The Secret Garden

Now I think it’s fair to say from previous posts I am a fan of the lovely chef Jimmy Garcia and his wonderful food. His new summer pop up launched a couple of weeks ago and I was lucky enough to snag a table on opening night (hectic days has caused a delay to this being posted!). Called the Secret Garden, it leads your imagination to think of all things summer, and even though it was raining the night we went, I do believe the restaurant exudes summer!

The Secret Garden

Buzzing the bell to get in you make your way up stairs through the vines, candles are lit and you are on an outside terrace. As you make your way inside and are greeted by the front of house you are not quite sure what to expect as the diners are behind a set of double doors. Walking in you are greeted by quite a dark room, lit with candles, the floor covered in grass ( the fake kind, don’t worry ladies no mud to be had in this garden), vines and flowers hanging from the ceiling and there in the middle in all its grandeur a beautiful wooden tree. Its like the kind of garden everyone wants, low maintenance, no bugs or mud and it has a bar in it!

The centre of attention, the grand tree of the Secret Garden

The centre of attention, the grand tree of the Secret Garden

Sitting at a table by the bar, long grass created a bit of a divider from the bar area which was a nice touch, we had a view of the whole place. It was busy, and tables continued to empty and fill throughout the evening even though we didn’t sit until 9pm proving the popularity of this pop up chef.

Now the menu has changed a bit since we first went, the indoor BBQs have unfortunately gone and the menu is now a standard Starter, Main and Dessert using the dishes that made up the small plates element of the original menu. Do not let this put you off because we had the small plates (which are now bigger plates) and they were great. The menu like with Jimmy’s other pop ups are seasonal, using as much local produce from small producers as possible and of course his dad’s Spanish chorizo. The meat on the menu is varied using a range of game and fish such as pigeon, rabbit, Guinea fowl and sea bass, which adds a varied depth to the menu and when paired with ‘garden’ inspired foods you have delicious plates.

‘Run Rabbit’ Wild Rabbit Loin, Pickled Baby Veg, Rabbit Veloute, Rabbit Pop Corn

‘Run Rabbit’ Wild Rabbit Loin, Pickled Baby Veg, Rabbit Veloute, Rabbit Pop Corn

'Porky Beans' Belly, Smoked Eel Beignet, Fava and Bacon Beans, Carrot Puree

‘Porky Beans’ Belly, Smoked Eel Beignet, Fava and Bacon Beans, Carrot Puree

Papa G’s Chorizo, Guineafowl ballotine, Chorizo and Parmesan risotto, skin shard, cherry tomatoes and Spinach

Papa G’s Chorizo, Guineafowl ballotine, Chorizo and Parmesan risotto, skin shard, cherry tomatoes and Spinach

Seared Sea Bass, Deep Fried Oyster, Radish, Squid Ink Aioli, Chardonnay Foam

Seared Sea Bass, Deep Fried Oyster, Radish,
Squid Ink Aioli, Chardonnay Foam

As always presentation is faultless. The plates are delicate and beautiful even though some are carrying these hearty and robust meats on them. My favourites were the ‘Run Rabbit’ rabbit ballotine and the Chorizo and Guinea fowl, both hearty, delicate and busting with flavour.

If you have room for dessert then go for it. The Edible Garden is lovely and chocolate heaven while the Ice Cream Factory allows you to fill your face with sugary goodness and throw caution to the wind for any future dental visits!

This is definitely a must try so if you can get yourself a reservation do, as this is great food in a cleverly put together theme.

Chef Particulier Supper Club

It’s a cold Friday night in Stockwell and I am sitting in the basement flat of a gorgeous Georgian town house off the main road running through Stockwell. Why am I here you ask? But for the first supper club of Janos Balint, aka Chef Particulier!

I came to know about Janos and his supper club through my colleague Naomi who is the other half to the lovely Jimmy Garcia and Janos has worked for him. I love the random connections you end up making in London! Anyway, I was told that Janos was doing his first supper club so I felt like I should go along, try it out and support him in his efforts. So here we were in a rather spartan but toasty warm basement flat, 4 tables set for six people apiece and starving.

The Fabulous Menu

The Fabulous Menu

The kitchen team were hard at work when we appeared and being prompt we were some of the first people there. Supper Clubs are always interesting as you never quite know who you are going to be sitting at a table with. It was a mixed crowd. Friends of Janos’, friends of friends, employers and friends of employers. As we sat down, a quick welcome speech from Janos and the wine bottles opened, the very relaxed evening commenced.

The menu for the evening was

A Trip of Canapés

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Mackerel Three Ways

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Seasonal Vegetable Shooter

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Pheasant Salmi with Celeriac Gratin and Roasted Plums

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Citrus Sorbet

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Apple terrine served with Caramel and Chantilly Cream

The food itself was delicious. I was personally intrigued by the mackerel as its one of my favourite things and always interested to see what people do with it. The mackerel came in tartar form, as a pate and escabeche. All three were beautiful. I do not normally like tartar but with the Asian twist it was light and full of flavour and I inhaled it!. After a short breather we were served shots of vegetable soup. Always novel!

Mackerel Three Ways

Mackerel Three Ways

The main course is what we were all waiting for, pheasant severed with celeriac gratin and roasted plums. The pheasant was beautiful, moist and full of flavour. It was very well cooked. I would have liked my gratin with a bit more sauce to it but that’s just me being greedy and wanting yummy cream. The gratin itself was lovely, the celeriac perfectly thin and seasoned well.

Pheasant!!

Pheasant!!

