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Posts Tagged ‘Montpelier Basement’

We’ve had a busy few foodie months and, after missing out on several occasions because of date clashes, finally managed to get a place at the Bishopston Supper Club on Friday evening. This being only our second foray into the world of the secret supper club (we dined at the Montpelier Basement in November) we were excited to see how our evening with the Resting Chef would pan out.

Danielle, blogging under the alias the Resting Chef, has worked as a chef in several Bristol restaurants, including Hotel du Vin and H Bar, but now offers cookery lessons and runs the Bishopston Supper Club from her home.

Her ethos is to use locally sourced and seasonal produce to create homely and classic dishes of restaurant quality and with her own creative twist. To help achieve this aim, Danielle has a list of trusted local suppliers including Castellano’s Deli, the Fish Shop and Trethowan’s Dairy but is also often seen tweeting about her foraging efforts in Bristol’s hedgerows and undergrowth in preparation for her supper clubs and to stock up her storecupboard with preserves. No surprise then that the menu was to feature nettles, picked around St Werburghs City Farm earlier in the week.

The local connections don’t stop at sourcing the food. The Resting Chef has teamed up with newly opened Grape and Grind to provide guests with wine recommendations for each course, making it easy to stop in on the way to pick up a couple of bottles knowing that they’ll be a perfect match for the food.

There was a relaxed atmosphere in the dining room and the kitchen when we arrived. A few guests were already there and we had met another as we walked up the pathway to the house. Danielle and her sous-chef and washer-upper for the evening, Georgia, were very calm. There was plenty of time for mingling with guests whilst bringing out an aperitif of Somerset cider brandy with apple juice and our appetisers; crisp ewe’s curd and spinach filo parcels. More traditionally found filled with feta or ricotta, the ewe’s curd was a great local alternative with just the right tang needed to contrast with the irony spinach.

Once everyone had arrived and drinks were in hand we took our seats at the large communal table. It was pleasant to see couples opting to sit apart so that they could talk to more people around the table. One of the beauties of supper clubs is that opportunity to meet new people in a friendly environment and there would certainly be no uncomfortable feeling if you were to turn up on your own, as a couple of the diners did.

Our starter was a Provencal style fish soup with croutons and rouille. I thought that the fish soup would be a challenge for me as I don’t have fond memories of fish soup from childhood trips to France but I was unduly concerned. The flavour was stunning. It was rich, deep and yet still light enough to serve as a starter. Served with fillets of fish and plenty of shellfish it would have made an amazing main course. Wine recommendation: a Provence Rose.

Next up; nettles. The nettles had been blanched then sweated off to form the base of a risotto which was earthy and perfectly al dente. A few toasted pine nuts, shavings of parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil and a home-made stock which had been tended to for hours took the dish from homely weeknight supper to fine-dining. Wine recommendation: Sauvignon blanc.

I was really looking forward to the main course and the accompanying wine. It was right up my street. Braised mutton with white bean puree and greens. Danielle had chosen to cook the mutton in a good red wine with a bouquet garni and the usual stock vegetables.  Mutton has a richer, gamier flavour than lamb and when cooked long and slow, as this was, is so tender it almost melts in the mouth. The cannelini beans on which the mutton sat had been pureed with garlic, thyme and rosemary. A delicious alternative to mash potato. I’m not ashamed to say I wiped my plate clean with the freshly baked focaccia still left on the table from the start of meal. Wine recommendation: Chianti or Barbera.

There was just enough room left for a light dessert! Rhubarb and Moscat jelly with poached rhubarb, bay ice cream and shortbread. The jelly was not over-sweet and had the perfect wibble, the poached rhubarb was so intensely rhubarb flavoured and a vibrant pink and they were both complimented by the fragrant, slightly savoury bay ice cream. My first taste of bay ice cream and one I’ll be looking for again. Wine recommendation: a late harvest Riesling or Tokaji.

Danielle and Georgia, having finished in the kitchen, joined us at the table where more wine, cider brandy, tea and coffee freely flowed with the conversation into the small hours.

Bishopston Supper Club felt more like a dinner party than a restaurant-style experience and yet the calibre of the chef showed in the attention to detail, presentation, depth of flavour and quality of the cooking in every course. The best of both worlds. A fabulous evening. Compliments to the chef!

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Last night we were on the guest list for dinner at the third Montpelier Basement Supper Club where we joined 13 other Bristol foodies who’d all caught wind of this new phenomenon to hit Bristol via Twitter.

Our hosts Dan and Elly are keen cooks who have bravely decided to open their dining room to food lovers looking for a new kind of dining experience which offers restaurant quality food at a very reasonable price (a suggested donation is requested) in intimate surroundings with the ability to meet and talk to like-minded people.

The wood stove was roaring and jazz music set the tone for a relaxed evening. We were welcomed with an arrival aperitif of La Gitana Manzanilla sherry and an appetiser of sage and pumpkin gougere. A gougere is simply a savoury cheese choux pastry. These were as soft as a pillow and so very morish!

Bertinet sourdough and spelt loaf were served ahead of the starter; a parsnip, apple and chestnut soup with bitter croutons and parsnip crisp. A surprising combination of savoury and sweet with a crunch and a crisp to offset the thick velvety soup.

Our fish course was Cornish haddock with a pumpkin crust, leeks and a white wine sauce. The pumpkin was an unusual seasonal twist to this quite classic dish, the sweetness really complimenting the firm fish, leeks and rich sauce. Elly gave away her secret for the crunch atop the pumpkin crust after many of the guests had left – I’ll be making use of it myself! Thanks Elly!

Try as I might, and I have tried plenty recently, I don’t get on with steak. The texture and flavour just don’t do it for me. So I was a little hesitant about the main course but there was no way I was passing up the accompanying triple cooked chips and béarnaise sauce! The bavette, which comes from the skirt or flank is a rare cut of meat in this country but popular in France, was served rare with a good seared outer crust. I have to share with you my utter pride in having polished the lot off! Dan, that’s the first whole serving of steak I’ve eaten, well done!

Dessert was an unusual masala chai chocolate tart with medjool date and PX ice cream and a syrup of reduced PX. The tart was not to my taste but the ice cream was sublime. Given that Dan had been up most of the night before churning it by hand after the ice cream machine had given up the ghost, the result was impressive.

This was an incredible effort to simultaneously serve 15 people such high quality food from a small domestic kitchen whilst creating a lovely atmosphere and environment where online contacts but otherwise complete strangers could meet, chat and spend a most enjoyable evening. We look forward to dining with you all again.

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