No blog posts from me this month, I’m working on something else, but in the meantime here’s Professor Plum’s review of her birthday dinner at Fever Tree’s Ultimate Gin & Tonic Bar Dining Club.
Both had: Salt aged topside of beef tartare with chicory, ginger, roasted garlic, sesame seeds and coriander; Roasted Cipollini onions with onion consommé, rosemary gnocchi, rosemary flowers and burnt onion powder; Ginger beer cured salmon with pickled sea vegetable salad [just Colonel Mustard, olives for Professor Plum]; Chicken breast with ceps, peas, pressed potatoes and lemon thyme; Elderflower panna cotta with lime jelly, meringue and peanut; Bitter orange and chocolate cake with curd, candied peel and orange air
Fever Tree’s pop up gin restaurant was in Hoxton Square, near Shoreditch. We went to one of their supper clubs to celebrate my birthday. The menu was a set menu; it had been emailed out a couple of days ago so diners could confirm they were still coming and forewarn the kitchen about allergies etc. Since one of the courses was salmon, I duly let them know I was allergic to fish. We were the last to arrive and the place was full. Outside it was pouring with rain, but inside the Tree House it was buzzing.
The gin came in glass goblets (Holy Grail shape, not Stella Artois), full of ice. Obviously the point of the whole place was to push the tonic water, but the gins were pretty good too! If you didn’t drink gin, there was, I think, one rum and one vodka. Our complimentary gin was Martin Millers with elderflower tonic. A bit floral for my tastes, but good after a hot damp walk from the tube. As we were seated, I reminded the waiter that I was allergic to salmon. He said that since I’d RSVPed, the kitchen would be on it.
The first course was beef tartare in chicory leaves, with botanical-complimenting ginger, garlic, sesame and coriander. We were still on our complimentary gins, which didn’t quite go, but the beef was too good to hold back on. I love beef tartare (reasons Professor Plum is not a vegetarian – likes putting raw dead flesh into face), and the seasoning was perfect.
We tried to order another round of gins to go with the onion course, but drinks service was much slower than the food, and we’d finished the onions before the gin even arrived. I like the consommé, but the gnocci was a little stodgy. Colonel Mustard had Mason’s Yorkshire with tonic water and I had Boodles gin. It was nice to have something a bit drier and more refreshing after the first one. It stood up fine on its own, anyway!
While we were waiting for the gin, we surreptitiously checked on the Germany-Brazil semi final. When I’d booked Colonel Mustard had pointed out it was a semi final, and how would I feel if England made it that far and we missed it? We didn’t laugh, precisely, but I didn’t worry too much about the booking. Anyway, at this point Germany were one nil up.
Then came the salmon. A plate each. I pointed out, now for the third time, that I’m allergic to fish. My salmon was duly taken away, and after a short wait replaced with olives, manchego and sun dried tomatoes, with an apology because apparently the chef hadn’t been warned about any allergies this evening. It was all very nice, but it was clearly a bar snack plated up to look like a course. So, yes. Unimpressed.
Germany four, Brazil nil.
Chicken, goosenargh, potatoes, pressed. Tasty, satisfying, summery, a little meat-and-two-veg but in a good way. Made a good main course.
I nipped to the loo after this. I only mention because the “do not flush stuff down the toilet” sign was in multiple languages including Latin, which tickled me. Also, half time, five nil.
On to the desserts! The elderflower was competing with the beef for favourite dish of the night. Light, sweet meringue, salty peanut, creamy panna cotta, sharp lime. Beautiful. Absolutely my favourite. We ordered some more gin around this time; I got Edgerton’s Pink with elderflower tonic, Colonel Mustard got Jensens Old Tom. Mine was very pretty and floral, a good dessert gin.
It went better with the panna cotta (unsurpringly) than the chocolate orange. The chocolate orange cake and the curd were good, but the candied peel was a bit redundant and I had no love for he orange air. It was vaguely meringuey, if you got bored halfway through and just ate the beaten egg whites. It smelt more strongly for oranges than it tasted of them. Airs have their place (probably), but I’d rather have had a sauce.
Checked the football; six-nil to Germany. Got back to the hotel (and I’d like to say the Whitechapel Hotel is probably the best we’ve stayed at in London – I haven’t slept that deeply in a hotel in years, and that wasn’t just the gin!) and the receptionist informed us that at full time it was seven-one.
It was a good dinner, and a good price for it, but the screw up with the salmon was more annoying for having been told it was definitely sorted. The panna cotta helped me get over it, though! It would have been nice if the service with the gins had been faster too; there were several recommended options for each course, but even if you’d wanted seven G&Ts over the course of the evening there was no hope of getting them.
And, I have to be honest, I did regret missing the semi final. Especially since the other one was so boring by comparison!
Overall I’d say a four for the food and a three for the service, so three and a half?
Colonel Mustard in the Kitchen: Back during the “Gin Craze” of the 1700s, Britain got as close as it ever did to prohibition, limiting the licensing and sale of gin. To get around this pubs would sell gin by having passers-by deposit a coin in a slot and the bartender would distribute the gin through a tube. The sign that would show where such a transaction could take place was a black tom cat, hence “Old Tom gin”. That was something I learnt over dinner. The Jensen’s Old Tom was the best gin of the night. These are usually sweetened types of gin, this one is naturally sweetened with stronger amounts of botanicals than most. Old Toms are the Tom in a Tom Collins cocktail and this strong, distinctive gin paired with the bitter lemon tonic water was closer to a cocktail like that than a normal G & T and worked well with the citrus flavours of the two desserts.
As for the food in general, the beef was delicious and well presented, while the onion neither looked nor tasted great, mostly dry and flavourless (what is with the popularity for “burnt” as a flavour these days?). The other courses came somewhere in between in terms of quality. I love the combination of chocolate and orange in almost any circumstance, so probably enjoyed that dessert more than Professor Plum, but she’s right about the “orange air” being pointless and flavourless. The panna cotta with a strong lime jelly was excellent.
One final thing that didn’t create a great impression: the cutlery. I’m aware that a pop up bar doing an infrequent supper club doesn’t have the resources of a regular restaurant, but having to use the same knife and fork for the meat, onion, fish and chicken wasn’t great (I mean, a spoon wouldn’t have gone amiss for the consommé, right?)