A Dinner by Chef Damian Wawrzyniak

I found out about this dinner (as so many others recently) via twitter and in the weeks before started following the chef, Damian Wawrzyniak. The photos and descriptions of dishes from other dinners looked right up my street and I decided to take the plunge and ordered a ticket, not least because it included a free lift from Cambridge and back.
The Cook’s Barn in Bottisham is part kitchen showroom and working kitchen with a dining space. On this occasion there was one long table, supper club style. Weather and traffic were horrible so we arrived a little later than planned but weren’t the last by far and dinner only started when everyone had arrived, almost an hour later. There was, however, opportunity to chat with the chef as he prepared ingredients and getting to know the other diners.
Each course was cooked fresh with Chef Damian explaining the ideas behind each dish. He clearly had done this before as the pace of the evening was perfect between watching the cookery, eating and chatting.
The food was excellent, diverse and rather different and adventurous in places. Even odd sounding ideas, like chocolate covered pig skin turned out to be marvellous indeed. Even simple ingredients like kale and cauliflower were transformed into delicious dishes.
The following photos should give you a rough idea of the experience. There are more on flickr.

Chef Damian in action

Pig skin, chocolate, spices
Pig skin, chocolate, spices

Quail's egg, aubergine mousse, wasabi, sweet potato
Quail’s egg, aubergine mousse, wasabi, sweet potato

Kale, egg, chicken skin
Kale, egg, chicken skin

Wagyu beef cooked on hot marble slabs

Wagyu beef cooked on hot marble slabs
Wagyu beef cooked on hot marble slabs

Langoustine, spinach, chicken mousse

Langoustine, spinach, chicken mousse
Langoustine, spinach, chicken mousse

Cauliflower, burnt onion cream, salmon caviar

Cauliflower, burnt onion cream, salmon caviar

Cauliflower, burnt onion cream, salmon caviar

Cauliflower, burnt onion cream, salmon caviar
Cauliflower, burnt onion cream, salmon caviar

Mint on marble

Lamb fillet, beetroot, mint

Lamb fillet, beetroot, mint

Lamb fillet, beetroot, mint

Lamb fillet, beetroot, mint
Lamb fillet, beetroot, mint

Scallops in hay
Scallops in hay

Black cod, squid ink, bonito flakes

Black cod, squid ink, bonito flakes
Black cod, squid ink, bonito flakes

Almonds, chocolate, honey, poppy seeds

Bergamot ice cream, marmalade

Bergamot ice cream, marmalade
Bergamot ice cream, marmalade

Chocolate, beetroot
Chocolate, beetroot

Chocolate mousse, dehydrated fruit
Chocolate mousse, dehydrated fruit

Keep an eye on Chef Damian’s website for news on similar future events (two running during Eat Cambridge in May) and his restaurant in London opening later this year.

Kyung’s Korean American Supper Club

I finally have the time to update this blog so bear with me as I’ve been rather busy.
First up is Kyung‘s Korean American supper club at the end of January. As much as I dislike the term, Kyung’s food, served in the front/dining room of her house in Cambridge, were indeed classics with a twist.

Kimchi Mac&Cheese

Kimchi Mac&Cheese

Take what was simply called “Kimchi Mac & Cheese” on the menu. This turned out to be deep-fried balls of mac and cheese, rather like arancini. The richness of the cheese was balanced by the tangy kimchi (which Kyung makes herself), creating perfect little morsels. I had to try hard not to overindulge as I knew there was plenty more food to come.

KFC (Korean Fried Chicken)

Next up was KFC (Korean Fried Chicken), crispy, well-cooked chicken with a spicy and sticky glaze and topped with crushed peanuts. Again, it was hard to stop eating. I would have been happy with just that chicken but a lot more was to come.

Beansprout soup

A simple beansprout soup was next, which worked as a palate cleanser and washed away the sticky chicken glaze.

Bibimbap

Bibimbap

Ribs

The main course was of course Bibimbap, a collection of various vegetables on black rice, served in a big bowl and then thorughly mixed up with a generous helping of Kochujang, the Korean hot sauce, also homemade by Kyung. BBQ spare ribs were served as a little extra protein. Fantastic flavours and textures.

