Monday, December 14, 2015

TheTabl Supperclub, 20th November

The other Friday I had one of the best culinary experiences of my life. Truly unforgettable and unlike anything I have had the pleasure of doing before. The Tabl have recently launched – they are offering a bespoke supper club service – helping people host their own, finding venues, even helping with recipes. And to celebrate this they put on one hell of a meal to which I was invited.

Collaborating with Charles Spence who has worked with Heston in the past (creating that famous sounds of the sea dish) and Jesse Dunford-Wood who runs Parlour in Kensal Rise, they put together a feast that was not only delicious and entertaining but an education in eating. We didn’t know what we were going to eat until it arrived in front of us (or the method by which we would eat it) and we weren’t told how many courses would be coming our way. In total there were nine I would say, but this does not include the little bursts of experimentation we also participated in.

It started immediately – one fork had woven through its tines a strip of paper. We were asked to place this in our mouths and then asked what we tasted. It seemed it had been soaked in chemicals to me – not very pleasant at all. But others said they couldn’t taste a damn thing – it just tasted of paper. But every strip was the same and this is how they determine ‘non-tasters’ and ‘super tasters’. I think I was somewhere in the middle.

Jelly beans were then passed around and we were invited to take one. But we had to eat it holding our noses. What could we taste? Nothing but sweetness as it turned out. Then we unplugged our noses and the taste flooded in! Going to prove how vital your sense of smell is to your dining experience.

A few other experiments took place – how pleasant we found eating with fingers, or being fed – was it sensual, or sexual, or a turn off? This probably rather depended on who you were sitting next to and what utensil you had been fed with. I was lucky and was spooned some seabass on a normal silver tablespoon by the girl to my right, whereas I had to feed the man on my left with a big soup ladle – much less erotic. When having to eat asparagus with our fingers did we enjoy it or find it slimy? And what about feeding your neighbour a parsnip? Intimate? Too much so?
And all the while food kept coming. We had 'McTucky's' popcorn chicken, chestnut hummus with rosemary pitta bread, raw sea bream with citrus fruits and olive oil, duck liver pate with figs, honey and yesterday's bread, raw vegetable ravioli (pickled veg) with goats' cheese, 'back door' smoked salmon, crispy smoked salmon skin and salmon caviar, blue cheese custard with hazelnuts and marmiteless twiglets. These were served in egg shells and were so rich and cheesy (yet not overpoweringly blue) - amazing. 

Finally we got to the main course and a dish of cabbage was set in front of me. Just cabbage. Next to me, the guy had a small swirl of mashed potato. But to my left was an amazing looking dish of sea bass! And then someone got an actual globe of chicken kiev! this wasn't fair! Luckily it was just another experiment and before long we were all sharing out our dishes. The cow pie that was placed in the middle of the table was more than impressive but the chicken kiev got my vote as the best dish. 
One final experiment came just before dessert when a little dish was placed before us, with lemon juice and a wedge of lime. In the dish was half a pill. We were asked to dip our fingers in the juice and taste it. Sour as you would expect from lemon juice. Then we were instructed to place the half pill in our mouths and chew – not simply swallow it. We tasted the juice again. It now tasted sweet! It was like drinking sugary sherbet! The same of the lime! Unbelievable!.  Unfortunately it had the same effect on the lovely red wine we’d been drinking which was now like having a huge glass of very sweet port.
The piece de resistance of the meal had to be the dessert. Headphones were handed out and a sheet of kitchen foil rolled out along the table. As Flight of the Bumblebee played in our heads, the chefs raced around creating a tapestry of desserts – swipes of chocolate sauce here, blobs of caramel there. A macaroon placed here, a Souffle over there. The tableau of dreams was built up before our very eyes – eyes which were now the size of saucers at all the different desserts being placed before us. A giant wagon wheel was created, there was cake, there was a queen of puddings, a chocolate ‘black pudding’ a chocolate tart. It was amazing. The music stopped, we handed back the headphones and then we plunged into the spread before us. It reminded me of the scene where the kids are let loose in Willy Wonka’s factory – not knowing where to start, wanting to try everything – a spoon went into the soufflĂ©, a finger swiped up a bit of cream. Even that description I do not think does justice to what we were treated to and the joy we had eating it. Absolutely hats off to all involved for creating a truly magical event.

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