Kang’s note: I have a superior treat for you today. This is Paula Sindberg‘s experience at the latest ‘secret’ restaurant to hit London, at The Loft. Paula owns the Ultimate Wine Company. I promise you’ll like this melange of food, music and design. Over to you P.
Ok, first question – what’s a mash-up? Maybe if you’re under 30, the answer is obvious. However, I’m not and I had to experience it to understand it. From experience a mash-up is where food, wine, art and music commingle to make a perfect evening. But perhaps it’s better to describe it –
The Location –
The Loft Kitchen in Hoxton, Northeast London, is actually the residence and laboratory of Nuno Mendes, an innovative Portuguese chef in London who is using the lower floor of his loft as the experimental kitchen for his new restaurant (opening in the Bethnal Green Town Centre complex early in 2010). Every Friday and Saturday night he creates multi-course tasting menus to try out some of the dishes he’ll feature in his restaurant. However, Nuno was merely our gracious host on Wednesday night. The dynamo behind the mash-up was actually Rachel Khoo.
The Cast –
Rachel is Malay-Chinese and Austrian by ethnicity, a art-designer/marketer/food stylist/chef de patisserie among other things by training, and her food events are a combination of her multi-cultural, diverse background and her wide circle of friends worldwide.
First, she used the designs of her friends, Zoe Lydia and Miss K of PikPikZoo in Hong Kong for the placemats, tablecards and even water bottle labels on the table.
Then, she asked her friend, Joseph Seresin, to create a musical mix to entertain us throughout the evening (we even received a CD of the mix to take home). Bronia Stewart, yet another friend, was engaged to photograph the proceedings (almost all the photos in this post are courtesy of and copyrighted by Bronia).
Joseph was involved again for some of the wines we enjoyed with our dinner through his family connection with Seresin Estate in New Zealand. Last, but far from least, Rachel was ably assisted in the kitchen by Frankie (Francesca Unsworth). All pictures above © Bronia Stewart 2009
The Mash-up –
Soft lighting, PikPikZoo designs decorating the table, Joseph’s mix playing in the background and the curtain went up on the Mash-Up –
As the participants gathered, we were offered a refreshing glass of Bailly-Lapierre NV Crémant de Bourgogne Exception Brut Intense. It was zippy and delicious and a perfect tool to get conversation flowing among the diverse participants who seemed to have discovered the event either through some connection to Paris and Rachel or via Kang’s post on LondonEater.com (Kang says: thanks guys).
After a bit of bonding time (which worked extremely well as conversation at the table never flagged), we were presented with Rachel’s opening number a plate of Edible Paint, Paper & Pencils. Served on a plain white rectangular plate, were 3 crisp crackers – one with red onions, one of rye and orange, and the third with olives. Set above them were our “pencils”, carefully crafted from a cucumber, a radish and a carrot. Below the crackers were 3 paint tubes (literally!) filled with 3 different “paints” – a spread of beetroot humus, one of butterbeans, and a third of green olive paste.
Edible Paint, Paper & Pencils Playing with your food
Encouraged to use our creativity, we set to work like kindergarten students in art class, busily spreading the paints on each cracker to determine our favourites. This was a terrifically creative idea, if an enormous amount of work for Rachel and Frankie to sterilize and fill all the tiny paint tubes and construct the picture on our plates. If the ice had not already been broken by the bubbly to start, this exercise in free-child fun certainly got things off with a bang. This course was accompanied by a glass of Domaine Lefebvre d’Anselme 2007 “Trilogie” Côtes Du Rhône. All pictures above © Bronia Stewart 2009
Our next course, A Cup of Tea with Beef and Vegetable Carpaccio Stirrers, was again a dish where we could use our own imagination. The tea was a creation of tamarind, soy sauce, lemon grass, galangal, star anise, lime, water and perhaps some secret ingredients. Served very hot, we could either stir the “tea” with our beef and vegetable skewers or eat them raw. My personal favourite was to just give the skewer a quick swirl in the tea to briefly warm it. That gave me the delicate and rich taste of nearly raw beef, the bright crispiness of fresh vegetables surrounded by the slightly spicy savoury “tea”. And the “tea” was pretty tasty all by itself, too! This was paired with a glass of Seresin 2007 “Momo” Pinot Noir. The wine was perhaps a bit ripe and fruity for the dish but nice.
Slow-Roasted Duck © Bronia Stewart 2009
The main course, Slow-Roasted Duck a l’Orange & Plum with Millefeuille of Potatoes, was probably the only course that was fairly traditional (i.e. – no particular playfulness in the dish). Instead of playfulness, we were given something else I really like in food. This was a “Ronseal” dish – by that I mean, “it does exactly what it says on the tin”. In other words, this dish delivered exactly what its description says. I’m not much of a Duck a l’Orange fan normally because I find the orange often overwhelms the duck. Rachel managed to get just a hint of orange flavour not overly aggressive and the plums were outstanding with it. In fact, I think that doing the duck with just plums would really be terrific. As it was, this was full of flavour and very satisfying. We had another Seresin Pinot Noir with this course, a 2006 “Leah”. This wine was much more subtle and nuanced than the previous “Momo” and was really lovely with the dish.
