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I was rather excited to attend my very first supper club (or pop up restaurant!) on Wednesday night  – one that’s soon to be taking place on our doorstep for its next instalment!

A Grub Club event, the wonderful Fab Cuisine is run by French chef Fabrice Meier with fellow foodies Antonia and Katrina. Originally from Switzerland, Fabrice has previously worked in many fine London establishments, including One-O-One in Knightsbridge, and worked his up to be head chef in a venue in Chelsea.

On this particular occasion, we were hosted at the Social Pantry cafe in Clapham. Typically of a Grub Club event, this cafe is open during the day only – meaning it’s the perfect “unused” venue for an evening supper club. And it hosted Fab Cuisine very well, seating 28 of us (the event was sold out – of course) across three large tables.

As with many Grub Club events, Fab Cuisine was a BYOB affair. We were emailed prior to the event with a few recommendations for wine – both red and white – that would go together with the particular courses, as well as a sweet wine that paired well with the dessert. Being slightly time-short, I wasn’t quite able to source them (although I imagine those that did were rewarded, palate-wise!) although I had taken inspiration from the recommendations to bring along a Pinot Noir. Of course, there weren’t any restrictions in what you could bring, and I did notice someone with a posh pack of beers too.

After a welcoming glass of prosecco (although when isn’t prosecco welcoming?) we took our seats and were encouraged to get to know our neighbours, as these supper club and Grub Club events are especially social. The one thing that did strike me was the number of larger groups that were in attendance – and by that I mean that there quite a few groups of four, five or even six friends. Clearly, it’s a great place to socialise with those that you don’t know, but also those that you do! Some of those I talked to had also been to previous Fab Cuisine events too – so it seems to be the kind of evening that draws in repeat guests. (I can certainly see why!)

On to the food – that’s why we went, right? And with four courses and a palate cleanser, I had better start talking about the meal! After a very nice introduction from chef Fabrice, we started things off with a Jerusalem artichoke soup with crisps. The smooth flavour of the soup and the delicate few crisps bobbing in it proved to be an enticing light opener that left us eager to try the next course. Squid ink risotto is one of my favourite dishes; this may well the first time I’ve tasted this dish where it didn’t have – pleasingly – an overpowering fishy taste in the slightest. The slab of seared squid lain on top was equally fish-taste-free, and its slightly spongy texture worked supremely well with the delicate risotto rice. The gremolata topping turned out to be a mixed herb and garlic type of condiment (not what any in our near vicinity had guessed at!) which gave the whole plate an extra little kick.

Fab Cuisine
Jerusalem artichoke soup
Fab Cuisine
Ink squid risotto with seared squid and gremolata

On to the main draw – one that I’m sure no one could possibly resist having previously read the menu online! The main course of “pork three ways” saw us being served pork belly and braised pig’s cheek – both slow cooked for 18 hours – alongside a black pudding croquette; side additions included celeriac cream, small chunks of pickled Granny Smith apple, and a long stick of pork crackling, as well as boiled potatoes. One word on this dish – DIVINE. The pig’s cheek and the pork belly both fell apart on cutting and were near melt-in-the-mouth, whilst the croquette was a nice third alternative; as someone that’s a black pudding fan, it was a rather fun and unusual way to have this. The light celeriac cream provided some moistness to the whole dish, whilst the boiled potatoes (bowls of which were distributed between us) were kept suitably simple, as to not overpower the pork delights.

Fab Cuisine
The amazing pork three ways!

By this point we were all rather stuffed – but who can say no to pudding? Preceding that was a welcome Sipsmith Gin granita, served in adorably cute mini kilner jars (the ones with a pop up lid) – with just a hint of gin and small pieces of frozen cucumber, this really was a fun little gin and tonic!

Fab Cuisine
Sipsmith Gin granita
Fab Cuisine
Rhubard triangle crumble and custard

Dessert was a kind of deconstructed rhubarb crumble and custard – soft and hearty pink pieces of rhubarb mixed in with small rocks of crumble, topped with a fizzing custard that we were offered second helpings of from a squirt-y canister! A lovingly warm and satisfying way to round off the meal – before a cheeky offering of bright red, rhubarb and port jelly; a welcome “can’t turn this down” finale!

Overall, Fab Cuisine turned out to be a fantastically fun and social night with some truly fabulous food. Each course was distinct and overall the whole menu provided an assortment of flavours and dish ideas that came together well (be prepared to be truly full by the end!) At the start, Chef Fabrice had explained that this was the last of his winter menus – each event’s menu is seasonal – with the next outing (on 1st May) the start of spring dishes and ingredients. Fab Cuisine is a great way of sampling Fabrice’s culinary creations and finding out more about his background as a chef at top London venues.

