Review – Cuissons London POP-down, St James’, London
Pop-ups are popping up all over the place like the proverbial mushroom so it tickled my fancy that I was invited to check out a ‘pop-down’. A clever play on words I was soon to discover as the setting for the evening was in a restaurant basement. St James for those not familiar with London is right in the heart of things. Situated between Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus and stretching down to St James’ Palace (London home of HRH Prince Charles). It is a great setting for those wanting to dine out, lots of little streets and historical buildings away from the tourist hubbub of the city.
Our evening started off very genteelly, I was early as per usual so was able to have a good chat with my hosts beforehand and find out a little more about their inspiration for the menus they choose. It is clear that the chefs behind the menus are very passionate, I could have talked for hours with them. As my guest and I caught up over a delicious cocktail we were eagerly anticipating a night of Michelin style foods. You see, these guys are not just Joe Bloggs chefs you know, these chefs have worked in some of the top Michelin kitchens – The Fat Duck, The Square and Le Gavroche to name a few – this is high-end dining.
There were to be 7 courses to our menu. As the rest of the diners arrived and settled in we were then welcomed and given a short explanation on how the evening would run. We were encouraged to help the chefs plate up if we wished and to come up and watch if we just wanted to observe. Participation is actively encouraged.
Along with the delicious homemade bread and cultured butter we had a cold buttermilk, cucumber, fennel, pumpkin seed and anise ‘soup’ for want of a better word. It was prettily presented and tasted really good!
The watermelon carpaccio that you can see being plated up below, was sliced and left to dry out for 2 days giving it quite a ‘meaty’ texture. If I hadn’t known it was watermelon I would have been convinced it was beef. One of the ideas behind this menu is not only to challenge your taste buds but to challenge your mind as well. The presentation of expecting one thing but getting something else is quite literally mind-blowing.
As each dish is presented the chefs come around to let you know the processes that go into designing each dish, because quite frankly, that is what it is, an art form at this level. It is a brief explanation so don’t think it goes on forever, it is very interesting as a foodie to have an insight. I reckon Heston would be pleased.
Our 4th and 5th courses were fermented sausage with apple butter and a Spiced ricotta, pickled mushroom, flaxseed and rye crisps.
I was very much looking forward to the main part of our meal. Cured salmon cooked in a sous vide (water bath) at 40deg for around 1 hr and 10 minutes. I like smoked salmon, I detest poached salmon. It would take a miracle for me to like it but miracle it was. It was so soft with the look of smoked salmon, more meaty than flaky, it was a hallelujah moment. I actually really liked it!
The final course was white chocolate with coconut, matcha tea and blueberries. It was unusual and a test to my taste buds. I don’t know how they made it look like a sponge but it was interesting and the chocolate was great.
POP-Down is open from Thursday-Saturday evening throughout the summer. The menu changes monthly and is a change from the usual supperclub evenings. A gastronomic delight and a high-end dining experience brought to you by some very innovative chefs. Tickets are priced at £39 for 7 creative courses and are available to purchase in advance through Grubclub. To see more about Cuissons London click here.