Spanish Fine Dining at the E17 Pop-Up Restaurant Project
Better late than never – or so they say! Anyway as I’ve been so busy setting up the business and preparing for my first two Art on a Plate supper clubs, I’m only just getting round to doing a blog post on the ‘Spanish Fine Dining Experience’ at the E17 Pop-up Restaurant Project that I attended last Tuesday. I’m hoping to deliver an Italian rustic menu for one of these evenings in the autumn as Cocomero, when I return from a trip to Italy for supplies. Time then to reacquaint myself with this fortnightly local food event organised by E17’s own gastro entrepreneur, William Wong.
The Pop-Up Project has gone a bit ‘stellar’ recently, with highly trained chefs using it as a platform to showcase their talents and new businesses. At a mere £16 a head for these four or five course fine dining experiences, it must be a loss leading promotional tool on their part, but who cares given the people of E17 are benefiting! Will assures me that his strap line for the project – ‘Bringing you Authentic Food from around the World’ – still holds true for all types of cuisine and will not be limited to professional high flyers.
Chef Jose Botella of the Duende Supper Club was presiding over the kitchen for the Spanish evening. He has developed a style he calls ‘LondonMed’, a fusion of a variety of cuisines, but with its roots in Mediterranean cooking. The first course was superb – little glasses of Salmorejo each topped with a juicy prawn, slices of moist tortilla with a side dish of alioli and chorizo with caramelised onion, all accompanied by a focaccia-like bread. The salmorejo was more like a gazpacho rather than the traditional version that I’ve had in Cordoba (which is thicker and a light orange colour because it only uses tomatoes and has a greater bread content), but I’m not complaining, as it was refreshing and delicious. The tortilla was succulent, but the big revelation was the chorizo – never had it with caramelised onions before and I doubt I’ll want to eat it without them ever again! The sweetness of onions sits very well with the salty, paprika spiced chorizo.
The second starter course was described as a millefeuille of potatoes, leeks, peppers and soft cheese. I was of course expecting that some form of flaky pastry would be playing a part in this dish. I couldn’t have been more wrong – it was a slice of delicately assembled slivers of potatoes and vegetables more like a tian topped with a thick layer of cream cheese and finished off with some caramel coated nuts which worked very well and added some crunchy texture to the soft layering.
So far so good, but I was a bit apprehensive about the main course – how could chicken in lemon grass sauce work as part of a Spanish menu? Very well as it turned out, with a real Mediterranean, rather than Far Eastern, flavour. The chicken which was layered and rolled with ham and cheddar and cooked sous vide – presumably with the lemony sauce right in the bag with it – was really tender and flavoursome. Despite jokes about 1970s’ boil in the bag meals that were flying round the table, everyone scoffed the lot. I wasn’t so sure about the sous vide eggs with cauliflower cream main course, as it all looked a little too white (i.e. bland) for me, although the veggie at our table assured us that it too was delicious. Both mains came with perfectly cooked rice and slivers of lightly blanched courgette and carrot.
Dessert was a very crisp apple, nut and raisin strudel with custard cream and strawberries – a real treat with a very caramelly cream sauce that was verging on dulce de leche in flavour. The strawberries where small and intense in both colour and flavour – it’s nice to taste a strawberry with that real old fashioned flavour. Pete, my husband, let out a satisfied sigh when he’d wolfed it down!
We’d opted to sit at the communal table and met a big group of friends and family who were real fans of the E17 Pop up project; this was their fourth visit since discovering it. They sang the praises of the previous pop ups they’d attended, particularly the ‘Italian Fine Dining Experience’ which I somehow managed to miss out on not once, but twice – grrr! We also ran into the Walthamstow Foodies who were on the next table and had a jolly culinary chinwag with them. It’s great that the Pop-up Project has so many loyal followers – deservedly so. Service is friendly and informal and the Rose and Crown always has a very relaxed atmosphere.
We enjoyed it all so much that we have already booked in for the 5 course Modern Colombian Feast by Chef Esteban Perez on 26th May, Pete’s 70th birthday (don’t worry I’m nowhere near that age – we’re what’s known as an inter-generational couple – he’s technically old enough to be my father!). “No better way to celebrate locally” says Pete – high praise indeed coming from Mr Grumpy!