Entremet

Entremet

The dessert was equally stunning, an entremet made with a slightly spicy chocolate ganache and excellent dark chocolate. Having been already full, I doubted I would be able to fit in as much as half a slice but it was very light indeed so I believe everyone had seconds.

There are more photos on flickr.

In conclusion, the food was superb, the atmosphere relaxed and all the guests had a good time, making new friends along the way.

Considering this was Kyung’s first attempt at a supper club, she already but herself firmly on the map and I highly recommend signing up for her next one which is going to be on the 15th of March. There should be a few places left.

The first Franglais Kitchen supper club

If you’re in the Cambridge area and interested in food you might know Franglais Kitchen from their blog or twitter account or even one of their cooking classes. Last week they moved into the Cambridge supper club scene with their first offering of French-Indian fusion food. The event was held in their modern home in Cambridge and, with only 12 guests, worked perfectly.

We were greeted by a duo of nibbles, a home made Bombay mix which was so much better than any packed versions I have tried as there seems to be always something inedible in it.

Bhel Poori and Bombay Mix

The other bowl of the dish contained some bhel poori, also freshly made, with a fantastic tamarind sauce. Many thanks to Deepa for the permission to use her photo.

Pani puris

The other snack were pani puri, a crispy shell filled with a few bits of crunchy veg, into which a fresh sauce of coriander and mint was poured. Very refreshing with a little zing to awaken your tastebuds.

Spiced duck rilettes, mango and papaya chaat, crisp caraway seed flatbreads

The meat starter were spiced duck rillettes, mango and papaya chaat, crisp caraway seed flatbreads. The rillettes were very much like what you would get a French bistro in texture and base flavour but enhanced by Indian spices. The fresh chaat cut nicely through the rich meat and the flatbread worked well, too.

Roasted peppers with Rajasthani Paneer, coriander, mint

The vegetarian starter were roasted peppers with smoked rajasthani Paneer, coriander and mint. I only took the photo but I was assured by those who had it that this starter was equally excellent.

Haleem Stew

Then there was a Haleem Stew, with slow cooked lamb for the meat eaters and roasted butternut squash for the vegetarians. This rich and flavourful soup came with sourdough naan, which I sadly didn’t take a photo of.

BBQ Broccoli, Aubergine, Cauliflower, Achari couscous

The vegetarian main was BBQ broccoli, aubergine and cauliflower with Achari couscous.

Spiced Roasted Poussin, cinnamon/anis jus

The meat main was roasted poussin with a spiced crust, served with mushroom rice and okra. Extras for both mains were pickled lemons, cucumber raita and more pickles. The poussin was well cooked, the meat tender and moist, its flavour enhanced by cinnamon and star anise. All the sides matched perfectly, too.

Trio of desserts

The trio of desserts was just as delicious as the previous courses. There was a chilli chocolate macaron with just a hint of the spice, a coconut halva which reminded me of marzipan in texture and a very light chocolate mousse with chocolate “soil” and pistachio. I could easily have eaten another plate of those…

It was a splendid and entertaining evening with excellent food and equally excellent company. Highly recommended. Their next event will be in January. You can sign up for the announcement on their website.

There are a few more photos on flickr.

Bistronomy supper club at The Vaults

As with many food events recently, I found out about this on twitter. I had missed the first one a couple of months ago and heard good things so I booked immediately when it was announced. The venue was The Vaults restaurant in Trinity Street.

Bistronomy: Bread, oil/balsamic, aoili
First there was some simple Italian style bread with olive oil/balsamic vinegar and a nicely punchy aioli. The amuse was a fresh and flavourful gazpacho, a nice idea to get the tastebuds going. As it was served simply in a coffee cup, I did not take a photo.

Bistronomy: Rabbit terrine
The starter was a rabbit terrine with pickled vegetables. This was well flavoured and the combination with the pickled, crunchy vegetables worked really well. The chunks of loin down the middle were still moist, too.

