2018 has definitely been the year when we re-discovered supper clubs. My initial hesitation with attending one of these is that you never know what to expect and it can go in either direction. By nature, these are one-off events so there is no benchmark or reviews to research beforehand. However, having been to a few this year, I can safely say that my fears have been put to rest. Most people behind supper clubs work extremely hard to make sure that your evening goes perfect. It is this creativity, passion and dedication that has swayed me towards attending more supper clubs in 2019.
On that note, it felt befitting that my last blog of 2018 would be dedicated to a supper club, and not just any supper club but a special Christmas themed one. Jointly organised by Chef Saurav Nath and Humayun Hussain, this truly had an impressive line up of dishes on offer.
To give you a bit of background, Chef Saurav Nath started his career with India’s famed Taj Hotel group. Having become well-versed with European cooking at the Hyatt Regency in New Delhi, he graced the UK’s Indian fine dining scene at restaurants such as the three AA Rosette winning Three Monkeys, Masterchef Atul Kochhar’s Michelin-starred Benares, before being appointed as the Head Chef at Colony restaurant in London’s fashionable Marylebone. Thereafter, Nath was a chef at arguably London’s finest Indian restaurant, the Michelin-starred Gymkhana, in Mayfair. More recently, he headed up the kitchens of the acclaimed Indian street food restaurant in London’s Spitalfields, Inito.*
Humayun Hussain is a longtime former food and hospitality journalist turned consultant in the same field. He has a high profile and a very well-respected standing in the food and restaurant sector. He has contributed extensively to the national media and been an Inspector for the AA Restaurant Guide. He has also made various TV appearances, twice with super-chef Gordon Ramsay. In addition, Humayun has been a panel judge for various awards shows and events. A member of the prestigious Guild of Food Writers, Humayun continues to offer a 360-degree food and restaurant consultancy service to clients, along with hosting several sold-out supper clubs.*
Needless to say, when these two powerhouses combine forces, the food will be outstanding. In fact, I started drooling just reading the names of the various dishes.
First to arrive was an aperitif of Sev Celery Rush (Cumin & rock salt infused green apple and celery juice). It was refreshing in an exotic kind of way. You could detect the faint hint of cumin through smell and taste. A real palate enhancer.
Next to arrive was the Amuse Bouche – Chukandari Bakari Paneer (Crispy beetroot filled goat’s cheese ball, coated with panko breadcrumb, beetroot lime cream, beet jelly, horseradish, beet gel & basil oil). There was some lovely play of beetroot textures going on there. There was this soft, velvety mousse, a granular puree version and a spicy gel. Whilst I love the vibrant colour of beetroot, I don’t like its earthy taste and here it was beautifully camouflaged with the subtle spicing without overpowering it.
The real ooh-ahh moment came with the arrival of the starter – Bater Nargisi Kofta (Smoking quail mince wrap with quail eggs in a nest, broccoli-parsley soil, carrot pickle & “nargisi” sauce). In terms of presentation this dish pretty much smashed it. The poppadoms were designed in the form of a nest inside which lay the spiced quail eggs. Once you had polished off the inside, you could break the poppadom basket to scoop the saffron coloured ‘nargisi’ sauce. I wanted to know the recipe of it as it was so delicious. Finally, the green ‘soil’ made of tiny textures of broccoli added an interesting element to the whole ensemble. Truly a splendid creation.
Expectations by now had skyrocketed and we couldn’t wait to try the fish course. The fish dish of the evening was Patrani Macchi (Steamed sea bass fillet spread with green herb chutney, rolled in banana leaf, wilted swedes, shallot puree & lemon gel). In comparison to the starter, this dish was slightly understated in presentation. However, it more than made up with the fine flavours. The sea bass was cooked to perfection, beautifully steam-wrapped inside the banana leaf. We loved the slightly tangy gel and herbaceous oil it came with. The slightly firm swedes added depth and texture to contrast the soft flesh of the fish. It was all mildly spiced with a Southern Indian slant.
Finally, it was that moment that I had been waiting for all evening – the main course of Peroo Biryani (Norfolk black turkey breast cooked with a layer of Himalayan Basmati rice, sage & wild mushroom raita, & prune & chestnut chutney). It came in a bowl with fronds of crisped up onions scattered on top. The rice was fluffy, fragrant and flavoursome. I am not the biggest fan of turkey but since it’s Christmas, I am willing to make an exception. Tiny bowls of Brussel sprouts, Curly Kale & Carrot Poriyal (Indian style stir fry), Aloo Matar (potato curry) and naan were delicious little accompaniments.
Last but not least, dessert or in this case a Chocolate Pumpkin Pudding (Chocolate & cardamom mousse, cranberry jelly, clementine compote & pumpkin pudding)
It had a mousse-like consistency but when you dug deep, you could reach a cakey base at the bottom. My preference would have been to go with a lighter dessert after four indulgent courses and it also felt slightly out of place with its Western slant, compared to the other Indian-accented dishes we tasted all evening. Nevertheless, it was delicious and we happily polished it all off.
The supper club was held in Chakra Indian restaurant in Kensington, one of my favourite Indian restaurants. In fact, kudos to the kitchen team at Chakra who managed to host the supper club alongside their regular dinner service. The arrival of the food was well paced and the two members of staff specifically looking after our event took good care of us.
Christmas is all about giving and the fact that a small amount from every ticket sold was donated to Prayas – a Delhi based charity supporting street children – was a good way to manifest that.
Kris and I really enjoyed this special one-off dinner; it was gorgeous food, professionally done and stylishly presented, supporting a good cause. I can’t wait to see what these two have planned next. Watch this space!
N.B. All photos and opinions are mine. This is not a sponsored post.
*Background on Chef Saurav Nath and Humayun Hussain provided by organisers of the event.