On the food blogs lately I have been reading up about the concept of the underground restaurant. An underground restaurant is essentially a restaurant in someone’s own home. In the US they are known as supper clubs, in Cuba paladares, and in Italy cesarinas (the feminine of “Caesar”, because the woman is king in the kitchen!). In London the charge is being led by Horton Jupiter and MsMarmitelover, both former members of an anarchist samba band (true story) and evidently both food-lovers as well. I have also heard tell of a restaurant somewhere in East London where everyone dresses up as Marie Antoinette – if anyone has anything more definite than that let me know, perhaps it is just far too cool for people like me to even know about! I suspect it could be a rumour started by someone who wanted to see how far it would spread.
Anyway, when I found out Horton Jupiter’s restaurant, The Secret Ingredient, ran every Wednesday, and also realised that my birthday was coming up on Wednesday, I had to get a booking. Luckily, someone else cancelled, and we were in!
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the place was full of media types – PR, bloggers, a journalist, a Public Affairs guy, you get the picture. Horton’s lovely girlfriend Rachel seated us and whisked our wine away to be chilled, bringing back a bottle of beer or glass of wine that was included with dinner. It being a warm evening, I opted for the beer.
After some chit chat with our table companions, the first course arrived:
A sort of pickled raw onion salad. I have neglected to mention that the menu is a sort of vegan Japanese tasting menu. The name of the restaurant apparently refers to “umami”, a Japanese word meaning roughly “tasty” or “savoury”. The onion was definitely umami.
The next course was no less tasty:
The presentation was just gorgeous and befitting the excellent food. The carrots were perfect and I loved the cabbage parcels, although I have no idea what was in them.
Tofu-based (I think) deep-fried goodies with delicious mushrooms and broccoli. This was a one-between-two plate encouraging sharing with our fellow diners.
The next course was sweet sticky rice with miso soup – much needed by this stage if you will note the amount of wine left in my glass.
Lovely ripe fruit in some kind of syrup, and warm sake for dessert.
The entire meal was delicious and the evening was really enjoyable. It was like going to a dinner party but not knowing the host or any of the other guests – sort of like being on Come Dine With Me. The only problem for me, and this was my fault really, is that I forgot Japanese meals are rather light. I’m usually quite a big eater so manage to consume enough food to soak up whatever I drink with my meal. But it being my birthday and the meal being rather light… I definitely drank too much. I’m not sure what Horton made of my rather unjournalistic questioning in the kitchen afterwards! Oh wait, yes I do:
And then it was back home for me, but no rest for Horton and Rachel – the guests for the next sitting had arrived and were waiting patiently on the back porch.
When I got back home I told my flatmate I was going to open a restaurant in his bedroom, and he could be the charming Italian waiter. He seemed unfazed by the proposition, as long as the tips promised to be good. Watch this space!
I’m also dying to go to MsMarmiteLover’s on a Saturday night. Anyone with me? I tried to set a date with Kavey but there’s not a weekend between now and August that we’re both free!