Bistronomy: Pork tenderloin, broad beans, goats cheese
The main was a nice piece of pork tenderloin, perfectly cooked (pink) and beautifully tender. This was served on broad beans with chunks of creamy goats cheese and bits of smoky bacon, an excellent combination. Definitely my favourite dish of the evening and easily one of the best pork tenderloin dishes I have had at a restaurant.

Bistronomy: Palate cleanser
The palate cleanser was a fresh combination of melon and cucumber and did the job perfectly.

Bistronomy: Lemon posset and strawberries
The finale was strawberries and lemon posset with good flavours and not too sweet. If I had to be super critical, I would have preferred a crunchy element as well, perhaps some crumble or crushed amaretti biscuits but that was a minor issue.

Overall, this was a wonderful meal with great flavours and good portion sizes that left you sated but not full. The best, however, was the price: All the above for £25, without service. On the other hand, the glass of Chablis I had was rather pricey at £8.50 but I guess that is The Vault’s pricing and not unusual along the main tourist stretch in Cambridge.

You can follow the chefs Ben Tebbit and Byron Franklin on twitter and facebook. Definitely a team to watch out for and yet another great addition to the culinary scene in Cambridge.

The First Rule supper club

It was not long ago that Cambridge was a barren wasteland for foodies. Very few pubs and restaurants served decent food and there was hardly anything going on outside of commercial enterprises. Now there’s quite a good selection of pubs and small restaurants serving excellent food and the home based foodie scene is growing, too. The supper clubs Plate Lickers and The Clandestine Gourmet sell out within hours of being announced and now there’s a new one in town: The First Rule. I first heard about them when they started following me on twitter. I was intrigued and their offer of a menu including wines for £35 sounded very reasonable indeed so I signed up.

Yesterday evening, I made my way to the wilds of Trumpington again (they are if you rely on public transport, with the Citi 7 only going every half hour, even before 7 so it took me over an hour from Chesterton), found their house quickly and was greeted by the hosts Adam and Pascale as well as a few friends and familiar faces.

Table

Table

Our hosts
Our Hosts

Charles Hardcastle
Charles Hardcastle from Joseph Barnes Wines who had provided the matching wines for our meal. The first one you see in the photo above was Domaine Breton, Touraine Petillant Naturel Rosé ‘Ritournelle’ 2011 (Loire), a natural wine that was more like cider than wine but light and refreshing, working well as aperitif and with the hors d’oeuvres.

Table

Hors d'oeuvres
Hors d’oeuvres, lovely morsels of food, chicory, cheese, liver, fruit etc. nicely woke up my palate.

Velouté of parsnips with apple and horseradish Chantilly
The starter was a velouté of parsnips with apple and horseradish chantilly. The parsnip was well balanced with the sharp apple pieces and the horseradish. The Domaine Albert Mann, Riesling Tradition 2011 (Alsace) went well with it.

Wine

I had such a great time chatting to the other guests and eating that I actually forgot to take a photo of the main course of roast lamb with garlic flageolet beans and roasting juices. The lamb was a touch on the dry side but still tasty but it was the beans that made this dish for me. Cooked just right and very well flavoured. They didn’t even give me wind!

Wine
Another remarkable wine was the Clos Fantine, Faugeres Tradition 2010 (Languedoc) with the lamb, full bodied and right up my street. As I thought it would work well with a lot of my cooking, I had to order a few bottles.

Riz au lait with caramel and cinnamon apple
Riz au lait with caramel and cinnamon apple, a rather dense rice pudding but with great flavours and most importantly, not as sweet as it sounds.

Wine
The dessert wine was a Domaine de l’Ancienne Cure, Monbazillac ‘Jour de Fruit’ 2010 (Monbazillac), again a good match and great for drinking afterwards.

The evening finished with really good coffee I could actually drink without ill effects (I’ve been having stomach problems drinking non-espresso coffee for a number of years) and home made petit fours. Again, I missed a photo of the white chocolate bits but you can see half of a tuile on my saucer.

Coffee

A nice touch was that our hosts not only joined us at the table during dinner but they also had invited two friends and their guitars for some musical accompaniment (and helping during service). After dinner, Adam joined them and a great time was had by all.