Trying the whole Grub Club concept was also very enjoyable. It’s a little like attending a secret club – in fact, a secret foodie club (probably the best kind) – with a bit of an element of surprise in terms of venue, food and ingredients, and fellow guests.

I’d certainly highly recommend trying out one of the Grub Club evenings – and I can’t recommend Fab Cuisine highly enough! To find out more on Fab Cuisine and to keep tabs on the next event on 1st May at Maida Hill Place, please see the Fab Cuisine page on the Grub Club site: grubclub.com/fab-cuisine.

We’ve written in the past about some of the exciting menus and events taking place at La Sophia – a local favourite on Golborne Road – which most recently included their New Year’s Eve festivities.

La Sophia

For Valentine’s Day this year, they’re also not disappointing their loyal regulars – as well as welcoming newcomers to come and enjoy this romantic day in their restaurant!

For Valentine’s Day evening, there’s a special three-course menu on offer, priced at £35 per person.

The menu:

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Soup: Jerusalem artichoke soup, roasted shallots & white truffle oil & foie gras

Aubergine mille-feuille, grilled halloumi, chilli, tomato concasse, pecan & parsley pesto (V)

Hand-dived Scottish scallops, beef chorizo, parsnip & vanilla puree, lemon oil & parsnip crisps

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Steamed wild sea bass fillet, spiced cauliflower, spinach, gremolata & aged balsamic

Herbs crusted lamb saddle, roasted butternut, saffron potato, black olives & tomato sauce

Three cheese ravioli, spinach, poached in basil pesto broth, fried heritage tomato & truffle crumbs (V)

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Warm chocolate fondant & vanilla ice cream

Raspberry cheesecake, raspberry sorbet & mint coulis

Selection of sorbets or ice-cream

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The will also be live jazz in the restaurant throughout the evening, from 6.30pm to after 11pm.

To book, please contact La Sophia direct on 020 8968 2200 or by emailing contact@lasophia.co.uk. For more details on La Sophia, please see www.lasophia.co.uk.

La Sophia
46 Golborne Road
W10 5PR

I was very excited to recently be invited to a preview night of Dock Kitchen’s new Korean menu, which will be hosted at this wonderfully-styled venue for three weeks from 3rd February. Not only was I delighted to be coming down to finally experience this fantastic local restaurant, but I was rather intrigued by the Korean concoctions I’d be tasting on the night, with assorted starters, mains and dessert all on the menu.

Dock Kitchen
Dock Kitchen

As many of you know, Stevie Parle is owner and head-chef of Dock Kitchen which – alongside its regular menu – features a fixed option that changes every three weeks. Winner of the Observer Young Chef Of The Year award and the youngest ever chef employed at the River Cafe, he regularly fuses global influences with home style cooking at Dock Kitchen. Inspired by trips abroad by Stevie or one of his crew, previous fixed menus in recent months have featured the tastes of Italy and the Catalan region, although these  menus – always seasonal –  can also be based around a book, idea, or anything else that grabs their fancy! As well as offering diners the chance to try some exciting new dishes, it’s also a way for Dock Kitchen try out some new techniques, ingredients or even kitchen equipment – such as the coconut grinder and pestle and mortar brought back from another trip to Sri Lanka.

Stevie Parle - Dock Kitchen
Stevie Parle

February is Korea’s turn – just in time to coincide with one of the hot new food trends in London for 2014. With Stevie only returning from South Korea last week, this menu was – almost literally – hot off the presses, and presented and tried for the first time on Wednesday evening.

After a delicious and ridiculously easy-to-drink Soju SoHigh as a pre-dinner cocktail, we sat to be served a selection of ‘snacks’ as a starter – raw beef, pear, egg yolk and sesame oil (a Korean-style steak tartare); seaweed salad; and fried rice cakes with Gochuchang, a chilli bean paste. Having never tried steak tartare before, I was even more eager to try this version – which turned out to be wonderfully smooth and served well with the pear accompaniment. The fried rice cakes were fantastically more-ish smothered in their spicy sauce, and I listened in eagerly as a dinner table guest recounted the different ways that this kind of extremely popular snack is served in Korea.

