You know what it’s like… you’ve got a bit night of scranning and drinking wine planned on a Friday night after a busy week and WHAT HAPPENS? You get a stinking cold, of course. This happened to me a few weeks ago, right before I was due to attend the wonderful Gareth Kyle’s “Geordie Supperclub”, which I’d been looking forward to for weeks. I’m not one to let the sniffles get the better of me though, so the Mother and I grabbed our bottles of red and headed up to the Garden Café at the beautiful Hermitage Gardens in Whickham, Gateshead.
For those of you don’t know, Gareth Kyle is an uber-talented local cook and food lover who made quite a name for himself on Britain’s Best Dish and MasterChef Live. He also nabbed the crown at 2012’s EAT! Festival, winning the Trial Shift cook-off competition. It’s no surprise then, that after the success of his first “pop up restaurant” back in June, the tickets for September’s 3-night affair flew out!
The Garden Café at Whickham’s Hermitage Garden is absolutely beautiful and even though it’s a community garden, it somehow felt really personal and Gareth looked right at home from the word go. We were greeted by Gareth’s dead canny brother who was helping out for the evening as waiter, and handed a ‘Mead Royale’ – that’s Lindisfarne Mead, Chain Bridge Farm honey and a dash of fizz, then shown to our seats. As mentioned earlier, this is a ‘bring your own’ event, so my Mum and I brought two bottles of red and swiftly realised others had only brought one between them… oops. There were around 25 guests in total and a wide range of ages, so it was great to have time to actually talk to other guests and hear their stories, which is one of my favourite parts of attending supperclubs.
The first course really had people talking before it arrived, mainly the question “what’s a floddie?!” – even the die-hard Geordies in the room were clueless. FYI, floddies are Gateshead’s answer to the potato cake and they’re RIDICULOUSLY good. This was the first time I’d ever had them and to my dismay, probably the last, unless Gareth serves them up at his next pop-up.The floddies were served on a tasting board alongside Gentleman’s Ketchup, a grown-up tomato ketchup that was gloriously tangy and very moreish. I polished off the majority of ours as it went so well with every element of the starter. Delicious! We were also served cured Yorkshire estate Venison with Mooli Remoulade (coleslaw’s refined and tastier big brother) and Kielder Jersey Milk Cheese that went perfectly with the floddies and gentleman’s ketchup. The verdict on the starter? A wonderful introduction to what was going to be a stellar night of scranning…
Next up was a tin of potted salmon, served with cucumber relish and a large oatmeal (I think) savoury biscuit. This was a light but tasty addition to the meal and the cucumber relish was particularly good – really zesty and contrasted gorgeously with the fresh salmon. We were also entertained by a friend of Gareth’s, John Baird, who shared his hand-penned cheeky songs with us with only his guitar for accompaniment. It’s not often there’s “entertainment” at these type of things and if I’m honest, I often think it can be quite cringey, but John was excellent and his tracks were cool, fun and current. You can check out his stuff online here.
After a couple of songs from John, it was main course time, AKA, THE ONE I’D BEEN WAITING FOR. Gareth was serving up a glorious pork dish using pork sourced from Mark Bradley’s farm in Hamsterley. We had a gorgeously tender braised pigs cheek served on celeriac purée and madeira sauce, alongside ham terrine and crispy belly with black pudding, pickled carrots and green apple. The black pudding had been ground to more of a paste and it was great to enjoy it’s rich flavour without the usual heavy consistency. The braised cheek was so succulent and moist, complimented beautifully by the crisy pork belly and creamy celeriac purée.
We were then served “Fog on the Thyme” a zesty frozen gin and tonic sorbet served in a shot glass to cleanse the palate with a little kick, with a few more songs from John thrown in for good measure. This was followed by a frankly fabulous dessert of Chocolate and Salted Caramel in various guises, served on a tasting plate. Featuring rich chocolate ice cream, a salted caramel and chocolate disc, salted caramel sauce and a light biscuit, this was a definite highlight for me. As regular readers will testify, I’m not normally into desserts, but the saltiness of the caramel against the seriously chocolaty ice cream was really satisfying. Even thinking about it 3 weeks later has made me want it again.
On the reverse side of the menus, Gareth explains his love of North-east ingredients and produce and it was great to know that every single element of every dish was sourced locally. After being lucky enough to experience Gareth’s pop-up this time around, I’m by no means surprised that his previous events have sold out virtually as soon as they’ve been announced. He’s incredibly talented, a joy to talk to and to be honest, really humble despite his obvious culinary excellence. My Mum was a big fan!
Gareth now plans to run his pop up restaurants every quarter and is looking to hold them at other venues too, so the easiest way to stay informed is by either visiting his website, or following him on Facebook/Twitter. Amazingly, cooking and teaching others isn’t his day-job right now, but if this evening was anything to go by, it’s not far off on the horizon for him. Us North-easterners are so fortunate to have this level of skill on the doorstep, so make sure you don’t miss out on his next event – it’ll no doubt be an even swifter sell-out!
Check out Gareth’s website, his Facebook page and Twitter feed for further information on future pop-ups, as well as recipes/inspiration/press etc. Tickets to his Geordie Supperclubs are normally £22, however we were invited for a complimentary experience for the purpose of this review.
[Photographs used property of Scran on the Tyne and Richard Kenworthy – you can tell which ones belong to the pro… we know!]