You may well be familiar already with pop ups, those temporary restaurants that are springing up worldwide, but have you heard of a pop down? Cuisson Pop Down is an interactive dining experience created by luxury gastronomy experts, open Thursday to Saturday in London throughout the Summer. Delivering high end dining in an informal environment, guests are welcome to come and help plate up with the chefs if they wish.
Held in a comfy basement in St James, you’re seated on communal tables and soon the conversation was flowing as we got to know our fellow diners. It’s probably best suited to fairly outgoing characters for this reason. The evening kicked off with a welcome Cuisson Vodka Cocktail with lemon verbena. This came with warm sourdough bread, served with cultured butter – a first for me but it has probiotics for added taste and health benefits. It was a refreshing start, as the chefs introduced themselves and encouraged us to ask any questions. They have trained in some of the UK’s top restaurants – The Fat Duck, Galvin at Windows, Le Gavroche, The Square and Maze.
The open kitchen gave us a front row seat to observe the preparation of our first dish, a delicate combination of yoghurt, cucumber, dill and anise with toasted seeds and a fruity garlic oil to add aroma. They have a good selection of wines by the bottle and the glass, we chose a Sauvignon Blanc to go with our meal.
My favourite dish may have been the ratte potatoes marinated in a burnt hay vinaigrette. If you were eating this blindfolded, you’d almost think the potatoes were meat, they had such a satisfying consistency. Our chefs declared this the umami course – umami is thought to be a fifth flavour that is savoury and meaty, in contrast with the four regular flavours: sour, sweet, salty and bitter. Mushrooms and parmesan cheese are also thought to have the umami flavour.
Our next course, duck liver, pineapple, pink peppercorns and walnut was another winning combination. Walnut gave a satisfying crunch whilst the pineapple made an interesting contrast to the duck – this is definitely worth trying as a canapé if you have guests coming for dinner.
Dessert was an appetizing Lychee and Mango bavarois with strawberries and black olive sauce. Who would have thought to use olives in a dessert sauce? It certainly gave a lovely tang to the sweet bavarois. Considering that this is not their regular kitchen and it’s a particularly small one, we were very impressed with what our chefs managed to rustle up. They have a genuine love for cooking and for interacting with diners and they also do catering for corporate and private events.
Do you think the umami flavour exists? Have you ever experienced it?
Cuisson Pop Down, 15 Charles II Street, SW1Y
Tickets are priced at £39 for four courses or more and available to purchase via www.grubclub.com