Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Candlestick Maker Supperclub by Ian Ballantyne in Dalston, Hackney


I’ve been keen to attend one of Ian Ballantyne’s a.k.a. ‘The Candlestick Maker’ supper clubs ever since I tried his gorgeously assembled Salmangudi, a salad made of vegetables, fruits, nuts and flowers at a Melba event. I finally got a chance this weekend to go to a dinner he was hosting at the Mouse & De Lotz CafĂ© in Dalston called ‘Celebrate Hackney’ and it was such an enjoyable experience despite the initial trek along Shacklewell Lane in the classic wet and windy London weather.

‘Celebrate Hackney’ is all about using the locally sourced products in and around Hackney. Ian partners up with a number of local producers and creates a dinner that showcases their products and his style of cooking. It’s a lovely experience to be able to support the small artisan businesses based in Hackney and even get a chance to meet the people behind all those great produce like Hugo from the Black Hand Food Group who specializes in curing and making his own pork products.


As soon as we entered, we were greeted with a much needed Butler’s Gin cocktail made locally in Hackney Wick. It's flavoured with Cardamom and Lemongrass and was utterly delightful.
  
The menu was set up as an 8 course tasting menu and we started of with some crispy fried pigs skin served a yoghurt-y herb sauce. I’m not usually a fan since in most places this tends to be a greasy dripping-with-oil affair. But these were perfectly light and greaseless and totally addictive.

Charcuterie of Salami and Pork Loin
Veal Tartare on Sourdough Bread


Next was the veal tartare on thinly sliced pieces of toasted sourdough bread. The veal was from Cotswold Veal and I couldn’t get enough of it. It was a bit torturous to have something so good but of such small portion. I would have loved to see more of that gorgeous veal.

Then came a charcuterie course of salami and pork loin that was all butchered, cured, smoked and dried by Hugo himself which I was quite impressed by. It was served with a lovely quince jelly.

Another favourite of mine was the scallops and sweet corn paired with Nduja made by Hugo. Ndjua is a spicy soft pork sausage which tastes a bit like chorizo. The Nduja went beautifully with the scallops though it packed quite a fiery punch - in a good way. It wasn’t really a case of “Woah, this is so spicy, I can’t eat it” but more of a “Woah, this is crazy spicy but I’m still going to eat it”!


Scallops with sweet corn and Ndjua
Roasted Partridge with Kale, Elderberries and Celeriac

























The next course was Roasted Partridge with pickled Elderberries, Kale and a Celeriac Puree. I’ve never eaten partridge before and I’m not a fan of grouse so I was rather apprehensive of what to come. I needn’t have worried though, the taste and texture of the partridge was sort of in between chicken and grouse. I’m afraid I didn’t do it much justice as I am a bit of a wuss when it comes to eating game and I couldn’t stomach eating the rarer red bits of it. Not everyone felt the same as me and I could see some people really picking it clean.

Loving the Strawberry Sorbet 
Strawberry Sorbet in a cone



Of the desserts, the strawberry sorbet was my favourite. Served on a cone – it was an intense pure hit of strawberry freshness that proved very popular with the table.  

We were also served a milk and cream cake with caramel and popcorn ice-cream. I’m not particularly fond of the sweet popcorn flavour so this didn’t really work for me. But the meal still ended on a good note with the intensely rich lemon and thyme chocolate truffles.


And that's Ian (with Hugo at the back)


As you can see it was quite an extensive meal and all that was for £35! We ended up paying £40 each because we felt it was much deserved. Ian and his team were lovely and welcoming, the food was tasty and interesting and it was fun chatting and meeting new people. We brought our own wine to drink though by the end of it, I was sharing someone’s bottle of blended malt Scotch whisky called ‘Big Peat’ and downing a shot of strawberry liqueur.

Quite a fun, unique experience and I can’t wait to go for another one of his dinners. I think it would also be a great way to celebrate a birthday with a group of friends.
Ian’s a part of Cult Events that hosts interesting pop up events so to find out more about his supper clubs and other events, you can check out the Cult Events website: http://culteventsblog.wordpress.com/ or Ian’s personal blog to attend on of his supper club dinners: http://ian-ballantyne.blogspot.co.uk/

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