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Archive for the ‘London’ Category

molatoffee

 

I really wanted to love the Icecreamists, the self-proclaimed agents of cool bringing ice cream, rock and gratuitous nudity to the masses from Selfridges until the 1st  November. On two occasions I lured friends there with the promise of ice cream-themed excitement. Unfortunately on both occasions the experience was a bit of a let down.

 

For the record the ice cream itself is very good and so surely anything more is just an added extra; the literal cherry on top of the knickerbockerglory. The Icecreamists certainly have added many cherries by marketing the venue as not just an ice cream parlour but also a pop-up, a music venue, plus there are allusions to fashion pretensions on the website. There is a fun punk theme and on the first night I was there a lady stood awkwardly next to an ice cream van clad in nothing but leather underwear and an American style police hat looking as if she had just stepped off the set of a George Michael video. I know some people love a token nude female, a few of the back-packed tourists who had somehow wandered down to this den of iniquity looked thrilled, I however find it really boring and about as modern as a Miss World contest.

 

Rose ice cream

Rose ice cream

 

I first visited on the opening night. I had requested tickets on facebook and, through a combination of the fevered message of congratulations I had received on ‘winning’ and my own excitement, I really thought we were in for a treat. Instead we stood in a queue for a while with a bunch of people who seemed as confused as we were. I won’t go into the ins and outs of where it went wrong but basically our names were never taken and a boy of about 15, skinny jeans worn so tight I feared for his fertility, led us nonchalantly to a large communal table. The boy seemed to have as little idea of what was going on as we did and at one point asked us where some other customers had gone. He thought they had left without paying but I explained to him that he had never actually taken their order and after about 15 minutes waiting they had left.

 

On this evening the alcoholic ice cream cocktails were off the menu as they were still in development so we settled for a rose flavoured ice cream which was an eye watering £5 a scoop. The £5 gets you a generous scoop in a plastic cup. No cream, no biscuit, no plate, not even real cutlery like you get at the Wimpy. With prices as high as they are you need never forget you are in the basement of Selfridges. The music was good but loud which is weird outside of a club.

 

Absinthe in a drip - if they had actualy injected it into my vein that would have been fun.

Absinthe in a drip - if they had actualy injected it into my vein that would have been fun.

 

 The following day I saw that the organisers had apologised on facebook for some of the teething issues and so I decided to email them about it. As a result I was offered another opportunity to visit and try two ice cream cocktails on the house. So last week, with a spring in my step and a new-found faith in the power of complaining, I descended into the depths of my third favourite department store. This time the place was dead. There was no band and the staff outnumbered customers. Clearly Tuesday is not the night when the cool kids go for ice cream.

 

The staff were very helpful and pleasant. We were treated to the Sex Pistol cocktail and something which I think was called the Molatoffee cocktail, £19.99 and £16.99 respectively. I know, my hands are sweating too. These are probably the most expensive cocktails I have ever ordered, and I can only thank the very generous organisers for offering us these. If I were to spend £20 on a cocktail in real life there would be some pretty hefty stipulations including, but not limited to, a crystal glass; inclusion of all the major spirits; some sort of gold leaf flotsam; a side order of nibbles; a very comfy chair and a breath-taking view. So naturally the ice cream cocktails were a little disappointing.

 

The sex pistol cocktail was two scoops of delicious ‘viagra’ ice cream in a martini glass with a shard of James Martin–style melted sugar on top. The waitress dragged along a medical drip with two bags filled with absinthe attached. She then decanted a shots worth of absinthe from the drip to a glass. This we were instructed to pour over the ice cream. Likewise the Molotoffee ice cream was served in a martini glass with a shot of brandy on the side. The Sex Pistol cocktail was nice enough although we couldn’t help but feel we’d just ruined a £20 portion of ice cream by covering it in medicinal booze. As to the claims that this cocktail was a natural Viagra, let’s just say no insatiable lust was apparent at any stage of the evening. The Molotoffee ice cream was a combination of incredibly sweet and incredibly alcoholic. I’m sorry to say it just didn’t work for me. Neither of these were right as a cocktail but I expect with prices like these they are rarely ordered.

