Table Talk

I’m back from a short break to an inbox bursting with the latest openings and chef news to share with you. My round up for this week includes, burgers, fine dining and a venue with extended opening hours thanks to The Meat Shack, Mallory Court and Shrewsbury Market Hall.

The Meat Shack Burgers

Digbeth Dining Club regulars will be pleased to hear that The Meat Shack now has a new, permanent home opposite Birmingham Hippodrome. They guys are promising  “a 5 0z hefty hunk of well aged grass-fed beef, hand smashed, creating the best, crispy caramelisation of beefiness on the outside, leaving all the dripping filthy goodness on the inside.”

Paul Evans Head Chef Mallory Court

Paul Evans has joined the three AA rosette Mallory Court  as Head Chef. Paul joins the Leamington hotel from previous roles at the Devonshire Arms Hotel, L’Enclume and Waterside Inn in Bray.

The Bird's Nest Cafe Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury Market Hall is to become a regular Saturday night food and drink venue with late night openings and special events planned. The market hall is already home to various restaurants and bars including The Bird’s Nest Café, Saint Pierre Seafood Bar and Spanish tapas restaurant AleOli.  Check out the August events page tomorrow for details of The Forgotten Greenhouse pop-up on 11 and 12 August.

Hold the burritos

Visit Mexico food

On the first date with my partner he asked me why I had drunk a shot of rattlesnake’s blood 20 years earlier in Acapulco. My defence was that I had been drinking tequila with some Canadian policewomen all night, so common sense and inhibitions were long gone for this foolish holiday anecdote.

Since then I’ve stuck to more traditional aspects of Mexican cuisine. Mainly guided by former Masterchef winner and restauranteur Thomasina Miers who is doing a great job in expanding my  knowledge of Mexican ingredients and dishes at Wahaca.

MXUK

It wasn’t until this week though that I was truly able to appreciate how much more the cuisine has to offer. As a guest of Mallory Court I was lucky enough to join a select group of diners on Friday 25 September to experience a special dinner as part of the Mexican UK 2015 Restaurant Festival.

This chef cultural exchange programme has been running since April as part of a collaboration between the UK government  and Mexican Tourism Board, to showcase the country’s very talented chefs and to encourage an exchange of culinary skill and knowledge about ingredients.

From just six UK chefs, Paul Foster, head chef at The Dining Room at Mallory Court, was deeply honoured to be approached by the Mexican Tourist Board to take part in celebrating ‘The Year of Mexico in the United Kingdom’.

Romero y Azahar restaurant

He visited Mexico in May, with chef Alfredo Villanueva from Romero y Azahar restaurant (Monterrey) as his guide to local markets, cantinas and restaurants where he tried ants eggs, a cactus fruit called tuna and pigs liver amongst other local delicacies.

In an exciting exchange of flavours, Mallory Court hosted Alfredo to jointly prepare a six course dinner with Paul, with each chef creating three courses each of their own unique culinary styles.

Mallory Court crispy pork cheek

The first dish of the evening was Alfredo’s  ‘Chicarron en salsa verde’ of crispy pork cheek with tomatillo, cured pork belly, jaapeno pepper, courgette, epazote, corn and a raw green sauce which had a vivid zesty colour.

Mallory Court hand-dived scallop

Paul followed this with a hand-dived scallop, black garlic, charred leeks and onion ketchup, where the garlic had been roasted almost to a caramel.

Mallory Court cured mackerel dish

‘Mar y cacao’ was Alfredo’s fish course of cured mackerel, adobo pepper ash, mashed beans in cacao butter, radish and fermented turnip.  This was my first taste of adobo ash and fermented turnips and I was a fan of both.

Mallory Court grouse dish

Paul’s meat dish was grouse breast and ragu, with parsnip and elderberries which had a lovely seasonal warmth.

Mallory Court caramalized goats milk

The first of two desserts followed with Alfredo’s ‘Campechana de dulce de leche’ of caramalized goat’s milk and Mezcal mousse, puff pastry and spiced chocolate sauce with the tang of the goat’s milk offset by the sweeter ingredients.

Mallory Court whipped pumpkin

Our dinner concluded with Paul’s whipped pumpkin, vanilla poached chicory and muscavado ice cream, where Paul adeptly demonstrated that you can use vegetables in desserts to give a sweet taste without the sugar content.

Paul and Alfredo chatted to guests after service about how much they had enjoyed the experience and what they had learnt from each other in this exchange. This is always my favourite part of the evening when you get a chance to talk to the chefs, discover what inspires them and be able to thank them in person for an amazing evening.

Our dishes were paired with organic Chablis Brocard, Pinor Noir and Moscato d’Asti, which were all included in the £95 cost of the meal, along with cocktails and canapés upon arrival and petit fours with our coffee.

Mallory Court dinner guest Reg Keys and partner Jenny, Alfredo and Paul Foster

Like all great meals, the company makes an extra special and we were fortunate enough to be seated with a couple who were about to get married at the hotel and their friends. The bride and groom to be turned out to be Reg Keys and his partner Jenny.

Reg is a founder member of the campaign group Milltary Families Against War. His son Lance Corporal Tom Keys, was a Royal Military policeman and one of six red Caps killed in Iraq in June 2003. He stood against Tony Blair for the Sedgwick seat and is commentator for national media. He has a fascinating and emotional life story, which is currently being filmed by Willy McGovern, with Tim Roth playing the part of Reg. The programme will be broadcast by BBC1 in the New Year.

I can’t guarantee that you will be dining with such interesting company, but If you have enjoyed reading my review and would like to experience Mallory Court for yourself, the  next dinner event will be on Saturday 17 October for  The Battle of Eden – 70s Style. Read all about out it on the October events page.

Mallory Court Hotel Leamington Spa

Mallory Court is a stunning 31 bedroom manor house set in 10 acres of grounds, just outside of Leamington Spa. I had pegged this luxury hotel as a venue for weddings, but not necessarily dining, so even though it is very local to me I hadn’t visited before last week’s dinner. I don’t intend to wait too long though to return and enjoy Paul Foster’s cooking and the hotel’s faultless service again.

Restaurant News

Purnell’s has launched a Simply Summer six course menu. This includes an amuse bouche, goats’ cheese with heirloom tomatoes, veal tongue with an organic poached egg yolk horseradish and  watercress, Brixham brill with textures of artichoke English asparagus and confit potatoes, roast breast of duck with treacle and black pepper glaze,  “Strawberries and cucumber”  and raspberry Eton Mess for £60 per person. www.purnellsrestaurant.com

From now until 31st August enjoy a set two course lunch with a glass of Prosecco for £14.50 or three courses for £19.50 at Mallory Court.www.mallory.co.uk

A new copper- topped bar is the centrepiece of The Stag at Offchurch’s £30,000 makeover. The refurb has also increased the number of dining covers to 90. www.thestagatoffchurch.com

April Food Events

Details of Kids Easter Biscuit Decorating Class at Carluccios; a Good Friday Fish Supper at Mallory Court Hotel; a Spanish themed evening at Grant’s of Sheep Street; a Jazz Brunch at The Arden Hotel; National Stilton Week and an Easter Sunday Lunch at Coombe Abbey are now on the Events page.