Korean Menu at the Dock Kitchen - raw beef
The opening ‘snack’ of raw beef, egg yolk and sesame oil
Korean Menu at the Dock Kitchen - fried rice cakes
Fried rice cakes

On to the proper first course, and something rather adventurous – raw urchin served with warm rice, aged soy and seaweed. The urchin ‘bowls’ came out wonderfully presented on a large central plate (see below) for everyone to help themselves, specifically to pour the urchin out onto the bowls of rice. This is possibly one of the most unusual items I’ve ever eaten, with an interesting texture and taste – but it’s well worth trying!

Korean Menu at the Dock Kitchen - raw urchin
Raw urchin

Our second course was another exciting assortment of mains and sides – grilled onglet (honestly, cooked to perfection), steamed pork belly and oysters, with accompanying sides of more Gochuchang and another condiment, Saamjang; both English and green kimchi, as well as fermented squid; and tiny dried anchovies. Essentially, the point is to construct your own main amongst these different items, mixing together the different meats and oysters with the sides and sauces and wrapping them up into leaves (Italian and English, and sesame leaves which turned out to be a winner) to eat with your hands. It’s a great of trying out these different items individually, as well as trying out assorted combinations – and with such mouth-watering mains and well-prepared kimchi, it’s easy to come up with some rather exquisite options.

Korean Menu at the Dock Kitchen - Kimchi
English Kimchi
Korean Menu at the Dock Kitchen - tiny friend anchovies
Tiny friend anchovies
Korean Menu at the Dock Kitchen - oysters
Oysters

An unusual but certainly very flavoursome post main offering of dried mullet roe and radish came before the dessert was served – yuzu ice cream and black sesame snaps. As yuzu is a kind of grapefruit, the ice cream had a light touch and was very complimented by the amazing black sesame snaps. And, as if we hadn’t tried enough fantastic new delicacies, the night was suitably rounded off by a sweet Jujube tea.

Korean Menu at the Dock Kitchen - dried mullet roe and radish
Post main – dried mullet roe and radish
Korean Menu at the Dock Kitchen - yuzu ice cream with black sesame
Yuzu ice cream with black sesame

I’d highly recommend you take yourselves down to Dock Kitchen in February to try out their superb Korean menu. With a supreme mix of flavours and textures – many of which may well be new to you – it’s a very welcome way of trying out a number of Korean and Korean-inspired delicacies, and the sharing element means it’s a perfect meal for a group of friends. Just be warned – you’ll be leaving with very full (although content) bellies.

Dock Kitchen’s Korean-themed menu will run from 3rd to 22nd February, priced at £45 per person. You can also take advantage of a special three-course version of this menu – plus a glass of wine – on the three Mondays during this period for just £24.50.

Please call Dock Kitchen direct on 020 8962 1610 to book, or visit them online at www.dockkitchen.co.uk.

Dock Kitchen
Portobello Docks
342-344 Ladbroke Grove
Kensal Road
W10 5BU

If you’re already thinking about your potential plans for New Year’s Eve, why not join Notting Hill favourite La Sophia and celebrate in style – with a combination of sumptuous food, a bit of bubbly and some fantastic live music?

La Sophia, the French Mediterranean restaurant with a unique Palestinian twist, is hosting a very special New Year’s Eve this year. There will be an amazing menu with a wonderful variety of dishes, plus live jazz music with their very talented saxophonist and guitarist playing all evening long.

New Year's Eve at La Sophia

The menu on the night:

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Starter

Jerusalem artichoke soup with roasted shallots & white truffle oil (V)

Aubergine mille-feuille , grilled hallomui, chilli, tomato concasse, pecan & parsley pesto (V)

Presse de foie gras, toasted brioche, spiced pear chutney & truffle

Hot smoked salmon, pickled cucumber, dill & avocado salsa

Main

Crispy skin sea bass fillet, puy lentils, quinoa, confit tomato & lemon beurre blanc

Oven roast turkey breast, sprouts, sage stuffing, cranberry sauce

Roast rump of lamb & shoulder croquette, garlic mash, green beans & thyme jus

Roasted winter vegetables ragout in puff pastry, goat cheese, & green harissa yogurt sauce (V)

Dessert

Apple tarte tatin & vanilla ice cream

Warm chocolate fondant & vanilla ice cream

Christmas pudding & vanilla cream anglaise

Selection of French & English cheeses, crackers  & chutney (supplement £4)

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The New Year’s Eve menu costs £45 per person, which includes three courses and a glass of champagne.

La Sophia will be open very late on the 31st December, so do come down to ring in the New Year with some delicious food, lively music and a warm and friendly setting for a very fun way of seeing in 2014!

To reserve a table, please contact La Sophia on 020 8968 2200 or contact@lasophia.co.uk.

La Sophia
46 Golborne Road
W10 5PR
www.lasophia.co.uk