GLENN – Last week’s online “Zagat Buzz” featured an article, “The 10 Most Annoying Restaurant Trends”, one of which is the increasing popularity of pop-up restaurants. Of course, Zagat would decry pop-ups since their revenue stream is dependent upon brick-and-mortar, i.e. permanent, restos. The notion of something temporary and ephemeral goes against the Zagat grain. Having never been one to embrace the cult of a certain eatery, I found their criticism amusing and, as is often the case with entrenched institutions, self-serving. Ergo, pop-ups are fun; they are not an “annoying trend”.
KATRIN – When the theme for this pop-up – the first American pop-up on foreign soil – was announced, I was quite intrigued. Glenn correctly guessed that it would be held at either a consulate or embassy. It was in fact at the British Consulate in Cambridge and featured Will Gilson’s take on some very English meals. We have come to expect inventive interpretations (see the Taza Chocolate Factory pop-up) from Will, and once again both the menu and execution did not disappoint. A cocktail reception kicked off the evening featuring string music by a trio of musicians from A Far Cry, with support from Opus Affair. The entertainment was a nice touch, as we sampled a Local Tom Collins and several British-themed passed hors d’oeuvres, and peered through the glass doors into the sleek dining room, which was awaiting the sold-out group of 65 diners. The consulate has some pretty nifty lighting that changed hues during the course of the evening (hence some of the interesting tones in the photos).
GLENN – The reception was such a civilized – read British – way to begin the evening : music by Purcell, Hayden, and the Beatles (“Eleanor Rigby”) enhanced by gin. I had expected a club-like – as in mens’ club – space filled with leather chairs, dark wood and some general fustiness. But the Brits chose to locate their consulate in Kendall Square, the most dynamic neighborhood in the Boston area, and consequently, the decor is rather hip. The passed hors d’oeuvres set the tone -a bite-sized “Toad-in-a-Hole”, that pub stalwart of sauage wrapped in pastry, a “Ploughman’s ( please note the spelling ) Lunch” – a bite-size toasted sandwich of farmhouse cheddar and mango chutney and a canape of haggis. (Yes – it was edible and enjoyable.) The mood was set for an evening on “foreign soil.”
KATRIN – Though I could rave about each course, the highlight for me was Will’s take on classic fish and chips. The hake was perfectly fresh and tender. The beverage selection – a local Tom Collins made with Berkshire Mountain Distillers Greylock Gin, “Field Mouse’s Farewell” from Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, and red and white blends from Bear Flag Wine – was a very nice addition, and we sampled all of them.
GLENN – Highlights for me were the “English Breakfast” and, like Katrin, the “Fish and Chips.” As a young chef in London, Will Gilson needed, as young chefs often do, a hangover cure; hence, the nostalgic inclusion of his take on the traditional English breakfast – a wonderful smoked duck sausage (“bangers”), griddled tomatoes, the most picturesque fried egg and “bubble and squeak” consisting of potato, parsnip and brussel sprout. For those locavores reading this, the eggs came from the Country Hen in Hubbardston, MA and the tomatoes from Backyard Farms in Madison, ME. The “Fish and Chips” – hake wrapped in brik “paper”, sauteed and then finished in the oven, garnished with crisply fried shavings of parnips and enhanced with two sauces – was outstanding – meltingly moist and contrastingly encased in a crisp pastry “envelope”. Will stressed the freshness of the hake, assuring us that the fish had been swimming in the Atlantic the day before. My only two peeves were the soup – though quite flavorful, it was only luke-warm – and the small portion size of the vanilla bean ice cream. Did the ice cream maker break?
KATRIN – We have commented before that one of the great things about this kind of alternative dining experience is being seated at a table with other diners and that we have really enjoyed meeting other Bostonians who share our interest in food and wine.
GLENN – And, I might add, cocktails. One of our charming tablemates has plans for opening a true pre-Prohibition cocktail lounge. Punchbowls for four? Hell yes. Even though we have the wonderful, though sometimes problematic, Drink, another exclusive cocktail venue would add some needed variety and competition to the local cocktail scene. Go Tina and Graham!
Seared foie gras and crumpets. Maple gel, HP powder, pickled berries, lemon butter
Chicken korma soup with curry leaves, green garlic and fiddleheads
Earl grey tea smoked duck bangers with bubble and squeak, griddled tomato and fried local egg
“Fish and Chips”
Local Dayboat Cod, brik batter, crispy fried parsnips, leek cream, citrus and basil tartar sauce
Sticky Toffee pudding