Sunday 4 March 2012

The Young Turks: hopefully not just a pop up

What do you get when you combine the former head chef of St John (one of my favourite restaurants in London) with the development chef at the Ledbury (somewhere near the very top of my wish list) - the Young Turks of course. 

These two have been popping up all over London doing events for a couple of years.  However their nomad years may shortly be coming to an end.  Having started as a two month pop-up in November of 2011, the pair have now been serving up a different menu upstairs at the Ten Bells pub every week since and have just extended their residency to the end of April. We will just have to wait and see whether this latest extension is the last or whether this is one "pop up" which ends up being permanent.

Having tried to get a table in both November and December I was delighted when I got a reservation in January.  On arrival you go through the door at the back of the pub (with a large no entry sign on it) and up the stairs to the restaurant.  It is a small space and, unless you are a large group, the likelihood is that you will end up sharing a table with others.  Unconventional but quite fun.

The experience starts with a Hendricks gin-based cocktail.  The week I went it was beetroot - nice idea but the flavours were weak and it just didn't pack enough of a punch.

We started with a home-cooked bread served with a trio of starters:  pheasant and pine needle salt, smoked cods roe and a take on Jeremy Lee's (of Quo Vadis and formerly of the Blueprint cafe) smoked eel sandwich.  The eel was incredible, the smoked cod roe delicious but the pheasant, whilst the most visually engaging of the trio, lacked flavour - the pine did not come through at all.

Smoked Cod's Roe

The Jeremy Lee Sandwich
Pheasant with Pine Salt
This was then followed by January King (a hardy type of winter cabbage), mussels and seaweed, absolutely delicious!

We then moved on to swede, mutton and purple sprouting broccoli.  The mutton was rich, deep and full of flavour but the real star was the liquor which came with this dish.  Distilled clear it was the kind of thing you would dream of on a cold winters day - simply brilliant!

Next up were sweetbreads, turnips and oats.  The sweetbreads were tender but, as in the last dish, it was the sauce that was the real treat.  As well as a few crispy oats, underneath the sweetbreads was a milky oat sauce - I would never have thought that this would work but it did.

Last up was one of the best deserts I have had.  The Fashionista even placed it above those which we had on our visit to Osteria Francescana (2011's fourth best restaurant in the world).  Buttermilk panacotta, a layer of reduced rhubarb jam and some slow cooked pieces of rhubarb on top.  Very good indeed.

Dinner at the Young Turks pop up was very, very tasty.  Especially when you consider that all of the above (including the cocktail) came for thirty nine quid.  With wine that is guaranteed to be marked up by no more than ten pounds a bottle you can eat and drink here incredibly reasonably.  Part of me hopes that this residency never comes to an end but, given the Turks wandering spirit, I would bet that before long they will be off on their travels creating another culinary hot spot elsewhere in London.  If this is the case, London can only hope that they don't take too much of a break...
Young Turks at the Ten Bells (Pop-Up Restaurant thru January) on Urbanspoon

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