Sardine butter on toastMore pictures
It feels a bit odd reviewing The Loft Project because really the meal that we had is probably never going to be available again but however irregular and diverse the offerings the concept is always going to be the same. One evening, a chef or two, one table and variety of guests. A really great dining experience. This used to be Nuno Mendes’ pop-up and experimental kitchen and is now used as a platform for up and coming chefs and international to show the paying public what they can do.
Our evening revolved around food foraging and was hosted by Miles Irving who forages for and supplies native food stuffs to UK restaurants and is also the author of The Forager Handbook (which took 3 years of research to compile). His talents were proven by finding the dining group multiple edible roots and leaves along the Hackney Canal like hogsweed, wild rocket (like normal rocket but about 10 times stronger) and chickweed. We just had to remember not to eat anything that was too close to the ground (plenty of people walk their dogs along that canal).
On returning to the loft, a semi-converted flat with added kitchen area the menu for the day was an 8 course affair designed by Nuno Mendes (of Viajante fame) and cooked by the Loft team, including James Lowe (of Young Turks fame) based around ingredients found by Miles from his local foraging missions. Having eaten at Viijante before a number of the courses were familiar in their style – cod, potato and confit egg and courses with what seems to be the Nuno classic of milk-skin. Also the addition of tapioca, which is an ingredient that for me the judge is still out on.
Similar to Viajante where you’re encouraged to eat multiple small courses a few of them don’t quite hit home due to their experimental nature. Cured lobster could have done with a lot longer being cured, or be presented in thinner slices as the large slab of fish just ended up tasting rather slimy and dirty; I would hope for better from a lobster dish. I was also ‘interested’ in finding that there is a foraged food, pineapple weed, found in England that actually tastes of pineapple. To be fair it went OK with the dish but only because the taste was covered over by what was a very refreshing rose granita.
On the flip side lamb belly (served with loin, cereals, chicory and wild salsify), elderflower mayonnaise (served alongside a lovely globe artichoke) and a mushroom chocolate provided the highlights that I was expecting and hoping to find. It’s fair to say though that the foraged food pretty much were tagged onto already existing dishes opposed to forming the base of any of the meals which was a slight disappointment but considering what the food was foraged from what we thought would be a pretty barren area this was maybe not a huge surprise.
As mentioned before reviewing the food on offer is rather a weird things to do, for me the night was made by the people at the table and staff. Some familiar friends and a number of new faces all with a love of good food along with Miles who talked us through each of his foraged ingredients. There is an excellent energy to the venue and a lovely foodie buzz. Looking at previous and upcoming events there should be something for every kind of palate though the prices aren’t cheap. Saying that everything bought for the evening is to be had so there was always extra wine to drink if wanted. It’s a great place and an amazing project that I’m glad was kept open after Nuno moved into the big leaguesTweet