Last night my partner and I were guests of Alex and Sara Chambers, the Italophile couple in Warwickshire behind Squisito deli. After a cocktail in The Jekyll and Hyde bar we moved upstairs to the Gin Palace, where the Italian Job was silently playing.
A friendly crowd were looking forward to the Squisito pop-up. 34 people in the room made it sociable but a bit of a squash – especially for my 6ft 4 boyfriend, whose arms and legs looked giant sized in the dinky Victoriana chairs. Our fellow diners included some Jekyll & Hyde regulars, foodies who had enjoyed Alex’s sausages at local farmers markets and one lady who had heard Squisito mentioned on Radio 4’s Food programme!
As we were seated, two long thin wooden boards were placed at the centre of the table and slices of salumi and prosciuttio were placed. On hand were Lucky 13 Bakehouse dinner rolls, with Calabrian olive oil and Puglian green olives. Nobody could name them, but the moreish peppery biscuit-like snacks also rapidly disappeared.
Our antipasti selection was a burst of vibrant colour and flavours – courgette carpacccio, rocket and pecorino cheese, tomato and basil on pane carasau (that looked like a poppadom) chicken liver crostini, ricotta drizzled with chestnut honey and Alex’s salsiccia.
Even with a menu, there was still a sense of excitement as to what was coming next and the convivial sharing and passing plates of food around the table made it feel like a family feast, rather than a group of strangers in a restaurant.
Half an hour between the antipasti and the primi courses perturbed some people, but it was worth the wait for the pappardelle pasta with black truffle butter, chives and Grana Padano cheese. As a recent convert to truffle oil, I wasn’t surprised when my boyfriend accepted seconds from Fee’s giant saucepan that was ladled out at the table.
The basil and lemon salmoriglio gave a playful zing to the chunk of rolled Fosse Meadow chicken. With marrow, chard and rosemary roast potatoes I liked being able to taste all of the summery ingredients without the meat being drowned in sauce.
My favourite course formaggi was coming up and the boards were back out for us to try slivers of gorgonzola, taleggio and Sardinian pecorino with pink peppercorns and Worcestershire honey. One of the cheeses had an almost black rind with a smokey flavour that I forgot to ask what it was called.
Due to the train timetable we unfortunately missed the Plymouth gin and tonic sorbet, raspberry gin and Autumn bliss, raspberry semifreddo and dark chocolate studded with toasted almonds. I hope that photo gives you an idea of how light and refreshing the closing course was.
During the night Alex served and chatted to guests while Sarah was upstairs in the kitchen, so we didn’t get a chance to see (and thank) her for a lovely meal until the end of the evening.
On the back of Alex’s t-shirt is the phrase ‘Provenance is knowing the person who made your dinner by first name’. By the end of the evening my boyfriend had paraphrased it as ‘Provenance is knowing who made your tummy happy’ ©Ross Martin 2013.
You can catch Squisito at the next Brumyumyum in Kings Heath on Saturday 14 September and details of their supper clubs are on their website.