CHATEAU MARMOT POP-UP - REVIEW - 14TH NOVEMBER 2013
Back at the end of last year, I was invited along to review one of the night’s of the Chateau Marmot pop-up, which was taking place at various venues across London. I’d read about Chateau Marmot and thought it sounded fantastic so when I was asked to review, I was very excited to get to sample one of their pop-up evenings.
Chateau Marmot changes its chefs for each pop-up and the recent pop up which I visited was run by LA chef Laurent Quenioux (alongside the Chateau’s chef Rameal Scully), who likes to mix his michelin starred French cooking with Californian experimentation and is known for his 9-course cannabis tasting menu.
We weren’t sure what to expect when we arrived at a desolate warehouse style space on a dark Shadwell street in November, but that’s part of the fun of a pop-up that you don’t know the menu and what you are likely to be eating and on this occasion, we were only told the location the week of our visit.
We were one of the first to arrive and after a small wait until other diners arrived, we were taken into the dining space and given a cosy table for two near the window. The venue was decorated nicely with draped white curtains, white tablecloths, candles and a projector screen showing chefs cooking and the organisers had made a great effort with what was essentially a cold, unexciting warehouse space.
The menu was waiting for us on the table when we sat down and we couldn’t help diving straight in for a look. We were both even more excited about the evening that was to come after seeing the exciting food listed and there wasn’t one thing we didn’t fancy trying.
We ordered a cocktail to start the night and opted for a French 75 each which we supped while colouring in the little colour-in cards featuring a beaver named ‘Marmot’. The cocktail was nice but we both felt it was a little too heavy on the lemon.
Chateau Marmot offer two levels of matching wines to compliment the meal and the wines on both lists sounded delicious so we opted for the cheaper list which came with 5 wines to match each course other than the first, which I guess was more of an amuse bouche so didn’t really need a matching wine.
The first taster was an Aubergine and Miso Caviar, Ginko Nuts, Masterstock Shitake, Buckwheat & Seaweed Crisp. It came presented beautifully on a small rectangle plate and was a perfect combination of textures and flavours with the babaganoush giving a subtle earthy taste while the seaweed gave a nice crunch and the dressing brought out an oriental flavour in the dish.
Not long after, a second dish of Tempura Whitebait, Matcha Maldon Salt and Tosaka arrived. Whilst initially the flavour of the fish was very intense and overpowering, the flavours of the seaweed and salt complimented the dish perfectly and gave the dish a nice balance overall. I thought this dish may have been too salty but wasn’t at all.
The third course that arrived was Apple Wood smoked Ahi Tuna, Kimchi Tapioca Pudding, Yellow Beet & Persimmon Pico De Gallo. Now the one thing I was unsure about on the whole menu as the Kimchi Tapioca Pudding as I am not a fan of rice pudding and I was worried I would find it much the same.
It in fact was really tasty and came cold with the tuna, beets and salsa and all tasted wonderful together. The tuna was cooked perfectly and was smoky yet creamy and just melted in your mouth while the salsa, beets and Tapioca pudding all made the dish feel very fresh.
We had another fish dish for the fourth course of Olive Oil Poached Cod, Fennel, Breakfast Radish, Butter Dashi and Liquorice Soil. This dish was simply divine. The cod just fell away in your mouth with the fennel and radish adding just the right amount of crunch. The balance of flavours between the liquorice and milky broth were perfect and the whole dish came together wonderfully. It was very enjoyable and memorable.
Now, for the next course, I was a little daunted at the thought of trying Venison as since eating meat again, it was not a meat I had tried. I knew if was meant to be beautifully cooked, lean and also good for you and I thought if there was ever a time to try it, it was here. So for the fifth course, I was presented with Seared Venison, Caramelised Yoghurt, Blackberry, Peanut, Stem Ginger and Cocoa Nib Crumble.
It arrived looking far too beautiful to eat. The dish should have been heavy with ingredients like venison and peanuts but it looked rather delicate. The peanut was like eating peanut butter cream and it was smooth but packed full of taste and worked perfectly with the meaty, melt-in-mouth venison and juicy blackberries.
The veggie course for my friend however was not quite as exciting. It was essentially a vegetable potato cake with some salad and it came without a sauce so even though it was tasty, it was very dry and therefore quite unappetising.
Even though it was time for the 6th course, neither of us felt uncomfortably full, which is often the case when it’s time for dessert, and we both felt very content but happy for something sweet to end the meal.
For dessert we were given Pumpkin Spice Cake, Pecan Crumble, Sweet Potato Ice Cream, Barley Custard and Cream Cheese Mousse. The dish came presented on a long rectangle plate with the ice cream and mouse placed on top of the long Pumpkin cake. The whole dessert was a bit like a deconstructed cheesecake with the crumble making the cake turn into a sort of biscuit or flapjack and the cream cheese and ice cream balancing each other’s flavour out into a sweeter cheesecake style topping. The only part of the dish which didn’t work was the custard, which had a slightly odd taste and we felt wasn’t really needed within the dish.
We were offered a cheese board but both decided we should stop when we felt nicely full and instead sat and finished off our wine, which had all been very good and worked well with each dish.
Chateau Marmot is an extremely exciting pop-up that pushes boundaries with food but doesn’t make the diner intimidated to try what’s on offer. The ingredients are interesting, the presentation is exciting and the atmosphere is fun and we came away with huge grins on our face after an evening of intelligent and enjoyable cooking. For a reasonable price of £44 for 6 courses, Chateau Marmot is a truly wonderful experience that you should definitely try.
And you’re in luck as they are back for three days only with their next pop-up in Waterloo from 28th February to 2nd March. This year they are launching their own produce market at Lower Marsh Market and will be offering tasting menu brunches and dinners all using market ingredients. For more information visit http://chateaumarmot.co.uk.
Dotty Dishes was a guest of Chateau Marmot.