Blanch and Shock at The Endurance, Soho:
I’m wondering as I write this whether Food Spectrum might just have come up with something very special. The concept behind The Endurance in Soho is that young chefs like those currently in residence, will spend a month running the kitchen at the Endurance, a pub right in the centre of Soho. We, the general public, will be able to enjoy their ‘pop-up’ menu at a reasonable cost, lunch service from Monday to Friday and then a taster menu on Saturday (Blanch and Shock’s is £40). What’s special, for me at least is that this is right in the centre of London. I do go to supper clubs – often rather warily trying to find my way around parts of London I’ve never been to before, and I do WANT to try some of the ‘happening’ places in East London, but, it’s hard work and time consuming crossing London. The Endurance is so central I might just get there a bit more often!
Blanch and Shock, a collaboration that has been around since 2007 catering for private events, festivals and pop-ups, is the first residency. They base their food on the best seasonal ingredients possible, with meat and vegetables from small scale producers, sustainable fish and wild foods and plan to change the menu through the month as the season progresses.
I went along earlier this week to see how things were getting on and was really impressed. There’s a shortish menu with snacks like nitro-sponge, cods roe and sea lettuce (a very light briochy bun with a similarly light cods roe sprinkled with green sea lettuce powder) and chicken skin with red gooseberry powder to nibble on if you don’t want the smallish plates of food with your beer or wine. But, I’d recommend going there to enjoy the food!
Apart from our two snacks (think dishes about the size of an amuse bouche), we enjoyed a whole range of small plates (you need to order 3 or 4 per person).
Tomatoes with dill seed vinegar, prunes and nasturtiums looked almost boring next to the pretty, smoky sweet hay potatoes with yoghurt and marjoram. But both dishes were excellent.
Two fish dishes, a salad of cured bream, watercress and picked radishes and a crisp skinned barbequed mackerel with buttermilk, sorrel and chervil, were really beautifully presented small plates.
Both of us particularly liked the tender, melting 17 hour pork belly, served with a smoked wild plum sauce and a griddled baby gem . I normally avoid pork belly as I don’t like large quantities of fat on meat. But this was superb and I would happily have eaten a whole plate myself.
The Hay and Malt tart was very beautiful – I loved the ‘pastry’, a dark, crunchy mixture. And, the single origin choco-milk was well, like the sort of chocolate milk I remember from my rose tinted childhood…easy to drink and very pleasant with a taste of REAL chocolate rather than the synthetic stuff you generally get now.
Now, if I was to be picky, I thought our two snacks showed just a little bit of over-indulgence with powders. They looked very pretty on the plate but I am not sure they added much to the dishes. But, at £2 each you can afford to try this sort of thing and not like it. In any case I DID like the main ingredients, the crispy chicken skins (my companion thought they were like posh pork scratchings!) and the lovely light nitro-sponge with cod’s roe.
My particular favourites were the pork belly and the mackerel. But, it’s enough of a compliment I think that I’d happily eat all the same dishes again (though I’d probably want to try the ones we left out another time). We drank Sollazzo Premio, a refreshing, light pinot grigio, priced at £18.90. so the whole meal with wine would have been a snip at just under £60 for two.
Why go? Well, in the heart of London you get a fun, well cooked lunch for £20 or so a head (plus wine), and who knows, you might just be eating a meal cooked by the next Heston… This is modern and slightly edgy British food, but at prices that won’t be an issue if you find something isn’t to your taste.
Disclaimer: We dined as guests of The Endurance
90 Berwick Street
London W1F 0QB