We did it! Our first brunch at our East Cliff HQ. It was an absolute joy. We had 26 guests: 6 plant-based menus, 14 pescatarian and 6 children (all under 5 so our 2 year old was so excited to have all these new friends to hang out with!).
It was a bit of an experiment in lots of ways – we borrowed benches from ]performance s p a c e[ who are always incredibly generous, did tons of crockery research, decided it was all too expensive and just when we were beginning to think we might have to serve the food directly onto the table, found that Asda do a perfectly respectable basics range. We would have loved to stick to our ethos of local sourcing on this one but for our first event, the budget was just not going to stretch!
The menu was a combination of new ideas and things we have tested in the past. I love using fresh nettles – I’ve previously made a delicious nettle gnocchi – and I knew it was a tad early but didn’t realise quite what a mission Peter would have to go on to find them! There is another low-growing weed that seems to take over the areas you’d expect to see nettles around here. I keep meaning to find out what it is, I thought it was ground elder at first but the leaves are different… anyway, I digress. The Folkestone Downs finally came up trumps and our nettle porridge was back on track.
We’ve also had a play with making vegan ‘eggs’ before using a vegan ‘gelatine’ based on carrageenan (a kind of seaweed). Previously we made little ‘fried eggs’ for a curry-based dish, so the egg white was a jelly made with coconut milk and the yolk was half a yellow cherry tomato. This time, I wanted to make boiled ‘eggs’ to go with baked wild mushroom polenta, so for the white I made a fennel puree, added gelatine and set it in little easter egg moulds! The runny yolk was a carrot and tomato chutney.
We got Whitstable oysters (for the Bloody Marys) and delicious Folkestone scallops (for the pescatarian version of the nettle porridge) from Folkestone Trawlers. On the way down to collect them at 7am, I picked gorse flowers from the Cliff to go with the porridge. The sense of ‘place’ in these dishes is really exciting for me. The kippers were from Griggs in Hythe where they do their own brunch menu that you can eat in or take out onto the beach. I went to collect my order with our little one in tow and they gave him a free smoked salmon bagel because he has one of those cute chubby faces you can’t say no to! I met Louisa from Debonair Tea there as well, since she is based in Hythe, to pick up the beautiful loose leaf tea that she had helped us pair with each course. I think there needs to be a whole blog post dedicated to cooking with tea and matching tea to food – perhaps I’ll ask Louisa to do a guest post..?
All our vegetables were from East Kent, mostly from Walmestone Growers, Nethergong Nurseries and their neighbours. I loved the squash puree made with roasted Acorn and Red Kuri squashes, garlic, Kent rapeseed oil and nothing else – super sweet, but our favourite was the beetroot syrup, just a simple sugar syrup made with beetroot juice, but the flavour was so earthy and intense – perfect against the greek yoghurt, fresh mint and yeasty pikelets. I pinched the idea from a very talented friend and barman Chris Lacey-Malvern at whose bar I recently tasted one of his many insanely good cocktails containing beetroot syrup.
Having it in our front room felt like such a good decision, it was cosy and intimate, everyone sat on tables together and there was a beautiful sense of community, loads of chat about everyone’s love of Folkestone. Best not to mention all the washing up that took us a couple of days to plough through…
So much more I could tell you – did you see the little video in instagram of the tea infusing in the vodka for the Bloody Marys?! – but the pictures will give you an idea.