In my younger days when we went out on a Friday night we would arrange to meet at a designated venue and either spend the whole evening there or discuss where we would move on to.
In the 1980s all of that changed, with illegal raves springing up all over the place, the location only being revealed at the last moment so that the police didn’t close it down much before it was due to end anyway. Over the past couple of years, this approach has been applied to restaurants with pop-ups appearing and the dining room not disclosed until a day or two in advance to add an air of mystery. One example of this was my visit to the latest Chateau Marmot event which took place at the Wizu Workspace in The Leeming Building, which is the same premises as Kirkgate Market. The entrance was in Ludgate Hill rather than Vicar Lane but my ‘table’, which was more of a breakfast bar, was facing a window looking over that thoroughfare, thus providing a lot of what estate agents would describe as ‘passing interest’, but which I prefer to call people-watching.
This was great as there was the population of the betting shop and casinos opposite nipping out for a smoke and as well as the procession of night owls heading to places unknown for an evening of hard core fun and frolics, there was a hen party with one of the most bizarrely dressed brides-to-be I have ever seen. I will not describe the outfit here as some of you dear readers may be of a sensitive nature or have neglected to apply the parental lock on your device. Enough of the floor show; I was there to sample the food.
The evening’s five course tasting menu was a collaboration between Chateau Marmot and Shepherd’s Purse, the North Yorkshire based artisan cheese producers, without which no self-respecting cheeseboard is complete. Caroline, the daughter of the company’s founder Judy Bell, was there to tell us all about it and inform us that their Harrogate Blue won a Super Gold at the World Cheese Awards where it was named 11th best cheese in the world. Mrs Bell’s Blue also won Gold at the recent British Cheese Awards. A visit to their website will tell you all you need to know about the enterprise. www.
As well as the cheese, as many of the other elements as possible were locally sourced, including the Ilkley Alpha Beta beer with which I started the evening. The chef for the event was Patrick Hanna from Riverford Field Kitchen whose talent was really put to the test when the restaurant suffered a power cut a short while into the evening. Although power was restored, the outage could not have come at a worse time and a quick revamp of the third course of the five was needed. Ironically, this was the course where the Shepherd’s Purse cheese needed to be cooked. There were four wines available by the glass or bottle but I, along with most of the other diners, opted for the wine matching option which gave a selected glass with each course and a visit from the sommelier to explain the source, properties and the reason for choosing it.
Course number four. This time we had no gatecrashers; just the elements as listed on the menu being: Swaledale Foods’ Lamb Neck Fillet, ‘Riverford’ Artichokes, Hazelnut Butter and Foraged Sea Purslane, all served with Maris Peer Potatoes En Papillote, Vicarage Pickle Elderflower Vinegar and Jammy Lemons. The lamb was done exactly to my taste, being seared on the outside but very rare in the middle, which gives one piece of lamb several different flavours without adding anything but selective heat – superb. The hazelnut butter was another first for me and provided a sweet, nutty accompaniment. The purslane added to the nutty theme. I must admit, I don’t ‘get’ globe artichokes. To me, they seem to be a device for eating the accompanying dip, in this case the hazelnut butter, and the taste derived from the coating on the leaves is masked by whatever you are dipping it in. Just this man’s view. If I wanted a combination of tastes which worked perfectly together then I had only to unwrap the parcel containing the potatoes. Maris Peer is a small, waxy variety, so were coated by the vinegar and lemon juice rather than absorbing them. Again, they were cooked to perfection, retaining their firm texture, and the juices in the bottom of the paper were amazing. Another course to savour. The wine was another Portuguese offering, being Clos La Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande Douro Tinto, a 14% full-bodied red with a taste of liquorice in the background which worked especially well with the lamb.
Finally, for me at least, was dessert – a Poached Peach Tart, Sweet Ciceley and Whey Sorbet. I accept that this was very much on the sweet side and the sorbet itself was also sweet, but being frozen it cut through the potential clogginess of the dish. It was just a shame that the night was so hot and it melted quickly, possibly another repercussion of the power failure. The pears and pastry were perfectly done so the whole ensemble was a fitting end to a very enjoyable meal. The wine was sweet, being a white semi-fizz from Italy, G.D. Vajra Moscato d’Asti, another good choice.
I alluded to the fact that dessert was the last course for me as there was an optional cheese course at a supplement, comprising Yorkshire Fettle, Yorkshire Blue and Belumin White. I felt guilty in foregoing this cheeseboard in view of the involvement of Shepherd’s Purse but my appetite was sated.
All in all, this was a most pleasant evening, from the food, the wine, the company of my fellow diners and the service through to the entertainment provided by passers-by. My fellow diners, a lovely couple from Wakefield, kindly gave me a sip of a vodka which they had ordered after the presentation by a representative of the distillers. It was called Black Cow and is made from grass fed cow’s milk. It sounds odd but it tasted surprisingly good and unlike a lot of vodkas, it had quite a strong taste. This surprised me as I am from the generation which drank this particular spirit when we didn’t want our breath smell of alcohol.
I have written before about being able to get a better idea of the competence of places when things go wrong rather than when everything is going right and Chateau Marmot passed the test with flying colours. When you run pop-up restaurants the opportunity for disaster is increased umpteen times over as you are operating in a strange space with alien equipment, and as last night showed, with someone else’s electric supply! Full marks all round and thank you not only for all the above but also for having the meal finished before the boys in blue raided the place, mistaking it for an acid house rave.
Chateau Marmot pop-up with Shepherd’s Purse continues for one more night on Saturday, 30th June and there may still places if you are quick. The set menu is £46, the wine pairing an extra £27 and my beer was £5 for a 330cl can. The optional cheese course is £8.