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Chefs @ CC – Johnnie Mountain

by Ross Bruniges on June 12th, 2011

Early this year my twitter feed was awash with amazement, comment and likely also a fair bit of jealousy towards an evening thrown by famous food bloggers ‘The Critical Couple’ at their place with Jason Atherton providing the nights meal. Some big bottles of wine were drunk, many pictures were taken and it looked like some amazing food was had.

At the time I wondered what I could do to get invited to these kind of things and as it turned out after keeping my eye on twitter that I heard that another meal was being arranged; and that I had been invited! The host this time around Johnnie Mountain, Chef Patron of The English Pig in the city of London (somewhere I will soon go) and the theme was something close to my heart, pig – creator of such treats as ham, pork and the one closest to my heart , bacon! The guest list was circulated, the menu hinted at and the location provided with what felt like restaurant like precision and I was excited to meet in the flesh a number of people I follow, a number of people who I had yet to follow and have a great foodie evening.

The nights full menu

On arrival in the area I decided to wait until I noticed a few other folk I thought were also attending and after a while I bumped into @EffBeeee and @DolceDini and, bottle in hand made our way into the apartment building, up the elevator and to our destination for what turned out to be the next 5 hours or so! Having never met anyone attending before I was happy to first be presented with a glass of chilled champagne which got conversation started a bit easier. The guest list was created largely through Twitter so we all had an alias to swap and I was glad for once that I remember my cards. It wasn’t long until Johnnie was out explaining our canapes – an array of brightly coloured vegetable purees, the highlight of which were the roasted onion and fennel. It was also explained that these would also likely be the last vegetables we saw that night as the menu was largely very meaty.

Iberico ham, cornichons, gruyere beignet

First off we had some fine Iberico ham served with some lovely cheesy beignets (very much like a croquette), pickles and (shock horror) a little bit of salad; in addition we had some pulled sugar that added a delightful bit of sweetness. Quite a Spanish start to the meal but that was to be rectified by a dish of ‘pea and ham’ soup up next – the knuckle was used and this cut provided a slightly thicker soup then normal but with a very intense salty taste – I wish that I could make soups like this. We next had our first ‘real’ bit of meat with a roasted tenderloin of pork served with a BEAUTIFUL homemade piccalilli, inventive pickled apples and a little bit of ham dust (actually the first dust I’ve had on a dish that actually added a bit of extra taste to the table).

Pork, black pudding, carrot and peak – was like a sandwich without bread (being replaced by pork)

Following were a couple of killer dishes for me, the first an apple sorbet with bacon (dust and meat). I thought it rather weird to have sorbet as our 4th course ( out of 10 ) as it read like rather a palate cleanser but I was wrong. A rather sweet sorbet along with a great smoked bacon provided a lovely sweet/salty combination that both refreshed and invigorated my taste-buds with each mouthful. Another total winner was the ‘de-constructed’ pork with boudin noir, carrot and leak. This was the only dish that would provide us with crackling and with crackling this good that was rather a disappointment for greedy people like me, almost deafening in my head were each bite through the crisp shards but better was to come! The pork dish looked to be like a lightly fried sandwich and tasted like a dream, it was only my fear of the white table cloth that stopped me from eating it with my hands. The outer pork (or the bread as I labeled it in my head) was succulent with the juice helping break down the richness of the pudding inside. It was a rather dense dish but packed with flavour.

Moving our way up the pig we moved onto braised cheeks that were presented in a little vegetable stew. Cheek is one of my favourite cuts of animal as I love the texture off them though in the pairing with trotter jam they came off a second best with the extremely sweet but meaty jam making me wish I had kept some bread from earlier courses tucked away. Brains were next and for the first time I tasted them as I had always imagined them to be – smooth and rich like foie gras opposed to grainy, odd tasting lumps of meat as I have had them in the past.

The pig explosion – with added rogue beef ribs

Our final meat course was really the main event. Innocently labelled as sticky ribs this dish had been referred to many times as ‘a bit of a monster’ so I had my doubts that it would ‘just’ be ribs. I was right as out from the kitchen came a board of wood nearly snapping under the weight of what looked like pigs cooked and then blown up with TNT (in a good way). It all felt very Great British Menu. We had head, trotters, suckling pig ribs, shoulder, pig ribs and two huge beef ribs all covered in a rich, sticky glaze and cooked to perfection. I sampled each cut of meat and it took what felt like commendable restraint not to totally stuff myself here. The only thing I was a little sad about was no one got stuck in to the large pigs head center piece but this was only a grumble from my brain, I am sure my stomach was quietly pleased.

We finished up with our only non-pig themed course of the night; there would have been bacon ice-cream but it unfortunately didn’t work out in the kitchen, a chocolate flower pot containing chocolate crumble crumbs topping a dark chocolate fondant, a great way to finish the meal. There was cheese but by the time it came out I think people had decided anymore food would probably end up with their stomach coming to the same fate as the exploded pig platter we had previously devoured.

The lucky dip lottery – proving that none of the pig was wasted

The nights eating was over but not before we delved through a bag of pig insides looking for raffle tickets to win a selection of Chroma Porshe knives (I got an oyster one), drink some delicious whiskey from Glenfarclas (we even got to take a little sampler home with us) and, most importantly donate to Action Against Hunger, the reason these dinners was thought of in the first place. I hope my donation will do some good and I think it’s an amazing thing for David and Nicole to be doing. Many, many thanks for the invite guys!!

To close a final bit of news – there will be more such dinners happening and you can get your name down if you’re interested in attending. Head on over to chefs @CC to see what is available, if you’re lucky enough to be chosen (as I’m sure they wil be heavily over-subscribed) you are in for a food treat of a lifetime.

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