The first time you do anything its daunting. Especially when its cooking for 60 people with really high expectations. That’s one of the only problems to have emerged from MasterChef; people expect really great things and with that comes the pressure of delivering taste that people could have only imagined through their TV screens.
I was approached by the Bull and Gate pub in Kentish Town after they saw an article about me looking for good pop up venues in the North London area. I received many offers of venues and saw a fair amount of spaces but as soon as I walked in the Bull and Gate; I knew I had found the one. Following extensive refurbishment which saw it go from grungy, old and tired pub, to elegant and modern pub, it still kept its legacy with many people I spoke with recalling fun nights out watching pre-famous bands playing in the sweaty back room. That sweaty back room is now a really charming dining room boasting exposed brick work, shabby chic decor and a view straight into the kitchen. It was love at first sight.
The General Manager introduced me to the head chef and his team who would be my full support on the night. I told him the menu I was planning and he got excited, always a bonus if as a cook, you are effectively leading the chef! So lets talk about my menu. Starting with the amouse bouche; Matbucha (a slow reduction of of red peppers and tomatoes, heavy with paprika, chilli and garlic) on a sour dough crostini and a Dorset Crab Falafel with Harissa Mayo.
Starter was a souped up version of my finals dish; Seared King Scallops with a Lemon, Chilli and Coriander dressing, Black Quinoa, Pickles and Scallop and Cucumber Salad. The beauty of this dish was that all elements could be cooked and prepared in advance and served at room temperature, leaving only the scallops to be fried off last minute. We managed to find room to lay out all 60 plates and look at how beautiful they looked.
In case you’re wondering, it tasted even better than it looked and went down really well to a very enthusiastic audience. As I said, the key to mass catering is to have as many elements prepared and plated in advance with just one ingredient added at the last minute. No rest for the wicked, it was straight onto the main. Starting with the Veggie option (which only person went for) Pan fried Cauliflower with Toasted Israeli Cous Cous, Almonds, Pine Nuts, Barberries and Za’atar with a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. The other main wasLamb Neck Fillet marinated in Middle Spices and cooked Sous Vide with Tomato Bulgur, Cumin Scented Broad Beans and Labneh. The last picture was me celebrating the last plate going out! sweaty, exhausted but really really happy.
With desert plated; it was time to go and greet my tables and thank them all for coming to support my first ever pop up. The night was a great success and one which I look forward to repeating in September where I have yet another sell out. The finale, Salted Caramel Hazelnut and Chocolate Tart with Tahini Ice Cream, Hazelnut Crumble and Toasted Sesame Seeds.
The lovely Luca and his team helped make the event run smoothly, 60 covers felt very manageable and all those nights spent lying awake panicking needn’t have happened. I loved it all and it gave me a real taste of feeding paying customers….I hope to be able to do lots more of it!
Here are my favourite testimonials of the night;
“As we knew would be the case, Emma didn’t fail to come up with the MasterChef goods! I particularly loved the Crab Falafel and the amazing starter. There was also a great atmosphere and it was so good of Emma to personally visit each table to check we all had fun.” R.Morshead
“You gave us a brilliant evening thank you. Every course was superbly presented and absolutely delicious. The menu was varied and the tastes flowed beautifully. The service was attentive but relaxed which led to us having a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Please let us know of future evenings.” N.Sell
“I will remember those flavours for some time to come. The food was as good, if not better, than anything I have eaten in some top restaurants. It was lovely to meet you and I would definitely like to be kept informed of future dates.” J. Cantor