 

The Sex Pistol cocktail.

The Sex Pistol cocktail.

 

I think there is a great idea here that, with lower prices, could be brilliantly marketed at teenagers who want to socialise somewhere that isn’t a cinema or a shopping centre. It can be tiring trying to look over 18 and a trendy ice cream parlour with live music could be a great solution. While the high prices and the basement location didn’t do it for me I think maybe I’m not the target audience, there are a lot of teenagers in Selfridges who wouldn’t blink an eye at a £5 scoop of ice cream.

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On Friday evening I attended my second underground restaurant, Lara Newman’s Sheen Suppers. We arrived 10 minutes early and thought about waiting in the car until the allotted 7.30pm but I was too fidgety so we were the first to arrive. Early arrival is the hallmark of the hopelessly unsophisticated and over eager as I am all too aware.

 

Tim welcomed us in and immediately I was besieged by strong feelings of house-envy. Lara’s home is beautiful and crammed full of curious trinkets and beautiful art. Sitting in Lara’s living room was so much more interesting then going to a pine-clad minimalist restaurant. Most importantly Lara’s house is pink. I grew up in a pink house and I can say with certainty that there is no better colour for a house.

 

We waited in the sitting room alone for 10 minutes until the other guests arrived. A lady in a fascinator swept in at about 7.45pm which was probably the perfect time to arrive and further evidence that fascinators are awesome. Seriously, check out some of the fascinators people are making and selling on Etsy.

 

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We started with braised ribs, a dish that I was apprehensive about because I have a problem with bones. My mother is the most lady-like woman I have ever met. She is so lady-like she goes to the loo in secret and she certainly doesn’t eat meat off the bone. As a result there is a gap in my childhood where eating ribs and chicken drumsticks should have been. I did my best and ate them with my fingers. The delivery of a finger bowl by Lara confirmed that thankfully we had been right to eat in the manner of a rabid animal. The ribs were delicious and sticky, given a bit extra sauce I could happily spend some alone-time with a bowl of these.

 

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The main course was a lightly spiced curry of monk fish with arancini and peas. I would say this was the most sophisticated dish, I wouldn’t be shocked to pay £15 or more for this in a restaurant. As soon as it arrived my Aunt clocked the creamy broth and started fussing that there was no bread. Our family is half French and the thought of no bread to mop up the sauce can send one of our clan into a blind panic. As it turned out no bread was needed as the arancini soaked up all the sauce and the dish was very filling, bread would have been too much.

 

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Pudding was a a real pick and mix of emotions for me. I’m not much of a dessert person but I adore ginger. The first mouthful of ginger cream and ginger blondie was heaven. It was the sort of dessert where you just stop talking, it required concentration.

 

Maybe I ate too fast, maybe I should have saved the white chocolate truffle for my coffee or maybe I shouldn’t have been drinking dessert wine. All I know is that by the time I had scrapped the last bit of cream from my plate wave upon wave of sugar-induced euphoria was coursing through my body and when our waiter Tim came to see how we were getting along there were polka dots in front of my eyes. Totally worth it though.

 

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Cheese followed dessert in the English style which I can’t understand as sugar makes me feel replete just like cigarettes did for years. This was a fantastic cheese selection though, really generous and served with a fruity chutney. Did I mention that wine was served with the meal? Seen Suppers is exceptionally good value for money at £25 a head providing food that is exciting and better than many restaurants I have been to.

 

MsMarmiteLover, the Giles Coren of the underground restaurant scene, was also there but sadly I didn’t get the chance to meet her. She has written a review of the evening which was equally flattering however she does raise the question that it might have been better if Lara came out in between each course and if the tables were mixed so you could meet the other diners. This is a fair point but I think Sheen Suppers is appealing because with its location, its attention to the food and the intimate atmosphere it might appeal to many people who would not usually go to an underground restaurant. It’s exactly the sort of underground restaurant you would expect to find in salubrious Sheen and an interesting evolution of the secret supper phenomenon. You could easily go for a quiet meal with a lover or you could take family. I’d quite like to take my Mum, as long as there are no ribs on the menu.

