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A Magical Evening: Providores & Prudence Pop-Up at the Sipsmith Distillery

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Not much escapes me in the world of food, but lately there’s been so much going on that I’ve missed a number of things. You may wonder how I could fit much more in, the answer is I don’t know, but I will try relentlessly. That’s the joy of living in London, it’s absolutely bursting with great things to do.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

One day, whilst idling on twitter, which I am wont to do, I spied mention of a pop-up restaurant at the Sipsmith distillery. Not just any pop-up, for there is many an “any” pop-up these days, the restaurant in question would be none other than one of my favourites, The Providores, a London institution run by chef-owner, Peter Gordon.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

I’ve blogged about The Providores before (Turkish Eggs and Tapas Room). It’s a fusion restaurant, but don’t turn your head, it’s done really well. Accompanied by a lovely room and a great wine list featuring many interesting and delicious NZ wines, I can’t and don’t go there often enough. I just had to go to this.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

I bagged myself a couple of tickets, and made my merry way to Hammersmith, a meaty trek on a weekend when most tubes are slack on the work front. Somewhat like myself. Nonetheless, we made it, almost in good time.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

I had never been to Sipsmith before, and was surprised and enchanted to find this gorgeous little distillery encased in a little suburban terraced house. People were milling about outside drinking hot gin twists, and it wasn’t long before one was dispensed for me and I had my first taste of what was going to be a fantastically interesting and indulgent evening.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Mulled Gin – what a lovely idea and a lovely drink. Warm gin with a lovely citrus twist topped up with hot water. I love mulled wine, spiced cider, hot port and now mulled gin. These drinks could almost make Winter bearable.

I spied Peter Gordon and his team working in what looked like a field kitchen, set up in a tent beside the brewery. I tried to take a sneaky photo. Peter caught me and invited me to take a proper one, which I promptly did. Our first course was laid out, and I was starting to salivate, so was very happy when we were invited to take our seats and begin.

Seven courses were served over a magical evening, I felt as though I had slipped down a culinary rabbit hole, as Alice did to Wonderland. There was barely a weak note. The food was creative, exciting, beautifully presented and a joy to eat. The matched drinks were exciting, delicious and an inspiration. There was a lovely energy in the room, people that had created were excited to share it, and see the reactions of the diners. Guests indulged and delighted at each unfolding dish and cocktail match. Seated at commual table in the shadown of the still, Prudence, the room was a-buzz. Each course was presented by Gordon and Jared, who had great energy and enthusiasm. It was infectious.

Here’s what we had:

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Bloody Mary granitée with a fresh Irish oyster

A lovely spicey bloody mary topped with a meaty oyster. A spritely start that awakened the palate, and left us wanting more.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Beet, horseradish and yuzu-infused vodka and distilled and infused wasabi vodka with a Chinese beef and Pacific fish tartare

This was stand out, one of my favourites. The beef particularly was wonderful, gentle textures and interesting flavours. The wasabi vodka was perfect with it.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Game broth with a crispy wonton and wild mushrooms with a ‘bowl shot’ (gin-based salt and pepper tea jelly) was delicious and excitiing. Intensely savoury, with gorgeous textures, the shot of jelly was dropped into the broth and devoured. Great theatre which added to the experience.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Edamame parmesan, sake and mascarpone risotto with Truffle martini

The decadence of this martini, served in a gorgeous glass was remnisent of churches in the presentation for some reason. A large slice of truffle garnished the martini, lurking at the bottom like a gourmet creature of the deep. It was a wonderful match to the risotto, each really working to accentuate the other.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery
Crisp-skinned trout with soba noodles with tempura shiso leaf and den miso mustard with a ‘Ginza Gibson’ (Shiso-infused shochu with gin)

The tempura shiso leaf was gorgeous, and a perfect textural contrast to the rare fish, the cocktail was aromatic and fragrant. Gorgeous.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Roast New Zealand venison on buttered salsify with pickled plums and crispy buckwheat with ‘Northern Star’ (freshly distilled star anise and cacao vodka with ginger syrup and champagne)

I must confess that after so many cocktails at this point, my memory is hazy, but the venison was wonderful with the salsify and plums. I really enjoyed the cocktail too, the anise was interesting with the plums and the venison.

Finally, dessert. Medjool date, banana and pecan pudding with coconut palm sugar and caramel sauce with Lady Grey Martini (Lady Grey infused gin, fresh lemon and egg white, double shaken)

I adored this cocktail, it was my favourite by far. Spritzy with that lovely texture of egg white and the tea, I would have been happy with just this. The pudding was perfectly nice but not really to my taste being too sweet and rich. Others with sweeter teeth than mine loved it.