Entertainment

Entertainment

Entertainment

Again, I had a great time meeting and eating with lovely people I hadn’t met before which was a great way of spending a Friday evening after a tedious week at work.

Their next supper club is on the 17th of May and you can sign up on their website.

The Poseidon Adventure by The Clandestine Gourmet

This was the last leftover Eat Cambridge fringe event. The Clandestine Gourmet (or on facebook) had scheduled one for the 15th but had such a large number of people interested that they set up a second one with the same menu. I only managed to get in because I was on the waiting list and someone cancelled just before the weekend.
The evening turned out to be spectacular, not only in terms of the food served but also from a social point of view. As I didn’t trust the bus service to be on time during the snow, I took an earlier one and arrived a bit too early but that meant I could pick a spot at the big round table which turned out to be an excellent choice as I shared it with a baker, a painter, a patissiere, a doctor of physics and a writer. As diverse as our backgrounds were the topics of conversation. It was really good fun and also interesting. We could easily have carried on for another few hours but we sadly had to part company just before midnight. I rarely immediately click with a whole table but this evening was something special. Contact details were exchanged at the end and I’m positive we’ll run into each other again soon.
Conversation only ceased when another course was served but not for long as the ooohs and aaahs made way to comments about the food we were eating.
Ah yes, the food. Photos and short descriptions of the courses follow. I’m not really happy with the quality of the photos (mixed light sources falsified the colours) but they will give you rough idea of what we had.

Blue Lagoon
It started with a Blue Lagoon, a not too sweet cocktail, served with a bowl of mixed, freshly roasted nuts.

Scallops, buttermilk, white soy sauce, poppy seeds
This might sound slightly odd but worked brilliantly. This was fine dining restaurant quality.

Ginger Crab Bisque
Ginger crab bisque. Quite subtle as bisques go but still excellent.

"Fish and Chip", beer foam jelly, pea, tartare sauce
"Fish and Chip", beer foam jelly, pea, tartare sauce was an excellent take on the takeaway classic. Perfectly cooked fish in good batter with flavoursome accompaniments.

Red mullet, black beans, tarragon, confit tomatoes
The “main course”: Red mullet, black beans, tarragon, confit tomatoes. The fish was moist and flaky, the beans earthy with some acidity from the tomato, the tarragon working really well. My only criticism, not enough tomato.

Gin & Tonic Jellies
The palate cleanser was a Gin&Tonic jelly that packed quite a punch. Brilliant idea.

Hazelnut Cake, Toasted Almond Cream, Raspberry Sorbet
“Dessert” was hazelnut cake, toasted almond cream, raspberry sorbet. This looked huge but both the cake and the sorbet were really light. I even liked the cream despite not being really a fan of cream.

There were also fantastic truffles at the end but I didn’t get a photo as my lift home was about to leave.

The Clandestine Gourmet provides not just your usual supper club fare, this was superb, sophisticated and consistent cooking. They describe themselves as a “popup restaurant” and that description fits but with BYOB. Highly recommended.

Eat Cambridge: Plate Lickers Brunch

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of the Plate Lickers Supperclub, run by The Afternoon Tease and Miss Igs. For Eat Cambridge, the pair decided to serve brunch, in two sessions of 30 covers each, in the depths of the Guildhall.
The simple tables were set up among rafters, slanted ceilings and antique, wrought-iron stairs, fitting with the supperclub’s retro theme.

Plate Lickers Brunch at Eat Cambridge

This was the menu:

Plate Lickers Brunch at Eat Cambridge

The brunch went like this:

Plate Lickers Brunch at Eat Cambridge

Bloody Maries

Yoghurt, homemade granola, roast rhubarb compote

Avocado&Feta mash, streaky bacon on toast

Baked eggs & Shakshuka

Marmite/cheese scroll, banana bread, praline twist

Great food, excellent company and lovely hosts, what more could you want?

More photos on flickr

In related Eat Cambridge news, Jo aka The Afternoon Tease is running a pop-up cake shop on Saturday the 16th. For details click the link.