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mr penfold

I had nothing to do one Saturday evening; those who know me even slightly know that having no plans freaks me out. I mean seriously terrifies me. Realising my Saturday night was eventless on the previous weekend I managed by pure serendipity to find a pop up that was hosting an artist talk with food both Friday and Saturday night– phew. I had never heard of the artist, but I do appreciate art despite not knowing as much as I should. I looked up a couple of the artist work online –it looked good. Mr Penfold was the artist, born in Cambridge and was known for his bright, colourful cartoon-esk paintings.

Great, well OK I was on my own but little did I know, this was being promoted as a meal experience rather than a ‘meet the artist over food’ experience for people in the ‘Meet Up’ community. Meet Up if you have not heard abouit it before is an online site where people with the same interests can create events (in this case secret supper clubs) and come together. It a great idea if you have just come to London or like me you have a phobia of having no plans on an evening! ‘An evening with Mr Penfold’ was held in a shop/pop up that is used for these ‘one off’ occasion,  and is based in Camden.

I was worried as I walked past that I would be the only person on my own and that I was early but fortuntaly once I mustered the courage to walk in there was another lady on her own and we got chatting. The two rooms had Mr Penfold’s art surrounding the walls. The front room was where we were to have our dinner and the smaller room was the reception where we all met and had our completely cocktail. It was bitter, fruity and packed a punch – I was impressed. As people started to arrive we were led into the front room which was basically a shop. The walls were beige which showed off the artists paintings. The wooden table and chairs were bare and mismatching (we were seated on stools) but this all added to the artistic atmosphere and made the paintings stand out. I got talking to the organizer (Cult Events is the company who organize these such events) and said I had noticed this because of the art, he then told me that the artist could not make it tonight. This is my first criticism – the organizer really should have announced this to the whole party so that we were all at least aware and also he should have attempted at making up for this, with either a cocktail on the house or follow up conversation. Despite this he was charming and apologised, but as I said he should have told the group – I guess he didn’t want this to be a big deal – but it was a little annoying for me as I did come for the artist over the food.

Most of the people who had come here were through Meet Up and had come because of the artistic 10 course meal. I was blithely unaware of this and came to meet the artist over a few nibbles. In the end I am pleased I went because of the food but at the time I was a little put out. It was charming in a way that we all had come for different reasons and through different sources. Right, now on to the food. The chef was apparently a Michelin or trained by a Michelin; those whose had come for the menu over the art knew all about this and I pretended I was all in the know too.

The menu was inspired by the artist and supposed to replicate the art surrounding us. The theme therefore was bold, brash and colourful. The other lady who was also on her own shared a red bottle of wine with me. The ten course dinner and a cocktail was included any additional drinks were not included, which was fair enough and they were at a fairly reasonable price.

The starters came out after about 20minutes which was nice as we had a chance to get to know the table. There were two tables of eight and the other table was mainly made up of a party so we had a lot of getting to know each other. Firstly the chicken skins came out which were served with a madly flavoured green and white puree, the puree could have been a little tastier but the chive skin was crispy and not greasy at all. Immediately afterwards came the radish stuffed with hollandaise. The radish was not as strong as I would have liked but allowed the hollandaise really to shine. The radish was scoped out in the middle and the sauce was dolloped in the centre. It was bright and worked really well.

We then had a 15-20minute wait while the pig’s checks with tarragon and beats came out. These were moist and melted in the mouth. Just delious. We were then served the ambiguously named wasabi avocado smear with chicory and cheviche. This was a fishy cheviche served in a chicory leaf. The smear was literally a green smear across the plate. Now I would say that this was very Michelin and trying hard but honestly set against the brash colour palette of the paintings this worked brilliantly. My one critism was that I could not taste the wasabi,  I assume this was to allow the avocado speak for itself but then I ask myself why would you add the two ingredients together? One creamy and mild, the other spicy so isn’t it obvious one would dilute the other. This dish was great though, just a slight note. As soon as we had finished with this course we were served with the radish and beetroot salad, with a beetroot and orange puree and horseradish foam. This dish was one of the brightest dishes, a smear of beetroot that tasted deliciously like orange blossom and the radish salad which was crispy and fresh. Really delicious.

At this point the waitress brought out homemade bread (there was a loud smash a moment earlier so I assume this was the second batch… well I hope so). This was delicious but was the butter we had the option of salted butter or smoked butter, which tasted really Smokey like oak. We asked the guy how this was done and it was through a smoke gun apparently. Awesome.

The next dish was a memorable one for me as it was a surprise when place on the table. The dish consisted of peas, beans, herbs, leaves and strawberries. Ok, so I assumed there would be a pea salad with strawberries mixed throughout but no no no. The peas and leaves were there but the herbs were served as an oil sauce and the strawberries were something else. This was served in an ice cream- it looked like vanilla but once placed in the mouth the strawberry taste just took over. I have no idea how this was done as it was pure white but oh my it was fabulous!

Our next dish was roasted tomatoes and onions with garlic and onion. This came out as half roasted tomatoes with a three rings of onions. These were slowly cooked and they were placed on a creamy smear of garlic and onion. The onion and garlic flavour went well with the tomatoes and really was a winner.

The main course came out (I say it was the main course as it had meat in it and was heavier than the other dishes but as there was so many dishes it is hard to really say). This was described as a deconstructed burger on the menu, and this was the dish that caught my eye and the table discussed what this could be. This was a lot less exciting than I thought as it was a piece of beef, broche cream and pickled apple – however tasted incredible. The brioche cream was the highlight here, it actually tasted like the sweet, Italian bread and the beef just malted in the mouth. The outside was sticky and crisp with a tender mouth-watering crumbling meat inside. Delicious.

We were then on our way to the finish line. We were served watermelon sorbet to cleanse our taste buds; these were served in tiny shot glasses. It was very tasty and wasn’t watery like many watermelon flavored sorbets are.

We then were served deconstructed carrot cake; again I was excited at the prospect but again this was simple. It looked like a fairy cake that had a creamy sauce poured over it. It was not the most exciting dishes we had that night but did have a slight perfume of carrot and the texture was light and fluffy.

We finished off with a lemon foam raspberry financer. This was lemony foam served with a raspberry jelly. This was the best of the desserts and was just a perfect end for the meal although a little creamy after all of the dishes we had consumed. I ordered another cocktail and carried on chatting with my new found acquaintances. We chatted over out interest and thoughts of the night.

It was nice to speak to a range of people from varied backgrounds. All in all this was a fantastic meal; it was a shock to me as I did not necessarily go there for the food. Of course the fact that the artist was not there was a disappointment to me and I thought the creator should have at least acknowledged this but despite this the food was fantastic. Really great night and couldn’t recommend more.

Sex Drugs and Bacon Rolls give this place:

             Food                            Atmosphere                      Service

4 Stars4 Stars3 Stars

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