So yesterday my colleague Grahame Morrison, web editor for KBB, made my winter by telling me he had wangled places for me and two other colleagues to have lunch at The Cube. For those not in the know, The Cube is the pop-up restaurant to end all pop-up restaurants. It's actually a self-contained restaurant 'pod', which has been touring Europe, and seats up to 18 for a blow-your-mind dining experience. It's currently moored on the top of the Royal Festival Hall, and each week a different Michelin-starred chef has taken up residence to cater for the ultimate dinner party.
I've wanted to go for absolutely aaaggggesss, but couldn't justify the £175 (lunch)/£215 (dinner) price tag. Which is why I literally danced round the office and squeaked in delight when Grahame told me he'd got us in. Yes, I know. Jammy journalists.
Cooking for us yesterday was Tom Kerridge, of Hand & Flowers fame. This was also mega exciting as I'd actually seen him on Masterchef just last week. You don't get to see the menu before you go - it's kept back right to the end of the meal, when you're given an autographed copy to keep as a memento. Every course was introduced by Tom himself, and we were able to mingle with him and watch him work throughout the meal.
So what did we eat?
To start with, we were treated to champers as we hung out on the roof terrace (despite the sub zero temperatures), admiring the view of the river. The south bank is my absolute favourite part of London, so it was a real treat to be supping champagne and scoffing canapes while gazing out. Here we are getting excited about our imminent gastrofest...
Our first course (of six!) was a delicious pumpkin soup, with king oyster mushrooms, blue cheese and garlic butter. Thick and heartwarming, it would be the perfect thing to eat on Bonfire Night! It was baked 'en croute' with a pastry lid which Tom cut into, and removed, so that we each got a piece to dip into the soup.
Next up was all the meat from a pig's head, rolled into a little croquette-type thing. I baulked a bit at the pig's head bit, but Tom ensured us that it didn't contain any ears or eyeballs, just the flesh around the head. It turned out to be a bit like pulled pork, rich, meaty and satisfying. It was accompanied by something that looked like a worm, but which was apparently a Jerusalem artichoke - its texture surprised me, being crunchy and sort of like celery (without the strong flavour). A piece of crackling finished it off perfectly.
Then came my favourite course of the lot - hake with grapes. The hake was perfect - beautifully moist and wrapped in vine leaves, with a beurre blanc and shallot sauce. Yum.
I should mention that we were given a different wine with each course - and these were described to us by the very knowledge and friendly waitress before being poured. I have to confess that I'm not used to drinking six glasses of wine at lunch, so I fell behind a little. I'd also been a bit overeager when the champagne was going round at the beginning so was already a little bit tipsy - but it WAS delicious!
The 'main' course was salt-baked lamb with salsa verde, pomme boulengere and sprouting broccoli. The rosemary-encrusted lamb was blow-torched before our eyes before serving - an impressive sight!
The lamb was a revelation - I actually hate lamb, but it was amazingly tender and packed with aromatic flavours, thanks to having been cooked for eight hours. I ended up having three helpings - which got me into trouble further on in the day (more on that later).
Apologies for my rubbish presentation, but we got to help ourselves to this course!
Finally, it was time for pud. A classic crème brûlée , with a beautifully crispy top that cracked satisfyingly when I tapped it with my spoon. This was accompanied by Innis & Gunn oak-aged ale. By this time I was feeling unsurprisingly tipsy and full...
After this, we were served coffee and biscuits. Overall, the whole thing was absolutely amazing - and I would heartily recommend it. It's very expensive, but such a fabulous experience that I don't think it's bad value at all. I loved the fact that Tom chatted to us throughout the meal, and it was great to hear about the cooking techniques involved before we ate dishes. I wish you got that at every restaurant. I can't cook to save my life, but I found it all fascinating.
My only regret? My eyes were bigger than my stomach. I felt fine after we left, but later on that day a mini mince pie sent me over the edge into the world of severe tummy ache! So if you're going to go, don't get carried away like I did and help yourself to three portions of lamb. Unless you're prepared to be in pain later that day. Although, to be honest, it was probably worth it...
The Cube stays in London until the end of 2012. For more details, visit The Cube website>>