POPPING-UP FOR SUMMER
Pop-ups have been increasing in popularity over the past few years for two very good reasons. From the chef’s point of view it allows them to test their mettle without having to invest in premises and more importantly allows people like me to eat delicious food in some amazing locations! The Devon Food Movement is a collaborative pop-up restaurant concept set up by former Michelin star chef Luke Fearon. The aim is to celebrate Devon’s unique produce through a series of dining experiences, linking talented local chefs, producers and food heroes with restaurants, farms or unique locations throughout Devon (and sometimes a little beyond). At all these events they produce and serve small plated set menus to allow diners to get a true taste of each location at any given time within the season. At each location collaborators are challenged to find as many ingredients from within a five-mile radius of the event venue. Last week I was lucky enough to sample one of these experiences when Luke teamed up with Dan & Charlie from The Cellar Door at Sharpham.
So on a sunny summer’s evening surrounded by rolling green fields and overlooking the beautiful River Dart a group of foodies and winos (!) took our seats in the covered courtyard at Sharpham for a truly memorable feast. The menu kicked off with a number of amuse bouche (or nibblets as we like to call them). Succulent air dried strips of belly pork came first followed by a rye croustade filled with fresh Sharpham curd and topped with garden peas, droplets of elderflower gel and delicate elderflower petals. Then perfectly formed crunchy sourdough toast fingers accompanied a delicious whipped roe dip and finally a beautifully soft steamed bao bun packed with a kind of char sui pork and pickled vegetables. Each of these dishes was beautifully presented with a real attention to detail.
The next offering was was one of those dishes which looks so simple on a plate but you know a huge amount of work has gone into producing it. Slices of home-made focaccia sat alongside a piece of perfectly crisp and salty chicken skin which was in turn topped with a rich, roast chicken butter. Strangely enough one of our party had eaten a similar thing the night before in a trendy London restaurant so clearly it was bang on trend. Our final starter was a curried goat croquette served with a jerk mayonnaise which added a great zing in terms of flavour and colour on the palate and plate.
Next up was the main course, described on the menu simply as lamb and fermented turnip. What turned up was of course not quite so simple ! The lamb in question was presented both as a perfectly pink piece of loin and also as a pulled lamb kiev, which for me was the star of the plate. The lamb was accompanied by dauphinoise potatoes topped with the fermented turnip, fresh seasonal vegetables and a rich lamb jus. Everything was beautifully cooked and the flavours blended together to create a symphony of summer scrumptiousness (yes that is a word … now).
The cheese course caused rather a lot of discussion and was perhaps the most challenging dish we had. We, I think, had only really paid attention to the word panacotta on the menu so when the first spoonful was tasted there were gasps of “ooh” and “wasn’t expecting that” as the panacotta was of the savoury variety, made with Devon Blue cheese. Once your brain had computed that information it all made perfect sense. The panacotta was topped with small nuggets of cheese sable biscuits, candied nuts, gooseberry gel and slices of fresh Ashprington gooseberries. Red veined sorrel leaves were scattered on the top which added a lovely peppery note. I think this may be something I will have to try at home soon … Finally, the only way to describe dessert is “Summer on a plate” : with fresh summer berries and wild herbs crafted into a variety of tastes and textures. A delightful way to end a delicious meal.
Luke is clearly a very talented and innovative chef who will I’m sure go far … but hopefully not too far so we can continue to sample his delicious food here in Devon.
GO IF : you can get a seat in any of Luke’s pop-ups over the summer.
MDD LIKES : that all the chefs and many of the diners were in their 20’s and 30’s