As referred to in an earlier post, Saturday 30th July was our evening to try the monthly feasts created by Richard Morris and his team (AKA The Travelling Gourmet) at All Things Nice Cafe and Deli in Marple. One of his staff had rang earlier in the day to gently remind us and to suggest we arrived at 7 pm or so for a 7.45 start.
This was the Mediterranean Evening and, apart from the number of courses and format of the meal, we had no idea what we would be served. We were in their hands. We arrived soon after 7.00pm to find the blinds drawn on the cafe but the front door open. As this was a Bring Your Own event, we came equipped with a bottle of chilled Lindauer Brut, a New Zealand pink sparkler and a gutsy red Amarone della Valpolicella and it was an unexpected surprise to be offered a glass of champagne as we arrived.
The evening was a sell out of 24 covers and had been fully booked for some time with some of the guests returning for a second and third time. At 7.45pm chef-patron Richard Morris and chef James come down to outline the evening’s menu which was broadly based on the Mediterranean,ranging from Spain to Turkey. I am sorry there are no pictures of the food on this post but I remain ambivalent about photographing food when I eat out – I find it a bit odd.
Any road, the first course was described by our hosts as a mezze/tapa plate and consisted of a Sigara Borek, a hot filo pastry cigar shaped wrap with a feta cheese filling, an Aubergine dip (Baba Ganoush), Tzatziki, Wild Boar salami, Pata Negra ham, cured Lomo (Spanish pork) a slice of aged Manchego and some french beans done in a little oil and garlic. They also served separately a small pot of broad beans which had been podded, fried and roasted. Added to this mini meal was a basket of home made Focaccia rich with tomato, olive oil, olives and various other herbs and roast vegetables.
Our second course, after a suitable wait, was a demi tasse of Gazpachpo, intense and thick with strong hints of both garlic and chilli, this provided a bridge into the third course which was a fillet of Gilt-head Bream on a bed of mashed and crushed butter beans with a “fish gravy” made from a reduced fish stock. This gravy had been livened up with a small amount of finely chopped chorizo, it’s vibrant red oil adding a splach of colour to the sauce. The Bream is a popular fish all over the Mediterranean and this was as good as any Spanish Dorada I have had.
Our fourth and meat course was described as a Filet au Poivre, a substantial slice of beef fillet with a sauce of three types of peppercorns combined with a sauce/jus which had been in preparation for over 24 hours. This course was served with game chips, more french beans, roasted garlic and shallots and a watercress garnish. No complaints whatsoever so far – everything was excellent.
People were flagging a little at this point and a delicious Granita made with raspberries, pomegranate and basil served in dainty cocktail glasses perked most of us back up, ready to tackle the final lap
Dessert was meant to be a trio but apparently one of three was stoppeth by Richard and so became a duo. Eftsoons we received a Creme Catalana flavoured with orange and cinnamon which had been bruleed and a Bitter Chocolate Delice made with extra virgin olive oil served on a biscuit base and with a salty caramel sauce to offset the bitterness of the chocolate. Richard described this later, as he went round the tables discussing the meal, as almost a chocolate mayonnaise and to be honest it was something of a marmite thing, either loved or disliked.
The end was in sight now as the finale of a choice of coffee or tea served with a small baklava each. The Mr Creosote moment was provided by a piece or two of home made Turkish delight.
Overall the meal was a triumph and a real event. We left around 11.00 pm , so had spent the better part of three and half hours eating and drinking. The quality of the dishes and ingredients was evident at every level, the care and commitment to our enjoyment was unquestionable, not least from the two front of house girls who were genuinely attentive. Some may think that the price of £50 per head was on the high side, but this should be weighed against the fact that they make no money from drink (an event like this is a real opportunity to drink wine at a much higher level than you would normally budget for in a restaurant), a glass of champagne was served within that cost, the overall cost of ingredients and, importantly, the time and effort put in by the kitchen brigade to create a meal of this quality. As far as I am concerned, I would save my money at eat like this every two months if the cost was an issue. The best compliment I can think of is to say that I will definitely be going to another evening hosted by All Things Nice.