So, No.1 Harbourside are now hosting supper club evenings every couple of months, with half of the venue sectioned off for diners to sit and enjoy a multi-course meal with a different theme every time. “It’s a chance for our chefs to show what they can do”, says James, and the menu on offer on the night was certainly different to their standard food menu. The “Feast From The Wild” theme was designed to showcase the very best of “Britain’s winter wilderness”, with the five courses starring plenty of grains and pulses, game and foraged ingredients to highlight the abundance of great food that is available during a season that is “barren and unforgiving”.
The dining area for supper club guests was sectioned off with a beautiful archway leading through to the tables, and the floor lined with fallen leaves to give more of an impression of the wildness of winter. We were seated on a large table with four other people, who were great company throughout the evening.
The evening began with an amuse-bouche of wild Cornish oysters, the “traditional Anglo-Roman dressing” on the menu turning out to be a beautiful blend of citrus and herbs. Now, I’m not the world’s biggest oyster fan, but my other half proclaimed them to be juicy and with a beautiful flavour.
For our starter, a wild rabbit, watercress and winter raspberry salad – which was sadly the low point of the meal for us. The raspberry dressing was fantastic and worked well with the rabbit – as did the peppery watercress – but the random strips of orange zest? Not so much. The rabbit meat itself had been shredded and piled up in the centre of the plate, and with the effort that had gone into the shredding, we were both a little disappointed to find fairly large pieces of bone and unidentified crunchy bits…
The following course was, without a doubt, my favourite of the evening: a spelt risotto with foraged mushrooms and truffle oil. The texture of the spelt was fantastic, retaining a lovely crunch, and the mushroom juice in which the spelt had been cooked (reduced for six hours beforehand) was beautifully earthy, perfect for the season. The foraged mushrooms were lovely and juicy, and one of the stars of the show was the shavings of Old Winchester cheese, the saltiness of which was perfect for the dish. If anything, there was a little too much truffle oil on the plate, but that was a minor issue…
For our main, we were served grouse in two ways – seared breast and jellied leg – with a sloe sauce and buttered swede. The plate was beautifully presented, with the added bonus of a swede purée, but this sadly turned out to be stone cold. The grouse breast was far too bloody for everyone on our table, but the jellied leg was fantastic: intensely rich and full of flavour.
Dessert was a quince tart, made with chestnut pastry and served with candied hazelnuts and a blackcurrant wine reduction. The pastry had been made with chestnut flour and was lovely and crumbly, although maybe a little overcooked. For the filling, a lovely fresh-flavoured quince compote, topped with candied hazelnuts that were lovely and sweet and added a bit more texture to the dish.
Dessert was served with a winter drink that I have never seen before but will definitely be replicating at home: a steaming glass of mulled apple juice mixed with a shot of sloe gin. Delicious.
All in all, a bit of a mixed bag – but it’s clear that the No.1 Harbourside kitchen team are a creative bunch. Their supper club is a great idea in terms of bringing people in on quiet nights and offering yet another string to their bow, and we wish them the best of luck!