napkin, comes courtesy of Lex of LexEat, the kitchen mistress of a brand new London underground restaurant. I love underground restaurants/ secret suppers because you never know what you’re going to get. It’s a bit of the surprising and unexpected from the culinary and creative mind of someone who cares enough to prepare a whole meal, or rather, a whole dining experience for you and your new friends for the evening.  This secret supper from a few weeks ago was a secret supper done right, an excellent meal with great company and all sorts of additional little touches to make a fantastic evening.

A perfect example is this lovely little plate below. Not only is it pretty, but it’s accompanied by an charmingly handwritten menu and even more importantly, topped with homemade orange pepper tortelli.

Casual yet well-designed, carefully thought out yet seemingly effortless – that’s pretty much how the whole night went.  We sat next to some great people and chatted food, games, and travel over multiple bottles of wine.

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rambling restaurant: pissaladiere, harissa chicken, and another perfect symphony of dessert

pissaladiere with roasted tomatoes

welcome to the third edition of the rambling restaurant, brought to you by chef foodrambler, michelle the poet, and me. for the first time, i remembered to take photos of all three courses, so this post is all about the food. get ready for some serious food porn.

course one: pissaladière (best pronounced with a throaty french accent like you’re trying to clear something out of your sinuses). it’s a french tart made with slow-cooked onions, anchovies, and olives on a puff pastry, served with roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh basil.

pissaladiere - onion anchovy and olive tart - small

course two: harissa-spiced chicken with roasted potatoes and eggplant on a lentil, mint, and feta salad, topped with a thin strip of marinated red pepper.

harissa chicken with roasted eggplant, potatoes and lentil salad

course three: meringues filled with almond cream, topped with raspberries, strawberries, and a thin shard of almond bark.

meringue with almond cream and summer fruit

this dessert blew me away – just a day after waxing rhapsodically about the pavlova from frizzante, the talented miss foodrambler concocts her very own equally spectacular version. crunchy almond bark, sweet and juicy fruit, smooth and buttery cream, soft-yet-also-with-structural-integrity meringue – it was a beautifully complex symphony of contrasting tastes and textures in a single bite.  luckily there were many bites to go around…

so many meringues with almond cream and summer fruit

i managed to take so many pictures tonight because, miraculously, we had the most stress-free, easygoing, is-this-as-simple-as-it-seems?, unchaotic rambling restaurant so far. we seem to be getting the hang of this whole secret supper thing (knock on wood). no frenzied moments of plating, no stacks of dishes piled precariously, just delicious food from chef foodrambler and some really lovely people. i chatted with some people from finland who also speak swedish and english and we chilled late night with some awesome south londoners. i even learned how to say ‘that’s delicious’ just in time for my trip to southern sweden this week! bring on the meatballs sweden, i’m ready to eat.