Cheers to Sipsmith and to Providores for a really special evening. I loved it, and hope they do it again, because I really want another experience of it. At £90 per person it’s not cheap, but it’s worth every penny for a fantastic and unique gustatory indulgence.

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

The Providores & Sipsmith Pop-Up at Sipsmith Distillery

Sipsmith Independent Spirits
www.sipsmith.com

The Providores and Tapa Room Restaurant
www.theprovidores.co.uk
109 Marylebone High Street
London W1U 4RX
020 7935 6175

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Posh Lunch Club at The River Cafe

Posh Lunch Club at The River Cafe

I love the River Cafe. It’s so bright and cheerful. By the Thames, the room is lined with high large windows and the room is flooded with light. A big woodfired oven blazes at the end of the room, and the kitchen and bar line the restaurant. Staff buzz behind and high ceilings mean the surrounding customer chatter isn’t imposing. It’s really nice and lively. Even the toilets are cheerful with big bright doors of different colours.

Posh Lunch Club at The River Cafe

It’s at the high end of most budgets, and mine is no exception, so it’s been a while since I visited. Some years ago, pre blog days in fact. Imagine, there was a time when I didn’t blog?! I have long been a fan of their style of cooking, simple flavoursome Italian far so I was excited at the prospect of a return visit, especially as I had secured a reservation with the Winter lunch offer of 3 courses for £24.

Posh Lunch Club at The River Cafe

Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray are accredited with changing perceptions of Italian food in this country, and many established chefs like Jamie Oliver have passed through their kitchens, crediting River Cafe as an inspiration, in terms of their food and their values. Sadly, co-founder and one of the chefs Rose Gray passed away after a long illness recently, and our reservation was moved as a result. Impressively, Ruth Rogers was there, manning the pass. I really like the fact that they never expanded or formed a chain, and stayed dedicated to their restaurant, still cooking and creating. It’s rare these days, no?

Posh Lunch Club at The River Cafe

The set menu offers lots of choice, and I wanted every main on it (there were four). We decided to forego the appetisers and to have a primi, secondi and dolce (starter, main and sweet). I was sorely tempted to go the whole hog, but that’s enough for lunch, when you’ve been eating out as much as I have been lately.

Posh Lunch Club at The River Cafe

I chose the Ribolita for primi, and my friend Caroline, fellow Irish gal and market buddy dining with me that day, chose the Gnocchi di Spinaci. I couldn’t resist two of my favourite ingredients, borlotti beans and cavolo nero but sadly it wasn’t remarkable. It was too wintry for me now that we are in Spring. I would have been happy with it at home, but at River Cafe I wanted something with more vibrance and more appeal. It just didn’t have any va-va-voom. The gnocchi were much better. Light, springy and bursting with flavour in a delicious lively sage butter.

Posh Lunch Club at The River Cafe

My main promised to be better and delivered. Coscia d’Agnello ai Ferri – chargrilled leg of lamb with cannelinni beans , parsley and slow cooked florence fennel. Bright pink in the centre with a gorgeous charred exterior and a beautiful texture, the lamb was perfect. The beans and fennel were a lovely compliment, the beans had a perfect bite, these were not depressing supermarket tinned beans that I loathe so much. Beans are so very underrated, I love the liberal placement of them in the River Cafe menu.

Posh Lunch Club at The River Cafe

Posh Lunch Club at The River Cafe

Caroline had the Coda di Rospo alla Griglia – chargrilled monkfish with anchovy and rosemary sauce, soft polenta with butter and parmesan, and cicoria. Caroline was worried that the polenta would be heavy, but I was confident that this would be the real deal, light and fluffy having been made with great care and over time. Polenta, like risotto, needs careful handling and lots of love, and this had liberal amounts of both. She loved it.

Posh Lunch Club at The River Cafe

The famous chocolate nemesis had to be ordered for dessert, it was mousse like in texture and utterly more-ish with the intensity of dark chocolate but none of the heaviness common in most chocolate desserts. We also ordered the lemon tart which was light and zingy, and a perfect end to the meal.

We had a bottle of Greganico with the meal, a Sicilian white compared to Sauvignon. I preferred it and found it lovely and aromatic with nice acidity that worked well with our lunch. It was light enough not to feel too guilty about a second glass that early in the day! It was a very reasonable £17.50, and was a good indicator for the rest of the list, being the cheapest available.

So, overall a lovely experience, even if the ribolita failed to impress. The service was charming, friendly and very helpful, even when I hopped around the wine list interminably, failing to decide. With wine it came to £40 each, which for the River Cafe is a bit of a bargain. The Winter Lunch Offer finishes at the end of March.

http://www.rivercafe.co.uk/