Once a year food bloggers all over the world get together to hold a fundraising event. It's called the
Menu for Hope, was started by Chez Pim and takes the form of an online raffle.
Last year I was gutted that we missed the boat and our
blog didn't take part. This year, we almost missed the boat, but a
last dash to the pier and a quick bit of front crawl means that we can
now announce our prize.
One of the first and most exciting restaurants we reviewed on this blog was Bacchus, the restaurant who brought us 'fine dining in trainers' and some of the most innovatory cooking you'll find in London. The people who run Bacchus have also been great friends and given us an insight into the restaurant industry. It is with great pleasure that I can announce that Bacchus are providing our Menu for Hope prize.
The first part of the prize is to do a day stage with Nuno Mendes, the chef at Bacchus. Nuno uses a variety of avant-garde techniques and is constantly experimenting to develop dishes. During the day you'll be able to shadow Nuno in the Bacchus kitchen. This will doubtless be an educational and entertaining experience. Don't worry if you're not a whiz in the kitchen, the degree of interaction will be entirely up to you. He's also an exceptionally nice chap.
The second part of the prize is a meal for one at the restaurant. Bacchus' menu has certainly evolved and matured over the year and my last meal there was stunning. Current dishes include seared langoustine with pork shoulder and salted orange, an amazing yuzu crab dish and a pine nut risotto.
Who's benefiting from this?
This year the Menu for Hope is supporting the World Food Programme, in particular a school lunch programme they run in Lesotho. This not only feeds the kids and helps to keep them in school, this also supports local farmers.
Last year the Menu for Hope event raised over $62,000 . . . an impressive sum.
You should also have a look at the other prizes on offer, which include some rather big foodie names(Hesotn Blumenthal and Harold McGee to name but two) the full list can be found here:
I approached Brick Lane. I had heard tell of a new supper club. Would this be a private club, like the famous one run by the Swiss chef? Perhaps I'd have to adopt some strange misogynistic ethos? I hoped not. Surely the Brickhouse would be more democratic and have some East London style? I strode past the beigel bakeries and glanced sadly at the down-by-law hookah lounges.
Examining the menu outside Brickhouse, the nature of the club became clear. There isn't just food on offer, there's a bit of showbiz. In the evenings you get a performance to go with your meal. A proper performance . . . not a shouty chef or a waiter with dramatic inclinations. Mostly it seems to be burlesque on offer - that can cover, or uncover, a multitude of sins.
I was there at lunchtime though, so the trapeze hung unused while I ordered. This does mean you that lunch is cheaper than dinner though - £24 for three courses rather than £35 in the evening. The menu looks reasonably contemporary and there are nods haute cuisine fashion - foams and shotglasses, sherberts and savoury ice cream.
Bread, from the Bread Factory, was fresh and delicious, I particularly liked some with tomato in it. Venison carpaccio made a good light starter though the Szechaun pepper was barely noticeable. The parmesan used was inoffensive but the dish would have been vastly improved by using a better one.
As a main course I had a dish of roasted scallops with parmesan mash, pearl onions , bacon and sun-dried tomatoes. I wolfed this down. it's a good combination of flavours, the scallops were fresh and succulent too. For a restaurant with foodie ambitions though, this dish is probably a little boring. I'd love to see something here to surprise or delight me. Go on, tip it into the 'wow' category.
For dessert, a lemon parfait with mascarpone and citrus 'sherbert'. Now the parfait was nice enough, though I would have welcomed some more lemony bitterness. What makes the sauce a sherbert though? Did it fizz? Was it powdery?
So, I can't really complain - the food was tasty and well-executed. And this is a more ambitious kind of food than Brick Lane has seen before. I'd love to see a bit more technical innovation and a more certain identity than simply 'Modern European'.
The supper club is a good idea too. Reindeer effectively proved the concept and the suitability of the locale last Christmas. I'm sure some people will see good food as an ideal excuse to see some tasteful deshabillé exhibitions . . . I will have to go back soon and check their full evening menu.