Post pheasant and starting to feel rather full came our pallet cleansing citrus sorbet. Light and refreshing it was what was just needed. Having eaten pretty much everything that was put in front of me I was going to struggle with fitting desert in, but I would try. Now I am not the world biggest fan of cooked apple but I did quite enjoy the apple terrine. I like the idea of the apple terrine but both me and my friend agreed we would have preferred it warm rather than cold. The caramel and cream complimented it very well though.

Desert!

Desert!

Overall this was a great dinner by Janos and I am very excited that it will be just the first of many. In fact the second one was a couple of weekends ago but I couldn’t attend. Fingers crossed that the next one falls on an empty date in my diary.

Janos is one to watch, he is all about seasonal food that tastes great. His love of food comes from growing up in a three generation household in a small Hungarian village. His grandmother seems to be the inspiration when you talk to him, her cooking of traditional dishes, simple and seasonable using ingredients from their garden ( including the chickens and rabbits they kept). Janos’ cooking goes back to simplicity, using what is available and seasonal and not trying to use a ridiculous number of ingredients. I like this, its home cooking but with a touch of elegance. I look forward to seeing how these supper clubs develop as the seasons change!

If you like good food and random company then keep an eye out for Chef Particulier’s next supper club as I know it will be good!

The Lodge

The wood paneling, the antlers on the wall, warm blankets and a steaming bowl of fondu! I could be in the Alps, but alas I am not, I am in the heart of Balham and at the latest pop up from Jimmy Garcia, The Lodge.

The Alpine lodge theme runs through not only the decor but also the menu which is filled with fondu, hot cocktails and wild meat mains. All of which makes you long for the snow.

Feeling the Alpine spirit at the Lodge

Feeling the Alpine spirit at the Lodge

The Lodge

As with Jimmy’s other pop ups, this is a relaxed affair. With communal tables and a couple of smaller ones this is the place to go with friends, grab a couple of bottles of wine or a round of mulled cider from the drinks menu and then settle down for a natter over delicious fondu. Outside you can sit under big toasty blankets and heaters and really get into the Alpine swing of things by having the chill on your cheeks.

The fondu is the star of the show, made with Coolea and Ogleshield Somerset provided by Neals Yard Dairy and blended with white wine and kirsch, it sits proud in the middle of the table surrounded by potatoes, bread and salads. We of course had to have the delicious charcuterie served on slate to go with our cheese, because what meal is complete without charcuterie!

An Alpine spread of glorius fondu

An Alpine spread of glorius fondu

I very much recommend you get yourself down to the Lodge and get your urban apres ski on as it won’t be around forever! This is the ideal place to meet up with friends as the winter draws in either for dinner or sunday lunch ( the venison looks divine!).

First Time Quail

I love having people around for dinner, it’s a chance to show off and cook something you wouldn’t normally cook during the week. So there I was pondering what to make as I wandered aimlessly around the supermarket – this happens more times than you would think – and I happened upon the game section of the meat aisle. I love game, its something that I generally only have as a treat when I go out for dinner, I never seem to choose it as something to cook at home. I don’t know why because venison is my favourite meat and I love little birds like grouse and Poussin. Of course I have ventured into the world of game before with delicious rabbit ragu!

Now one thing I haven’t tried before is quail, not sure why, but I haven’t. There in the fridge of the supermarket were quail, on special offer and calling to me. I had to do it, why not, try a new meat and learn to cook something new as well. sold!

Now quail are a tiny bird, not that much meat but as long as you have some good sides then one is more than enough for a person, although if you are feeding a hungry person who eats a lot you may want to serve them two!

tiny quail, enough for one... unless you are hungry

tiny quail, enough for one… unless you are hungry

I decided to keep my first time quail cooking simple. I looked through my cook books and the internet for recipe recommendations, how to cook, what sauce to make with it and some got really complicated. Simple is what I wanted.

To start with I decided to stuff my bird, I didn’t have time to make my own stuffing so good old store-bought would have to do, and also I was going to wrap it with streaky bacon to keep the meat moist and add a bit of flavour ( quail dries out quite quickly so if you are not using bacon make sure you baist it through cooking.

stuffed and wrapped quail ready for the oven

stuffed and wrapped quail ready for the oven

Ingredients (meal for 2)

Stuffing of choice – the size of your quail will depend on how much you make up, so make a little as per the packet to start and if you can fit more in then make some more.

2 Quail, no giblets (take out f the fridge one hour before cooking)

2 strips of streaky bacon

olive oil

mixed herbs to season ( I used thyme, rosemary and a little bit of tarragon)

150ml white wine

300ml chicken stock

1 teaspoon of flour

salt and pepper to season

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan oven). Make up your stuffing as per the packet instructions or if you are feeling super fancy make it from scratch! Once made put it to one side to cool as you do not want to be handling it hot.

2.  When the stuffing has cooled stuff the quail. Wrap one piece of bacon around the bird and secure it with a toothpick. You may want to secure the hole where you stuffed the bird with a tooth pick as well to stop the stuffing coming out. Then drizzle with olive oil and rub the herb mix in to it. Place the birds onto a roasting tin and put them into the oven.

3. Cook the birds for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. The juices should run clear. For the gravy, 15 minutes into cooking pour in 150ml of white wine  and place the tin back in the oven.

4. Once cooked remove from the oven and let the birds rest for 10 minutes. While resting make the gravy. Place the roasting tin over a medium heat and add the chicken stock, while stirring add the flour. Continue stirring ( with a whisk) until the sauce thickens and season to taste.

5. Remove the tooth picks and place the quail  on to plates. Serve with creamy mash potato and green beans. Serve with the gravy.

so yummy! stuffed quail with creamy mash and veg!

so yummy! stuffed quail with creamy mash and veg!

Enjoy! xx