Last Thursday I was invited by Joe at Tabl to review a local pop-up dining experience, Isaac’s ‘Last Meal’ – Food As Art. If you haven’t heard of Tabl it’s home to Brighton (and now London) pop-up kitchens, “secret” supper clubs and food adventures. Tabl pop-ups aren’t everyday occurrences, they take place somewhere unexpected, often in private residences and offer a shared and social dining experience.
The locations usually change so you can’t just walk in off the street, but you can discover what’s popping up next in Brighton through the Tabl website.
Right, now I have your taste-buds tingling, on to the Isaac At event… A day before, the location was revealed as Gloucester Road in the North Laines. Right around the corner from one of my favourite Brighton pubs, The Basketmakers.
As I arrived I was pleased to spot the lovely restaurant manager, Sophia, was pouring us flutes of the award-winning Ridgeview English Sparkling Wine – a fine choice for the contemporary English and locally-sourced theme for the evening.
Our table was set for six and we were right by the open kitchen, which was a joy as it meant I could watch the all the action and get up close for photos.
One of the things I discovered from the event that really impressed me was that Issac, the Head Chef and owner, actually visits the local producers that he sources his ingredients from and as a result, the menu we were tasting had been inspired by the individual seasonal ingredients seen on these trips.
So on to what we ate…
Appetizers: The first treat was a seatrout tartar with homemade sourdough and pickled cucumber, just a little bite which went down great with our Sedlescombe, First Release Biodynamic 2013 white wine – £27 per bottle. We also had a shallot brioche with homemade butter for the table which was served warm.
First Course: This was golden cauliflower florets with a cauliflower purée, fizzy grapes, cinnamon raisins & homemade coriander oil. As someone who ordinarily hates cauliflower, I was surprised to discover how much I loved this dish! The cauliflower was glazed with something, I’m not sure what, which had a hint of a marmite flavour. The fizzy grapes were very moreish and my favourite element to the whole dish. My plate was cleared in a matter of minutes – first course, BIG tick!
Second Course: Next it was onto the fish course and one of my favourites – roasted scallops caught live that morning! They were served with a butternut squash puree, a little bit of pickled butternut squash for acidity, toasted butternut seeds for texture and finished with a little bit of rosemary oil and a crisped-up piece of cos lettuce to add height to the dish. Out of all of the dishes this night this was my absolute favourite, the scallops melted in my mouth and their saltiness was beautifully complimented but the sweetness from the butternut.
Third Course: Locally sourced ‘pink’ loin of pork, garnished with salt-baked celeriac purée, smoked apple purée and watercress to garnish. When the dish came there were a few surprised faces because the pork was served pink, which you may think is underdone. In fact, it’s not. Eating pork as rare as steak isn’t recommended; however, a little pinkness in larger roasting joints really increases the succulence of the meat and is safe when the meat is of a high quality. Being that Issac visits each of his local suppliers I was willing to trust his judgement and he wasn’t wrong. The loin was beautifully tender and by the third course I was pretty sure this meal was up there with some of the best meals I’ve had!
Fourth Course: After our main it was time to cleanse our pallet before dessert. A lemon and thyme sorbet was offered and again it was a delight. A very delicate dish with a subtle infusion of thyme that strangely really worked.
Fifth Course: What I expected to be our fifth and final dish was a chocolate fondant, with little bit of chocolate soil providing a lovely crumbly texture, a chocolate tuile for crispiness and a scoop of sweet beetroot ice cream to compliment. This, we were told, is Issac’s favourite dessert and the last thing he’d choose to eat before dying (slightly morbid but you get the gist). It was again perfect. Gooey, moist and rich with strong flavour and sweetness from the beetroot coming through from the ice cream. You may think beetroot ice cream is a little strange but believe me with chocolate it definitely works!
Petit Fours: Our final dish of the night was a lemon and almond drizzle cake and chocolate and lavender ganache. I don’t how I fitted this last dish in, but somehow I did. The lemon drizzle was absolutely wonderful, zingy and moist, just perfect – my favourite of the two.
PRICE: £39 pp for 5 courses Friday, £42pp on Saturday
This was up there with one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. Each course brought you something new and unexpected and I delighted in the fact that I was eating foods in unusual combinations. The service was also absolutely superb. Friendly, informative and attentive. Not one criticism of this night. So if I’ve tempted you don’t hesitate, get yourself booked in – you won’t regret it!
*Disclosure my meal was complimentary but the drinks bill was covered by me. However, this has not affected my review, which is an honest and impartial account of my experience.