Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Secret Supper Club: The most sought after membership in town

Have you ever had an invitation so insanely unbelievable that you feel like you have to re-evaluate your life to figure out how the hell you got invited to such an event? Yeah? Well that happened to me twice recently, how and why I'll never know, but I can tell you one thing, I am beyond grateful to those two individuals who invited me along.

Chris Tonner, head chef at The Courtyard (which is soon to be converted to CUE; a Southern US and American BBQ food joint due to open in February 2016), invited me along to one of the most unique dining adventures I may ever experience in my life.

The Secret Supper Club, Aberdeen's first exclusive secret dining club, treated a select number of individuals to indulge in some of the finest Scottish produce the region has to offer. The intimate event, which took place over a dinner table in the heart of Aberdeen saw two fine chefs develop a culinary experience like no other.

The menu, which was created by guest chef, Bruce Morrison, alongside Chris, who prevously worked with Bruce back in 1995, consisted of a round of seven courses. To say I was excited about the abundance of food  which would be teasing my tastebuds any second now, was a serious understatement.

What I loved mostly about the evening (apart from the food obviously) was that guests were asked to bring an 'interesting tipple' for others to sample. I've come across my share of fantastic rums and gins in my short legal drinking age time, however wasn't sure what was actually up to the task of being my 'interesting tipple'. After careful consideration I decided to opt for the North Hop Festival Gin, a strawberry and rhubarb infused gin created by Rock Rose Gin masterminds Dunnet Bay Distillery.

The room was set, ready to unleash the artistic Michelin star banquet we were about to endeavour, and what a treat it was going to be...
First up was a quick opportunity to catch-up with all the guests over a warm 'pint' of mulled cider. The cider was oh so sweet, and oh so tasty, a real 'Christmas in a glass' type tipple. Very appealing to the tastebuds I must add, and the perfect way to kick-off the Christmas festivities whilst warming up our tums.
Mulled cider created by the fantastic Lauren of Adelphi Kitchen
Sitting down to dinner, Chris took to the floor discussing the first four savoury dishes, going into great detail about how the dishes were created and constructed. Some very fascinating facts on how to utilise different flavours and many interesting concepts discussed that is, for someone who doesn't own a CO2 cylinder gun or a culinary water bath!

To awaken our senses Chris presented us with a purple potato foccachia with marmite butter on the side. Not a fan of the "love it or hate it" gooey spread, I was sure I would hate the butter. However, to my surprise it was delightfully delicious. A strange concept which worked extremely well and was very popular with the other guests.
Purple Potato Foccachia bread with Marmite Butter
Our first course, the scallop tartare, was initially meant to be served on our hands (clench your fist; the flat surface where your thumb and index finger join - that's where). However, due to the size of the amuse bush the chefs decided otherwise. A nice touch to even have been considered in my opinion. The scallop was succulent and melted in my mouth, and the intense flavours of the lemon were quickly softened with the creaminess of the parmesan and the white chocolate arrancini. Very delicious.
Scallop tartare: Onuga caviar, white chooclate arrancina, savory lemon curd and shaved parmesan
Not a massive fan of absinthe I was a little sceptical how I would take to the Adnams absinthe which I was presented, not to my surprise sadly (I hate liquorice you see), I didn't take too fondly to the absinthe, although the colour was vibrant and it was 66% ABV too! The ideal tipple if you love liquorice.
Some fabulous Adnams Absinthe which owner and head barman of 10 Dollar Shake, Adrian Gomes, contributed to the evening. 
Our second course was to be one of the strangest, but tastiest dishes of them all...packed lunch on a plate. A foil wrapped stuffed potato (edible silver foil may I add), seaweed mustard, pork pie puree, cucumber pickle and ham salt. The different textures ensured the dish was continuously developed throughout, right down to the last fork-full.
Packed lunch on a plate
Packed lunch on a plate
Chocolate wine provided by the lovely James of CRE-ATE
The third course was to be my favourite savoury dish, and boy was it a catch.

Warm King crab, potted shrimp butter, crispy bacon loaf, celeriac remoulade, lemon bulgar wheat and sweetcorn sorbet. The prawns and the king crab were cooked excellently, both tasted fresh and took me back to a walk along the beach on a crisp Spring morning. The crispy bacon loaf provided a totally different taste in comparison to the fresh seafood and complimented this greatly to my surprise. I've never thought on pairing seafood with anything lse but vegetables, rice or pasta, so it was great to incorporate a totally unpredictable ingredient into the dish. The sweetcorn sorbet was very creamy and was also something I had never tried before. It's definitley something I would love to try re-create at home.
Warm King Crab
Warm King Crab
The gorgeous Michelle Barclay of Elevator UK and myself sipping on prosecco with the North Hop Festival Gin
Course four was very interesting, not only in the way it was presented but the flavours in which it produced.

Chicken which was poached in a water bath, skin granola (the actual chicken skin made into granola, how I have no idea), various vegetables, cepe broiche crisps, thyme jus gras and toasted hay cream. What I loved about this dish is how the green puree type sauce on the left hand side is actually some of the vegetables, insane, I know.
Poached Chicken
Poached Chicken
Chris Tonner briefing guests on the courses to follow...
Course five, and the first of three desserts, was without a doubt my favourtie dessert (I'm a chocolate fan, there was no hope for the other desserts in all honesty as divine as they were).

Frozen white chocolate aero, tarragon oil and wild blackberry juice. The aero was actually created in-house with some fancy shmanshy CO2 type gun-thing. The chocolate was them vacuum packed, frozen then sliced - a culinary military operation to produce this dish it would seem!
Frozen White Chocolate Aero with a number of 'interesting tipples'
Frozen White Chocolate Aero
The sixth course was extremely appealing to any custard-loving, apple adoring crumble fan. It was super rich, a little too rich for me to be honest. However, what I could eat of it tasted exactly like custard creams, but 100 times better. When I say it was creamy...I mean it was CREAMY, still a delight though.

Vanilla custard cream, tarte tatin puree, apple salad with sorrel, mascarpone beignet and apple crumble sorbet which was made with Granny Smith apples and was the freshest, and probably best sorbet I have tasted to date.
Vanilla Custard Cream

Vanilla Custard Cream
And finally course eight.

Caramelised buttermilk ravioli. This dish was intended to be one, if not, THE Mona Lisa of the event. Chris and Bruce had envisioned mastering the art of making ravioli with the buttermilk's skin (once boiled), however, due to the fact a very small, minuscule fraction (I mean only a handful) of chefs know how to do this, and have spent months if not years trying to perfect this art, they were unable to deliver the ravioli in the way which they would have liked to present it. Nonetheless I can't do anything but commend them for their fantastic efforts throughout the day trying to perfect this culinary craft. So what was meant to be caramelised buttermilk ravioli was now deconstructed caramelised buttermilk ravioli, still outstandingly stunning though. Served with a banoffee sauce and topped with pistachios, the textures of this dish finished the extensive menu off perfectly.

Pickled spiced watermelon and a rib infused bourbon shots
An outstanding culinary adventure around a Michelin star menu, Chris and Bruce really did go up and beyond in creating a five star experience.

Without a doubt a culinary experience I will never forget, and one I can't stop talking about (and showing all the pictures to my friends). Genuinely still can't believe the skills and techniques which were presented on the evening, and I proudly take my hat off to both Chris and Bruce, jolly good show chaps, jolly good show. Thanks again for the invite and I look forward to seeing how the Secret Supper Club develops. To keep up to date with The Secret Supper Club news, ssubscribe here:
The Secret Supper Club #1

  For Now...

Just Julia

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