The Gravy Social by Luke Findlay

Having worked in some of the UK’s most exciting kitchens,  including Nopi, The Square, The Hand & Flowers, (and more recently) Head of Development for Patty & Bun, Luke Findlay has just taken the plunge to launch his first solo supper club, The Gravy Social.

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Friends of Luke and hungry foodies gathered at The Gun pub in east London. We got to know the other diners on our table while enjoying a fruity aperitif. Dainty little Kobez flatbreads arrived, topped with a variety of unusual toppings like the comforting charred corn, aioli, gremolata, tahini and soft egg.

Starter was an ideal Autumn warmer, Braised mussels with fennel and garlic sausage, clamato juice and prickly oil. The sausages were a highlight, coarse meat flavoured with lovely fennel and garlic. I found the prickly oil slightly overpowering, and after a few bites my mouth began to feel numb. But other guests seemed to love this unique sensation, and managed to finish an astounding quantity of spicy mussels.

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As soon as the sides were placed down on the table, my comrades rushed to get the best mouthful. Indulgent hash browns with a crunchy outer layer and lashings of mayo. Super sweet onions in a rich and intense herby juices, and Fried spicy brussel sprouts which had me looking forward to the festive season. The main course showcased the very under-appreciated goat meat, it was full of flavour and beautifully tender, perfectly seasoned with tamarind and bitter melon.

The Gravy Social

Dessert was rough and ready, served in childlike plastic yellow bowls. The crunchie ice-cream was delicious, but I found the grape molasses a little too sweet paired with the other components.

It was a fun and raucous night at The Gravy Social, meeting interesting like-minded people and sharing overflowing plates of bold and brilliant food.

For more information on the next Gravy Social supperclub follow Luke on Twitter here.

Almeida Restaurant, Islington

Once upon a time the Almeida restaurant was just a place to have a bite to eat pre or post a theatre performance. Now the restaurant very much has its own personality and style; located across the road from the famous theatre, it is a destination in its own right popular with both theatre-goers and foodie locals.

The light dining room is welcoming and comfortable, we sat at a pleasant window seat and watched the restaurant fill up as the night progressed. Some will recognise head chef Tommy Boland from his cameo appearance in Celebrity Masterchef. Tommy has a clear and creative vision for the Almeida producing impressive plates of food using the finest flavours and classic cooking techniques.

We were very well looked after by the kitchen and the friendly team of waiters who offered us endless extras ‘from the chef’. It was a hot day and I felt like something light and vibrant, the English Heritage Tomatoes Salad was the ideal option. Tommy proudly mentioned that the tomatoes were British, but just as sweet as the produce from Europe. The salad was immaculate adorned with stracciatella, nocellara olives and an accompanying fluffy piece of focaccia with olive oil. My dinner date opted for Roasted Isle Orkney Scallops with peas, girolles, leek fondue and aged parmesan, after seeing a similar recipe on a Masterchef episode! The plate was beautiful, a careful arrangement with each component cooked perfectly. Starters were an absolute hit, and were cleverly paired with a refreshing French Sauvignon blanc and an exotic Chardonnay from Southern California.

For main course, we selected the Glazed Pork Cutlet and Roasted New Season’s Lamb. Both dishes were a hefty size, too much to finish. The lamb presentation was stylish and sophisticated, the meat served in an intensely flavoured sauce and paired with a range of vegetables. The crispy artichokes were a lovely addition though I found the taste of the semi dried tomatoes a bit overpowering. The pork was a little overcooked and dry but was paired with delicious sweet peaches and summery vegetable slaw. The sauce was sticky and tasty, but the meat needed more of it.

I was excited to spot soufflé on the dessert menu, apricot flavoured with a citrusy lemon verbena ice-cream. We also tried the decadent chocolate moelleux sundae with whipped salt caramel, vanilla ice-cream and tonka bean. Soufflés are notoriously difficult to perfect but this rendition was faultless, light and airy, creamy and smooth with a hint of apricot. The chocolate pudding was presented in a circular glass bowl, delicately arranged and utterly delicious.

The Almeida has truly proved itself as a restaurant worth travelling to, I was very impressed by the high quality of food and service.

More information and book a table at Almeida restaurant here.

All photos taken on my Olympus PEN E-PL7.

Chef, Soho Theatre

CHEF soho theatre

Fifty minutes went by in a flash, and yet just metres away actress Jade Anouka had recounted the entire life story of a troubled but talented chef.

Chef is a short play with plenty of power. After premiering at Edinburgh Fringe Festival it has won a string of awards and now finds itself in the heart of London’s West End at Soho Theatre. The piece is part of the summer programme of monologue-based plays.

This one-woman show is a platform for a strong and versatile actress and Jade Anouka rises to the challenge. She tells the story eloquently and fervently, using the small stage imaginatively to flick between characters and scenarios. With almost no staging and very few props, she holds the attention of the audience for almost an hour and leaves us wanting to hear more.

We hear the tale of a young girl abused by a father, the woes of her destructive relationships but then the joy she experiences as a young woman learning her craft in the kitchen. Food is not just her passion and skill but it is her escape. She seeks shelter and solace in the kitchen when the world turns on her. We hear how she established herself at the helm of an haute-cuisine restaurant later finding herself, as a convicted inmate, running a prison kitchen. A white board allows the play to be split into sections, each titled with a foodie delight like ‘The Perfect Peach’ or ‘Red Berries with Hibiscus Sorbet’.

The script is lyrical and poetic; at times the rhythm of Anouka’s speech becomes almost rap-like in its realisation. The writing is florid with lots of description and complex imagery – it requires concentration to fully understand, but is satisfying and beautiful to listen to. I felt fully immersed in the narrative and at times noticed myself gasp or jump with surprise.

Chef is a mesmerising insight into the life of a chef, and the life of a convict but most of all the life of woman and the struggle for love and fulfilment. Sabrina Mahfouz’s thought-provoking play will provide the perfect talking point over dinner in one of Soho’s lovely eateries.

Chef continues until 4 July 2015, more information and book here.