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Thursday, 5 August 2010

London Supper Club - The Old Hat Club

The Old Hat Club - UK Launch of Prosecco Riccardo

As a supporter of London’s supper clubs, I was delighted to hear that Azienda Riccardo had decided to embrace the underground movement by launching their Prosecco Riccardo in the UK in some of London’s finest supper clubs.


The Old Hat Club has been on my radar since their opening night in June 2010, and I was interested to hear of a supper club a stone’s throw away from my home in Islington.

Azienda Riccardo is located in Valdobbiadene in the North-eastern Veneto region of Italy (where the Prosecco or Glera grape grows) and has been producing Italian sparkling wines since 1918.


The Location

Set in an ordinary looking Islington street, the discreet basement entrance leads into an elegant open plan kitchen, dining and living room area where this supper club is held. The kitchen opens up to a beautifully landscaped, sub-tropical garden where diners mingle and chat before their meal. There is an impressive wood oven at the end of the garden built by Tim Scorer.




The decor is light and modern with some charming antique pieces (notably their beautiful Danish-style sideboard) dotted alongside a large, stainless steel American style fridge-freezer, and quirky pieces of art and decorative items.


The Food and Drink (by Prosecco Riccardo)

As guests arrived (there were about 25 of us), we were ushered into the garden and served two types of hot canapés, swirls of puff pastry and minced black pudding and topped with Parmesan cheese or red peppers and Italian “bottarga”.


Both canapes had been baked in their large wood oven and tasted delicious. I was really impressed by the red pepper and bottarga version – the grated “bottarga” added a salty, unmistakeably fishy but subtle flavour to the canape.


“Bottarga” is the egg sack of either tuna or grey mullet and is prepared by salting, pressing and drying it for six months. Similar to the Japanese Mentaiko, but much firmer and saltier, it is mostly produced in Sicily (tuna) and Sardinia (grey mullet), and can be rather expensive. In London, it can be purchased from top quality Italian delicatessens like Lina Stores on Brewer Street.


A refreshing cocktail of Prosecco Riccardo, strawberries and muddled basil was served to accompany the hot canapés and helped get the party off to a good start.


It wasn’t long before we were seated and served our starter of “Wood-oven roasted Cornish sardines, stuffed with herbs and served on a bed of diced tomatoes and dill on toasted granary bread”. Bones had been painstakingly removed from the flesh which had a delicious smoky quality from the wood oven. I enjoyed the simple rustic flavours of this dish.


To accompany our first dish we had a glass of Prosecco Tranquilo. Despite being a Prosecco, this wine had no fizz, tasted fruity and well balanced and was robust enough to pair well with our sardine starter.


For main course, we had “Milk-braised pork, served with smoked squash, crackling and goose fat potatoes”. This is a very traditional Tuscan recipe (known as Arista al Latte) and a dish I used to make in Italy when I lived there as an Erasmus student.


The Italian version calls for the meat to be braised in a bath of milk seasoned with lemon thyme or sometimes rosemary and a few garlic cloves only. The meat should be very tender and sucullent, and the flavours unadulterated. The Old Hat Clubs’ version did not disappoint, the meat was melting in the mouth and delicately flavoured but I felt the crackling, probably roasted in the wood oven, was slightly overdone (it was a tad dry). The potatoes were perfectly cooked, and I felt that having them cooked in goose fat was also a very nice touch.


We had two Riccardo Prosecco wines to match our main course, the “Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Extra Dry” and the “Prosecco Cartizze DOC”. The “extra dry” variety still showed a small amount of sugar and fruit and was very approachable, although the “Cartizze” was in my opinion a better fit.


It showed lovely hints of orchard fruit (green apples and pears), a good amount of fine bubbles and an excellent structure (fruit, acidity and alcohol).


The dessert was a simple but well executed “Citrus cake and orange sorbet”. It was slightly spiced, possibly cloves or cinnamon, and ended the meal on a very fine note.


The People

The Old Hat Club is made up of a team of four close friends (two couples) - Tim, Emma, Harry and Ami. On my visit, it was only the second event of the supper club. On this occasion, I had the pleasure of spending some time chatting to Tim and Emma, and more recently at the Friday Food Club where we shared a table. Harry was also kind enough to show me the massive wood oven, while he busily prepared the canapés, and briefly explained how the oven was put together.


Tim (a trained chef) and Emma are both in advertising while Harry is a restaurant manager at Byron Hamburger while Amy is training to be a florist. The events are scheduled on Sunday lunchtimes, and will be taking place every six weeks.


Other Stuff

The next event is scheduled for the 22nd August 2010.


Cost: £30 per person. I was a guest of Prosecco Ricardo. My guests, Dr G and Natalie Ragus, paid for their own meals.

Likes: stylish set up, and good, rustic food. Sunday lunch supper club. The lovely “bottarga” was a real treat, and the hosts were friendly and very chaming.

Dislikes: a difficult one to fault!

Verdict: Great location and non-fussy, honest, and good food at Islington supper club for a £30 minimum donation. The quality of ingredients used was excellent, and I felt that Tim, Emma, Harry and Ami were very engaging hosts. Highly Recommended.

9 comments:

  1. Luiz, that was a great lunch but no mention of the a certain incident involving the mannequin?? ;-)

    BTW, love your artistics portrait pics.

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  2. It was great reading your post Luiz. A superb lunch with such a great bunch of friend!
    Wonderful!!

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  3. Thanks Riccardo, glad you liked it! I hope I managed to give your fantastic Prosecco some justice! Hope to catch up again soon.

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  4. Luiz - this looks gorgeous. I really need to go to more supper clubs!

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  5. We're we served the same food?! Pork belly was tasteless and the sardines were overpowered by the herbs, was like eating a mouthful of grass. Only saving grace for me was the prosecco, good thing we had plenty of it!

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  6. @ Melanie - Hi Mel, if you ever need any supper club recommendations, pls let me know. Hope you are well, haven't see you for ages!

    @ Winesleuth - I have to disagree with you on that Denise, I felt the food was well made and tasted quite delicious. I wouldn't call the pork "tasteless", the flavours were subtle as it should be in most Italian meat dishes (less is more when it comes to seasoning meat in Italy).

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  7. This looks lovely, just lovely. I would have been put off, however, by the fear that they would have forced me to eat old hats. That wouldn't wash.

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  8. @ Kay - no Kay I don't think you will have that problem there! The food is fantastic and if you manage to buy a bottle of Prosecco Riccardo to go with your food, you will be a happy guy!

    @ Douglas Blyde - thanks Dougie!

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