 

If you would like to try Sheen Suppers just follow Lara on twitter here.

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Sorbet and flower 

 

Rosie and Ellie’s Salad Club is a food blog I have been following for a while and when I read about their secret supper, a four course meal served in a sitting room in south London, I was desperate to reserve a table.

 

So Felicity, Philippa and I made our way to Brixton on Saturday evening, undeterred by the mist-like rain and excited to find out what was for dinner. We were quickly relieved of any apprehension with a warm welcome. We were made to feel at home and throughout the evening the service was fantastic.

 

There were some wasabi peas and a complimentary beer when we arrived. Even if you loathe wasabi peas it is impossible not to nibble on them in a masochistic fashion if a bowl is sitting in front of you. 

 

soup

 

We started with a beetroot soup served with sour cream and dill. At the last minute Rosie and Ellie decided to serve this warm rather than chilled because of the terrible weather. This was a good call as I had arrived with soaking wet shoes and although the soup wasn’t able to repair the damage to my pumps it did warm me up.

 

A salad of fennel and roasted onions was dotted with capers and pine kernels. I adore fennel so my opinion on this salad is perhaps unbalanced but I thought it was delicious. Some raisins might have been a nice addition, or is this further evidence that I am becoming obsessed with the holy trinity of raisins, pine kernels and capers?

 

Shredded lamb, served with mint yoghurt and tabbouleh was very fresh and zingy but balanced and made substantial by the melt-in-your-mouth lamb. Ultimately this dish came down to the fantastic meat which had been marinated for 24 hours before cooking. It was divine.

 

salad

 

Sorbet was a lovely end to the meal. I like having a set meal that has been carefully considered not only because all the flavours complement one another but also because the person who devises the menu acts with the necessary restraint that perhaps I don’t at 10pm after a few glasses of wine when suddenly a sticky toffee pudding can seem like a very good idea.

 

The mango and rosewater was by far and away my favourite sorbet. I didn’t know how rose would compete with mango but it actually worked very well. I think the rosewater restrained the mango a little which gave a more refined floral taste than your standard mango sorbet. It was very good.

 

Our evening drew to a close with coffee and singing from The Rooftops, a harmonic quartet. They were like the Puppini Sisters without the full-on 40s gear, which is a good thing. 

 

lamb

 

At the start of the evening there were a few journalists and photographers milling around. I was expecting to spend the whole evening a violent shade of red which is my involuntary reaction to the camera but they were very discreet and agreed not to film us. A lady from Grazia asked us a few questions one of which got me thinking: were we dining in a secret restaurant because we found normal restaurants boring? Well, I’m only 26 and I haven’t quite had enough of restaurants just yet. I could understand AA Gill feeling a tad jaded and searching for the next dining-high, I however am still easily thrilled by a mid-week visit to Pizza Express. I certainly don’t find the illegal aspect exciting, I am a big fan of all things legal and if I thought there was any chance of the Met conducting a late-night raid on the Salad Club I would steer well clear.

 

Perhaps all the other diners at secret suppers are epicurean thrill-seekers but I was there because I am attracted to something that is individual, homely and motivated by passion rather than profit.

 

I don’t think my generation have had time to get bored of restaurants but we might need to reassess where we dine. Our parents may have come to accept high prices for mediocre food as the norm but we’re going to have to find an alternative because it’s looking like there isn’t much money left. I could dine for £20 in many restaurants in London but what Rosie and Ellie have done is offer something of value.

 

 

menu

 

Hopefully secret suppers aren’t a fleeting craze to be leapt upon and destroyed by journalists and PRs wearing unusual spectacles. If this does happen, and there’s a 99% chance it will, then these evenings will be the hot ticket for a few months until something new comes along like dining in a disused warehouse or eating according to the turning of the tides. And that would be a great shame because Rosie and Ellie’s Salad Club was one of the nicest restaurants I have been to for some time.

 

Coffee

 

www.saladclub.wordpress.com

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