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Monday, 22 August 2011
ferdiesfoodlab is the latest and among the most anticipated supper club launches in London recently, and I was fortunate to be there for their soft opening last weekend.
A spin-off from the much loved, late lamented Fernandez & Leluu, ferdiesfoodlab is the brainchild of Simon Fernandez, a British-Spaniard, a tremendously ambitious and accomplished cook and one of the pioneers of the Supper Club movement in London.
ferdiesfoodlab is set in Toynbee Hall, a Grade II listed Arts and Crafts building constructed over 125 years ago. The venue is rather grand and contains two large halls. The Lecture Hall, where ferdiesfoodlab takes place, is an elegant wood-panelled room, with parquet flooring, impressively large latticed windows, period art work and a grand piano.
Some may argue that the space might lack the intimacy or character of a host's living room, but I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the room and the sense of occasion that it imparted to the evening.
Toynbee Hall is situated on Commercial Road, close to the City and round the corner from Aldgate East Station. It is also close to Whitechapel Art Gallery and Brick Lane.
Having tried Simon's cooking many times before (reviewed here, here and here), I knew I was in for a treat. What I most enjoy about his cooking is his ambition and desire to experiment with different flavours and techniques. Simon is a bold and adventurous cook, and this is what, in my opinion, makes his food so exciting.
For this soft opening, Simon kicked off proceedings with a platter of Liquorice Cured Fillet Steak Cubes w/ Baby Peppers & Pimientos de Padron served with rosemary and garlic bread. The fillet was meltingly tender with a delicate hints of aniseed, beautifully accompanied by a homemade mayonnaise infused with Simon's tomato reduction. I didn't get to eat or see any Pimientos de Padron on the platter that was shared at our end of the table, but I guess it would have gone well with the other flavours in the dish.
To follow, we had Champagne Poached Pears served with cured ham on a bed of green leaves. This is one of Simon's most popular dishes, an interesting take on the classic Melon and Parma Ham, and one I have enjoyed at F&L on previous occasions. The pears are lightly griddled and tenderised through gentle poaching in a champagne syrup.
Another excellent and rather dramatic dish was the Barents Sea King Crab with Creamed Samphire. The huge claws were served on sharing platters with samphire and were surprisingly meaty, tasting both sweet and fresh. A real winner.
The pièce de resistance was still to come. A 5-Hour Slow Roast Shoulder of Lamb served with the most sensational roast potatoes came next. Fragrant, tender, succulent and simply delicious, this was by far the best dish of the evening. This could only have been improved had there been a double helping of roasties.
For dessert, we had a lovely sorbet with passion fruit, banana & white chocolate sauce, followed by petit fours of Seville Zebras and Black Olive and Salted Orange Chocolates. These were all expertly prepared.
There were about 30 of us at this launch event, a mix of young and not so young (myself included) faces, of different nationalities and backgrounds. It was lovely to see some familiar faces there like Jones of I Couldn't Possibly Eat a Whole One, Claudia of White Room Supper Club and Nathan of Mr Drink n Eat.
Helping in the kitchen were also Jen of Cook School Cat who has just completed her one year chef's training at Leith's and Robbie of NoReservations, a Fifteen-trained chef who most recently worked as Claudia Schiffer's private chef, and who joined us at our end of the table.
There is no corkage charge, and we were served a complementary glass of Mondelli, an Italian semi-dry sparkling rose.
The first official ferdiesfoodlab event will take place on Saturday, 27th August from 7:30pm, with further dates on 9th and 23rd September 2011.
To reserve a place contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cost: minimum suggested donation of £40.
Likes: top quality ingredients expertly cooked and presented, grand venue, central location.
Verdict: There is a touch of brilliance about Simon's cooking which demonstrates an increased confidence and audacity beyond that which was evident at F&L. I see ferdiesfoodlab as a very exciting project and definitely one to watch. Highly recommended.