I love a good cause, I do – even more so when you can support it by kicking back and enjoying some fabulous food A couple of weeks ago I was invited to Dehesa, one of the restaurant in the Salt Yard Group stable which also includes my old favourite The Salt Yard, as well as the Opera Tavern (the one with the Iberico burgers!) for the launch of a partnership between the Salt Yard Group and Lexi Cinema’s The Nomad pop-up cinema. The Nomad bills itself as the most intrepid pop-up cinema in the world and aims to bring classic and contemporary films to a number of unusual indoor and outdoor locations around London during the summer. For their run in Queen’s Park in August & September, they will be joined by The Salt Yard Group who will be providing the catering at the screenings. And while you are dining and watching, you will be happy to know that The Nomad financially supports The Sustainability Institute, a pioneering sustainable living and learning centre established in 1999 by Eve Annecke and Mark Swilling, based in the winelands near Stellenbosch, South Africa. The Institute forms part of the wider Lynedoch EcoVillage, an emerging ecologically designed, socially mixed community built around a learning precinct, the heart of which is the Lynedoch pre- and Primary School attended by 450 children who come mainly from the families of farmworkers. The Institute’s focus has been combining practice with theory in a way that integrates ecology and equity in support of a sustainable South Africa, with special reference to ways of reducing and eradicating poverty. Past projects include the ongoing development of a crèche for local infants; the provision of school meals, schoolbags and tracksuits; sustainable gardens, solar power and water management systems; and after-school football, karate and filmmaking clubs for young people. A very worthy cause indeed, even if you aren’t South African like me!
So what food can you expect to be served while watching your Nomad movies at Queen’s Park? Here is a rundown in pictures of what’s on the menu:
From the top we have:
Popcorn – cinnamon & lemon and smoked paprika. I wasn’t totally convinced by the cinnamon & lemon but loved the paprika.
Gazpacho – wonderful, packed with fresh flavour and studded with islands of good olive oil
Patatas fritas with paprika salt served with romesco sauce & alioli; and salt cod croquettes with lemon & caper alioli. The fries were not as crispy as I’d like, but I loved the sauces. The croquettes on the other hand were perfectly delightful: crispy and light on the outside but creamy and full-flavoured on the inside.
Ibérico dog, Romseco sauce, caramelised onions, guindilla & mustard alioli; and courgette flower with goat’s cheese & honey. The dog – oh, the dog. I dream of that Iberico dog. Porky, salty, spicy, creamy and perfect – the best dog I’ve had since Chicago. And the courgette flowers are an old favourite that I first had at Salt Yard about 6 years ago - still love the combination of crisp & yielding textures; and sweet and salty flavours.
Ibérico burger with manchego and guindilla chillies - another Salt Yard Group standard that I’ve had at the Opera tavern. Somehow it did not impress me as much there as it did here – I really tasted the different layers of flavour this time and as you can see, the patty is fat and perfectly pink in the centre. Like a burger on steroids.
Ice-creams: Pedro Ximinex and raisin; salted caramel; saffron & pistachio - oh the ice-creams. Niamh, Luiz and I spent ages debating which one was the best but for me, in the end it had to be the saffron and candied pistachios: super-creamy, saffron-spiced, crunchy and sweet all at once. Honourable mentions go to the salted caramel that was properly salty, and the boozy PX & raisin.
And Salt Yard Group Executive Chef, charming Ben Tish, was on hand to talk us through the menu. I can imagine few nicer things than relaxing in front of a movie on a summer night, eating his wonderful food, packaged in attractive, eco-friendly brown card boxes.
The other menu launch I recently attended was The Table Café in Southwark. The occasion was to welcome their new head chef Cinzia Ghignoni and launch their new wine list. Cinzia previously worked at Zucca, with Angela Hartnett and most recently, at Soho’s Duck Soup and her new menu continues the restaurant’s commitment to modern Italian cuisine using quality British ingredients. The restaurant recently won a two-star rating from the Sustainable Restaurant Association for their commitment to using local produce, including Regents Park honey and herbs from local allotments. The new menu, divided into small and large plates, features dishes such as nduja toast with roast onions; papardelle with crab, samphire and lemon; or salt pollock brandade with grilled polenta. Co-owner Shaun AlpineCrabtree has been working closely with wine writer Matt Walls to create a new and unique wine list, featuring grape varieties that aren’t usually available in the UK while complementing Cinzia’s new menu.
I joined a host of other London food bloggers at the restaurant’s Southwark premises one night last week and enjoyed a sample of the new menu and wine list while chatting in their outside courtyard area. Special mention must go to their nifty plastic clips that attach to plates and hold your wine , leaving your one hand free to eat (or tweet!). Here’s what we had to eat after our welcome glass of English bubbles in the form of Coates & Seely Blanc de Blancs NV (apologies for the pics – all taken on my phone as my camera was on a rest break!):
Baccala mantecato with polenta crisps (paired with a Portuguese Adega de Moncao Vinho Verde 2011) - loved this combination of creamy baccala and crispy polenta. I thought it paired well with the wine, although the wine could have been colder.
Friggitelli, ricotta, marjoram and croutons (paired with a Masseria Pietrosa Verdeca 2012) – my first experience of these delicious southern-Italian peppers, similar to padron without the sneaky hot one! A delicious combo with the creamy ricotta and crispy croutons. The Verdeca was a grape variety I had not encountered before, producing a fairly simple wine with tart fruit flavours to match a light, summery plate such as this.
Octopus with marinated aubergines (paired with a Prieure de Montezargues Tavbel Rosé 2011) – whole baby octopus, possibly slightly on the chewy side and lacking in salt, and lovely vinegary slices of aubergine – played nicely with the fruity and beautifully pink wine.
Rosé veal tagliata with girolles & scorzone truffle (paired with a Reverdito ‘Simane’ Langhe Nebbiolo 2012) – my favourite savoury dish of the night. The veal was tender yet full of flavour and I have a soft spot for earthy girolles (not to mention truffles!). The wine was probably also my favourite of the night, soft and rounded; packed with ripe red fruits.
Sadly, I neglected to take a photo of the dessert, which was quite heavenly: a passion fruit tartlet with a light, crumbly crust and a wobbling, creamy, tart filling. Tart perfection, matched with an equally lovely Chateau Bouscasse ‘Larmes Celestes’ 2012 – an apricotty, golden dessert wine from the Madiran appelation. Who needs Sauternes when you can have this??
I really enjoyed all the dishes we were served – they were light, packed with interesting flavours, and were a good match for the wines. Italophiles can do a lot worse than to head down to The Table for a spot of lunch or dinner. I have to make a special mention of the super-smiley and friendly serving staff who remained resolutely gracious throughout the evening. I also liked the “goodie bags”: a rough-hewn wooden box of herbs grown on a local allotment: not only something different, but a further demonstration of their commitment to local, sustainable ingredients. I can’t wait to go back and try some full-sized portions!