BA2012 Olympics Pop Up with Simon Hulstone
Somethings I cannot resist. One is an invite to dine in a fake plane in Shoreditch with Simon Hulstone at the helm.
Eh? I know.
Simon Hulstone is a Michelin starred chef whom I first came across at the Bocuse D’Or last year. He is clearly very talented, he got to the last stage of the Bocuse D’Or which involved competing in an extremely intense two year long competition, all of which he did while running his restaurant Elephant in Torquay. Lots of chefs take the two years off and dedicate themselves to the competition. I followed the journey but have never tried his food. I really want to.
Now, I still wasn’t going to get to try Simon’s food per se – certainly not like I would get in his restaurant – as this pop up is a showcase of food that British Airways will serve on their flights this summer to celebrate the Olympics. The menu was developed by Simon with Heston Blumenthal’s support. The event sold out in 3 hours. I wasn’t alone in my curiosity then and I went to check it out.
It is a really fun concept. Google Maps and my own lack of internal compass sent me wildly astray but I eventually found it. I entered, got my boarding pass and proceeded to the bar for a glass of champagne, complimentary for every diner. The bar is lined with an art exhibit and there are videos with Heston & Simon discussing the food and their inspirations. A dj is playing music, which I actually found a wee bit too loud, but I am more a frequenter of wine bars. We popped into the little cinema to watch the short film and by the time that was done, it was time to dine.
Airline food? Well sitting in a fake plane to dine is ridiculous but lots of fun. We really enjoyed it. The menu, influenced by the British Airways menus dating back to 1948 (the last time the games were held in the UK), is minimal – there are two starters and desserts and three main courses – and classic with a few twists. It isn’t a menu that is designed to challenge but to comfort and enjoy. Which as a frequent traveller, seems just about right to me for a plane journey.
Real stewards greet you (I asked), and when you are seated an amuse arrives. Forman’s smoked salmon tartare with pickled cucumber ribbons, radish salad and crème fraiche was light and very bright. A tiny portion, it was enough to tickle the palate.
I had the golden beetroot with goat’s cheese and elderflower dressing starter – classic, lovely, light and fragrant with an elderflower twist. I hadn’t combined elderflower with goat’s cheese or beetroot before, the elderflower was maybe a little too subtle but overall the dish worked very well.
I envied my friend’s rillette of mackerel dressed on a pickled cucumber carpaccio with sour dough croutes. A little taste and I wanted to grab it. I behaved and ate my own.
Main courses were braised braised beef, grain mustard and horseradish mash; sustainably sourced fish pie with a warm tartare sauce and duck egg with roasted onion consommé lemon thyme, gruyere cheese and tapioca.
No complaints here from any of us, we were pleasantly surprised. Especially the vegetarian option, which was intensely savoury and rich, and an unusual vegetarian choice. It was hard to believe that this was airline food. I wondered if BA could pull if off when delivering it in larger numbers this summer.
Desserts were chilled chocolate fondant with a salted caramel centre which I didn’t order but regretted tasting as I didn’t want to move on to my own. I had the lemon curd cheesecake with a raspberry and basil compote which was lovely but lacking the oomph of the chocolate fondant.
Coffee and petits fours finished a really fun evening. Short film, bar with dj, dinner in a fake plane, and solid fare from Simon Hulstone.
There are no dining tickets left but access to the bar and cinema is free and you can order the starters and desserts there which I recommend that you do. The mackerel in particular is a stunner, and finish with that divine chocolate pudding.
Flight BA2012 is open weekdays (except Easter Bank Holidays) until April 17, with a dining lounge, cinema, gallery and bar for guests to experience. For more visit facebook.com/britishairways