12th and 13th June saw the first dinners in a monthly series put on by the Nudge to showcase potential restaurant stars of the future, and our very own Oli North went to check it out.
The Chef’s Table events are run by sous chefs from some of London’s most highly regarded restaurants, including the Clove Club, Craft London, Kitchen Table, Typing Room, and here for the first outing, Eddie Pellicano from Portland. "A perfect restaurant," according to professional eater and grammarian Giles Coren.
The space is idiosyncratic. A large warehouse tucked away on French Place, a tiny square somewhere in Shoreditch. It works. Large enough to accommodate 40-odd guests at shared tables, as well as a kitchen the size of which most London chefs would kill for.
Portland is the kind of restaurant that sous-vides eggs, then tells you the temperature, and will attempt to ferment just about anything. "Modern British", you could call it. Or as British as it can be without conceding that the whole affair started in Scandinavia. Eddie’s menu follows suit. It is pure and precise type of cooking, heavy on technique but without ostentation.
What we had was effectively a seven-course tasting menu: a run of sustained brilliance from start to finish.
A rather lovely so-called "snack" of razor clam ceviche (served in the shell, natch) with kimchi and wild garlic set the tone for a menu long on strong flavours, yet consummately balanced. The lightness of touch displayed in the application of the kimchi an implicit acknowledgement that frankly it’s actually pretty horrible stuff.
I’m not going to outline every course, there’s a picture of the menu; use your imagination. But a couple of highlights: Enoki Mushrooms and Kombu, cooked ‘like a steak’, was the umami hit it promised to be but sans overbearing saltiness. Intriguing and a bravura pairing with Tenuta di Angoris' Friulano.
That was followed by a dish of pearlescent cod finished with one of those crème brûlée blow-torches, served with baby turnips, and a squid ink and miso sauce. I realise it is impossible to use the word "pearlescent" without sounding like a wanker, but that’s what it was. It was also stunning. Likewise the glass of Bruna's single vineyard Pigato, Le Russeghine. Pigato being almost peerless with good seafood.
If the standard of these first dinners is anything to go by (and there’s nothing to suggest it won’t be) then subsequent events will be very special indeed. Worth becoming a Nudge member in order to secure a seat.