Palate cleanser time – a Fleur de Geisha Granitá made from Japanese Green Tea and cherry blossom flowers. Simple as this was, it was one of my favourites of the night. The crunchy “snow cone” of ice had a delicate flavour, definitely of tea but airily light but an ephemeral cherry sweetness that really wasn’t sweet at all. An excellent touch and a perfect palate cleanser.
Poached Rhubard with Almond & Strawberry Shortbread and Rosemary Mousse © Bronia Stewart 2009
Now it was time for puds. This was another of the highlights for me – Poached Rhubarb with Almond and Strawberry Shortbread and Rosemary Mousse. Rachel suggested that the Rosemary Mousse, which was beside the shortbread in a little cup, would be very good with it. She was VERY right. Everyone around me seemed to be just as pleased with the savoury character of the mousse, just slightly sweetened, against the bright ripe strawberries and the crunchy almond shortbread. VERY very yummy! We had yet another Seresin wine with this, their 2004 Noble Riesling dessert wine. Although the wine was quite nice, it is always difficult to pair a dessert wine with a sweet dish and this wine was just a bit too much for the dish. I’d probably use a less sweet dessert wine like a Brachetto d’Acqui which isn’t too sweet and which has a lovely strawberry character itself that should blend nicely with the dessert.
Mini Mooncake Truffles © Bronia Stewart 2009
Finally, in what was a bit of a homage to Chinese New Year, we had 3 Mini Mooncake Truffles, each with a coconut “skin”, one filled with black sesame, one with chocolate and the last with pistachio. The sesame one was very Chinese and savoury; the pistachio one was a bit overwhelmed by the coconut, while the chocolate one was “just right”. Maybe I got Baby Bear’s portion!
Maybe you still don’t understand what a mash-up is but go to one. It’s worth it.
Tasting Notes –
Bailly-Lapierre NV Crémant de Bourgogne Exception Brut Intense
A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, this is “champagne” but made in Burgundy, hence, the name Crémant because it cannot be called Champagne. It is intense and very dry with a soft creamy mousse and delicious citrus and apricot fruit. Bright and zesty with crisp acidity.
Domaine Lefebvre d’Anselme 2007 “Trilogie” Côtes Du Rhône
This is a blend of the undistinguished (usually) Ugni Blanc and Rousanne. 13.5% alcohol. Rousanne dominted this blend giving its peachy aromas and flavours. Decent acidity and smooth finish but not particularly distinguished. However, I admit that I was having so much fun playing with the Edible Paint, Paper & Pencils that I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to this wine.
Michael Seresin of Seresin Estate © Jamie Goode 2007
Seresin 2007 “Momo” Pinot Noir
“Momo” is the entry level Pinot Noir from Seresin Estate in Marlborough, New Zealand. Biodynamically made, hand-picked and sorted from three different vineyards, its nose is a classic New World Pinot nose – bright cherry fruit with a hint of underbrush and herbs. Unmistakably New World Pinot on the nose and palate. Soft ripe tannins, cherries and raspberries, with the classic Pinot vegetal undertone. Very pleasant, especially for an entry level wine. 13.5% alcohol.
Seresin 2006 “Leah” Pinot Noir
“Leah” is a blend of fruit from the clay-rich Raupo Creek vineyard, the alluvial shingles of the Tatou vineyard, and the mixed soils of the Home vineyard. The wine spent 3.5 weeks on the skins during and after fermentation. Aged in French barrique (about 25% new). 13% alcohol.
For me this was a much more elegant and restained Pinot than the “Momo” which had preceded it. More mineral character, deeper textures and much more character. Much more of the Burgundian “barnyard” Pinot aromas with ample brambly fruit, a bit of smokiness and spice.
Seresin 2004 Noble Riesling –
From old vine Riesling planted on alluvial soil with free-draining basalt pebbles, the fruit was affected with botrytis and was rigorously selected. After slow fermentation for a month, further fermentation was stopped by chilling after the wine reached 12% alcohol.
The nose is classic for a botrytized wine, honey and beeswax with some citrus notes. For me, however, the usual mineral floral beauty of Riesling was a bit lacking. On the palate the honeyed notes were repeated, accompanied by tropical fruit flavours. There was enough acidity to keep the wine from being cloying but not enough to lift and lighten it as you see in the best sweet wines from Germany and Austria. It was also just a bit over-powering for the delicious dessert Rachel made but a pleasant enough wine nonetheless.
Kang’s note: I hope you enjoyed that one, my only regret is I didn’t show up for it!! Ok, so now you know where to find the coolest secret restaurant in London – Be sure to follow the awesome links below for further details and more. Thanks to Paula Sindberg, it was great post, make sure you check out her excellent wine blog. Finally to Rachel, Joseph, Michael and Nuno – Kang will eat with you someday.