344A Essex Road, Islington, N1 3PD
Ex-Fera chef Michael Thompson, joined by fellow Fera alumni Ollie Downey, have returning to Brewery Below at Borough Wines in Islington in for a residency for their fodder pop-up from 7 – 30 September. Why does this matter? Well, chef Simon Rogan’s Fera at Claridge’s served some of the most progressive food in London and the chance to experience something similar from two of his trusted lieutenants at a pop-up price seems too good to miss.It runs Thursday – Saturday each week with guests enjoying seven courses of wild, seasonal, and locally-sourced food from the team for £45. I’ve been invited along to review and I’m intrigued to see how the Fera aesthetic will transfer to the more basic confines of an off-licence basement without a Michelin-starred ambience and the high-tech Claridge’s kitchens.Borough Wines & Beers have designed the drinks menu, featuring wine and beer flights to complement the food, including natural and organic wines as well as a limited edition foraged-ingredient beer created especially for the occasion. We went for the wine flight at £34 and were excited to see what was on offer.The basement space is basic but atmospheric and friendly with a buzz coming from the staff and the excited punters. There is a sense of being in on something new – a bit like the energy generated by The Young Guns residency that thrust Isaac McHale and and James Lowe of The Cove Club and Lyle’s into prominence. We started with an English Rosehip Spritz (£10), an upliftingly astringent blend of Sacred’s English Rosehip cup blended with English Nyetimber Classic Cuvée fizz.The first ‘snack’ was a dish of sweetcorn and mushrooms that was the essence of umami. The mushrooms had been grown on coffee grounds which added an extra earthiness to the flavour. The dish was matched with Domaine de l’Ausseil, Papillon Blanc Côtes Catalanes 2016 (Languedoc-Roussillon, France) – a blend of Macabeo, Grenache Gris & Muscat with bright, crisp acidity and minerality cutting through the savoury notes on the plate.Lamb ‘nuggets’ – actually deliciously tender sweetbreads – came with the acidic sweetness of a Rosehip ketchup and a tangy fermented turnip mayo. Cornish cod poached in seaweed butter (wakami and nori) sea vegetables (rock samphire and aster) buttermilk and apple marigold was a standout dish. The lightly poached fish was bathed in a luxuriant creamy bath of chlorophyllic ozone and the spicy sweetness of Luddite Wines’ The Saboteur, White Blend, 2015 with its oily finish was a great match.The main course of beef and nasturtium was beautifully plated with the meat having a lovely flavour; however it was too chewy and maybe needed a slightly less gentle cooking process. The matched red, Domaine des Bois Vaudons, Le Bois Jacou Gamay, Touraine 2015 (Loire) was not full-bodied enough for the beef with its raspberry notes but went brilliantly with the veggie alternative, bread grains and nasturtium.Blackberry sorbet with sour cream and fig leaf oil was a beautifully balanced and astringent pre-dessert; a lovely match with the liquorice and blackberry notes and strawberry finish of the Mas Bécha, Rivesaltes “Excellent Grenat”, 2014. Meadowsweet with sticky honey cake and sour crab apple was a crumbly mouthful of sweet and sour. We drank Domaine Pinnacle Iced Cider from Quebec made from frozen apples which was similar to an amazing appley Sauternes.Elderberry T-cakes were light and fluffy and a great end to a really creative and well-executed dinner. A lot of care has gone into fodder. Vegetables are handpicked from the wild or sourced from Good Earth Growers and ceramics have been specially hand-crafted. But most importantly there is a respect for produce, regionality and seasonality which is expressed on the plate in a way that is really pleasurable.
Tickets are available through the Borough Wines & Beers website – https://boroughwines.co.uk/07-09-30-09-fodder/
The next chef residency at Borough Wines will be Oded Oren running Thursdays to Saturdays 12-21st October.