Pop quiz, friends… Who can tell me:
a) what the red item on the right of the menu in the photo above is; and
b) what the connection is between it and the excellent Grenada-themed Myristica supperclub that I attended earlier this year, quite literally in the week before all public eating spaces in London shut down because of the Covid-19 pandemic?
The answer, of course (!) is that the item on the right is in fact a nutmeg seed (shown here fresh off the tree in Grenada, with its outer red seed covering, better known as the spice mace, still attached). And the name of the supperclub is a reference to the scientific name of nutmeg, which is Myristica Fragrans. Myristica supperclubs are the brainchild of the talented Michelle Trusselle. If you think the name rings a bell, you have probably seen her on TV when she appeared on MasterChef: The Professionals in 2018 and made it it to the semi-finals. But Michelle’s love affair with food started long before that when she realised as a teen that food was the career she wanted to pursue. After leaving school she trained at the prestigious Westminster Culinary Arts College for three years, during which time she gained work experience at some of London’s best-known restaurants, including The Savoy and Claridges. After obtaining her diploma, Michelle went on to work at one Michelin-starred restaurant La Trompette; two Michelin-starred The Ledbury; and Roganic in Marylebone. Michelle has also run her own business as a successful private chef to both local families as well as royalty, peers, fashion designers, former Prime Ministers, and famous film directors. But her most recent project is the Myristica supperclub, an intimate monthly dining event featuring what Michelle describes as “contemporary Caribbean dining”, where her love for and heritage from the Caribbean is reflected throughout the menu.
The name was chosen as a reference to her Caribbean roots in Grenada – a small island which is the second largest producer of nutmeg in the world and attaches such importance to its nutmeg production that the spice features on the national flag (and in most recipes!). Michelle wants people to look at Caribbean food and flavours in a new light – whereas the island’s cooking usually evokes homestyle meals and a beach shack vibe, Michelle wants to create a sense of occasion around Caribbean food. She emphasises, though, that this is not just about “serving Caribbean food but putting white table linen down”. Instead, Michelle and her team take traditional Caribbean dishes and dig deep into their heritage, ingredients and flavour profiles in order to find ways to stay true to the roots, flavours and spirit of each dish while presenting it in a contemporary way (I think her nutmeg brioche and her Scotch bonnet gel are fantastic examples of this approach!).
On the night I visited Myristica, the theme was Grenadian rather than pan-Caribbean and I loved the fact that the limited number of guests meant that each of us had a chance to chat to Michelle in person as she prepared our food. With a Clarke’s Court Grenadian rum punch cocktail in hand, we listened to Michelle telling us that one of the great things about London is the easy availability of authentic Caribbean ingredients – a trip to Brixton Market can easily yield all the raw ingredients to create a Caribbean feast. She also told us a bit about her experiences on Masterchef and the success of her monthly Myristica supperclubs which were at that point (pre-Covid…) sold out for most of 2020. Once we were all seated, we enjoyed two beautifully presented types of canapés: little rounds of spicy cou-cou (cornmeal) and sweet potato; and the even more intriguing little layered cubes of thinly-sliced breadfruit flavoured with thyme – like a delicious Caribbean dauphinois.
I don’t usually get very excited by bread when I eat out – I see it mainly as a filler to be avoided if you want to make sure you have capacity for the following courses! However, every once in a while I make an exception and this was such an occasion when Michelle’s nutmeg brioche with whipped nutmeg butter and rum salt appeared on the table. More so than any other dish, Michelle explained that this is a Myristica signature dish – a brioche so light, fluffy and shinily egg-washed as to make any French baker proud, but infused with the Grenadian flavour of nutmeg. Topped with the nutmeg whipped butter and its little nuggets of rum-infused salt, this was carbo-loading at its most decadent and a very successful marriage of French techniques with Grenadian flavours.
The next course was called textures of squash – a beautifully presented bowl of squash cooked in different ways. Michelle explained that several pumpkin/squash varieties grow in the Caribbean & are served in many different ways including as a warming soup. In this dish, each element consists of squash cooked in a different way – so we had a slice of roasted squash; two little discs of caramelised squash; and two curls of crispy pickled squash, all in a bowl of warming squash soup gently infused with Caribbean spices. I am a huge fan of squash so I loved everything about this dish, especially the contrasting textures.
The main course was an exuberant plate of Caribbean flavours: jerk chicken breast with plantain, scotch bonnet gel and mint slaw. I loved everything about this dish and the way Michelle had taken the essential flavours of a very traditional home-style dish and preserved them, while playing with the way the various elements were prepared and presented. The breast itself was incredibly moist and infused with the flavours of the jerk seasoning, which contrasted well with the sweetness of the fried plantain. The scotch bonnet chilli gel looked innocent enough, but Michelle did warn us to approach with caution… and she was not exaggerating! It packed an astonishing punch and you certainly did need the cooling flavours of the mint slaw and the shaved heritage carrots to cool your tastebuds down after a hit of the gel. And who can fail to fall in love with a dish garnished with shards of crispy chicken skin??
Last but not least came a small but perfectly formed dessert described as cocoa “tea” with bay leaf, Crayfish Bay cake and warm chocolate espuma. For those of you who have not been to Grenada, you might ask where the tea is in this photo, as well as the crayfish… 😉 First off, let me assure you that no tea leaves (or crayfish!) were harmed in making this dessert. If you have been to the Caribbean and tried cocoa tea, you will know that this is a rich infusion of cocoa and local spices that is popular throughout the Caribbean, and this dessert is a nod to those flavours. And if you have visited Grenada, you will know that Crayfish Bay Organics is a bean to bar chocolate estate where Kim Russell and his team charcoal-roast their organic cocoa beans and turn them into intensely flavoured chocolate bars. So in the little glass was a chocolate sponge made with Crayfish Bay 70% cocoa chocolate; bay leaf ice-cream; a ginger and cinnamon crumble; and then a chocolate espuma and chocolate shavings made from Jouvay chocolate, another Grenadian chocolate manufacturer. I adored this – the rich chocolate contrasting with the hint of spices; and the cold ice-cream contrasting with the warm espuma. I could definitely have had a second helping!
As we all said goodnight after our fantastic dinner, little did we know that our world was about to be turned upside down by a virus and that Michelle’s fully-booked supperclubs would have to be cancelled for most of the year. However, if you liked what you saw above, you will be happy to hear that Michelle currently offers the option of Myristica @ home, which gives those local to her the opportunity of enjoying some Caribbean flavours in the comfort of their own home. The food is, of necessity, served in a more homely and less cheffy style than you’d see at Michelle’s supperclubs, but it does mean that you can still get your delicious Caribbean fix delivered to your door while the supperclubs are suspended. You can also buy gift vouchers to future supperclubs for yourself or as a gift, which will be redeemable at any time once the supperclubs are able to start again.
If you are interested in finding out more about Grenada and its food, you will enjoy:
DISCLOSURE: I enjoyed this meal as a guest of Pure Grenada but received no further remuneration to write this post. I was not expected to write a positive review – all views are my own and I retain full editorial control.
Let’s keep in touch!
You can also find me tweeting at @cooksisterblog, Instagramming as Cooksister, and pinning like a pro on Pinterest. To keep up with my latest posts, you can subscribe to my free e-mail alerts or like Cooksister on Facebook.