I got an email last week inviting me to a Morrisons M Kitchen pop up restaurant to celebrate and promote the new M Kitchen range. You’ve probably seen the adverts, with Aldo Zilli and a range of other chefs who’ve created products for the range. I accepted, but when I asked other Leeds food bloggers they seemed to have turned it down. The prospect of microwave food similar to all the other food chains that grace any town doesn’t sound promising, and I have to say that I spent the weekend before wondering whether to call it off altogether. I was dreading how I’d have to write this piece because I knew what I’d be letting myself in for.
However, as soon as I arrived, everything that I had assumed proved to be incorrect. The pop up restaurant, based in Granary Wharf was exactly like a swanky restaurant. There was a doorman who greeted me when I arrived and attentive service by the waitresses. In the waiting area there were gorgeous white Barcelona chairs too which Mr Lay the table dreams of owning alongside an Eames chair. The decor in general made the high ceiling building look stylish and elegant without the dreaded Versace look that some restaurants seem to go for. It was light and airy and luckily I got seated directly opposite the window fortunately, so I got some great light for my photos.
I was given a glass of champagne and some green olives alongside so fresh warm bread and butter whilst I read the menu. There was a bit too much for just one so I had to try and resist filling up before I started my meal! The menu was varied but I knew what a lot of it was as I’d see it in our local Morrisons, so when I spied that there was scallops for starter on the menu AND steak for main, I knew that these wouldn’t come fresh from the microwave.
The starter of scallops and peas arrived and took me totally by surprise as to how pretty it looked – again, nothing like I expected. The king scallops were presented on a base of broad beans and peas topped with pea shoots. I’ve never tried scallops before but always wanted to and one I cut off a piece, I closed my eyes and tasted heaven. The slightly browned top and bottom (perhaps cooked in butter) just added an edge. Part of the broad bean and pea mix with blended so they were slightly saucy too and the sweet flavour of the scallop was perfectly complimented by bean and pea sauce. The only thing that really let it down was that the broad beans had not been shelled, so there’s that slightly weird texture of the outer. I would also have done away with the peas and broad beans as whole and just served them puréed them; the meaty texture of the scallop would have been enough of a contrast to make it work.
Next up was the fillet steak, with “jus” on a bed of mashed potato. Not just any mashed potato, a beautifully cream mash with a tiny hint of garlic in it. The steak was 21 day dry-aged which means it’s actually been air dried rather than shoved in a vacuum pack. The flavour is more developed in dry-aged meat and I have to agree that the flavour was deep and I had soon gobbled up the lot. I forgot to add it was also beautifully cooked, although it was a little rarer than I’d asked for I was actually glad it was cooked like it was. I’d actually sitting her almost drooling about the flavour of that steak. I know supermarket steak has the worst reputation and I never buy steak from the supermarket unless it’s for deep-frying (in which case the quality issue isn’t really at the forefront). But this piece of steak was enough to make me reconsider.
Onto the dessert. There was a good choice, but I was unsure about chocolate mousse as I often find it too rich, I nearly always order cheesecake and so fancied something a bit different so I requested the tarte tatin. It was ok, but pretty sickly towards the end, perhaps because I was so full and the portion was quite large. I haven’t got anything to compare this tatin to as I’ve never tried it before, but I reckon a homemade one would probably taste a little better.
All in all, I thought the meal was pretty darn good – the ingredients and food are all available in Morrisons, whether as a prepared dish (like the mashed potato and the tarte tatin) or uncooked like the scallops and steak. I’m very happy that I haven’t become so snobbish about food that I overlooked this opportunity – I guess you should never judge a book by its cover! The staff were also excellent – attentive, informative but never annoying! I was also very glad to meet Chris Wildman of Yorkshire Chorizo fame. I’ve been following on him on twitter for a while, so it was nice to meet him in the flesh!
Probably the best bit about these pop ups is that they’re not exclusive events for bloggers – in fact most of the people there are the general public. And it’s free, for everyone! There’s pop ups coming to Birmingham and Manchester so I’d really recommend going. You can find out more at The M Kitchen website.