It’s not every day that you get to eat a meal cooked by a Masterchef finalist, but last Friday I was invited to try some incredible food at the home of the Northern Ballet in Leeds. The menu promised an amuse bouche, starter, main and dessert, accompanied by a carefully curated selection of wines (not included) or you can BYOB. We were greeted with a champagne reception which a great start to the night!
There was around 12 of us eating altogether on one table which is the general set up for supperclubs I believe and I think it makes for an interesting night; getting to know strangers and covering a wide variety of conversational topics. The ambience was perfect: soft, delicate lighting, simple floral table decoration and real candles gave it the feeling of intimacy – as if I were having dinner in my own home.
I’ll be honest I didn’t watch the Masterchef series in which Sara competed (2011) so the only thing I knew was that her cuisine was modern Italian. I like getting a surprise. As I’ve mentioned before, I am a former fussy eater so I’m usually nervous of trying anything out of my comfort zone. Although really there wasn’t anything on there that I haven’t eaten before in some capacity.
Anyway, onto the food…First we had our amuse bouche which was a pepper dashed fried quail’s egg on a base (I’m not sure what and I forgot to ask Sara afterwards) which had a nutty bread texture (toasted) and flavour. The flavours complemented each other perfect and the soft egg with a gentle bite from the based was delicious. The egg was perfectly cooked of course – the yolk slightly set but still runny. I cut mine with a knife and fork but I think I was meant to just pick it up with my fingers…I was being polite of course. This was the perfect amuse for me, I love anything with egg. I even have a Pinterest board called “Put an egg on it”.
The starter was confit of salmon with avocado mousse and microherbs. The Alaskan salmon had been tenderly poached with a selection of herbs that brought out the flavour of the fish rather than overpowering it with pungent aromas. The mousse with it’s delicate creamy texture added a pleasant cooling after taste to salmon. The dressing on the microherbs was perfect – just a little bit of acidic zestiness to liven it up. The salmon had been well-seasoned (something Mr LTT says I lack the ability to do in my own cooking!) and was dotted with flakes of sea salt so you got a little salty burst on your tongue every so often.
I was slightly apprehensive about the main course: venison. The last time I ate it, it came in a great slab and was very rich – accompanied by a winter berry sauce. This version was quite the opposite and reminded me of a good steak: just the right side of rare, rich in flavour and unbelievably juicy. It was accompanied by some flavourful little shallots, cabbage and (and I feel this needs a drum roll) the best mash I have ever tasted in my life. Just one taste of it and I fell in love instantly, and I don’t really like mash. So amazingly smooth and silky (as described on the menu). Now when you think of good mash you would think it contained masses of butter and cream, but Sara assured me there was no cream in it whatsoever and only a little butter. She just poached the potatoes in milk and cooked them in her Thermomix (my dream gadget and future lottery win purchase). Add a little garlic and a pinch of alba truffle (can I make this sound any better?) and all of us were raving about it. I cannot honestly find enough adjectives to describe exactly how good it was, but let’s hope she’ll make it for another of the supperclubs so you get to try it. There was just the right amount of gravy too – I think I probably would have licked the plate clean had we not been in polite company.
Finally onto the dessert, which did not disappoint given how fantastic the previous two courses had been. I was not sure what a bavarois was, but the dish was labelled “butternut squash bavarois with a fig and Marsala glaze”. Bavarois for those who don’t know (me included) is: a classic dessert that was included in the repertoire of chef Marie-Antoine Carême (Source: Wikipedia) who I learnt recently was a very important chef thanks to Michel Roux Jr. The bavarois itself I was expecting to be very sweet given that it was butternut squash but it actually wasn’t – a surprise for the senses. It was subtly sweetened with the fig and marsala – I found the warming almost menthol taste of the figs offset the bavarois really well. Decorating the plate was strips of candied orange rind which we all enjoyed dipping in the shot glass of melted chocolate (with just a hint of whisky in). It was a darkly rich chocolate packing a good cocoa punch. Again it seemed like a very indulgent thing to be eating but Sara insisted there was no cream in it.
All in all, Mr LTT and I have agreed it was probably one of the best meals we have ever had. And that is going to come with a slightly larger price tag than your average meal out – but this most definitely ISN’T your average meal out. Sara’s waiting list for supperclub at her house is extensive, so if you want to cut the queue and eat some of her incredible cooking, you will expect to pay £80 per head. It’s not just a meal – Sara came out and chatted to us for about 20 mins. I found her to be hugely passionate and very charming to boot!
There’s two upcoming dates for Sara’s dinner club – 13th March and 31st May. You can find out more about Sara Danesin Medio’s Northern Ballet supper club here.
Disclaimer: I was asked to review this so our meals were complimentary, but as ever my reviews are independent.