Saturday, 17 January 2009

Home restaurants

Horton at the stove in his Dennis the menace apron






Miso is traditionally served at the end of a Japanese meal...


Warm sake

Waiting for the second sitting...


The original images...taken on my iphone...

The Newington Green chattering classes...


No, I'm not panicking!


Candles/mushrooms.

The onion, resplendent in it's solitude. (It's no longer on the menu)


Lotus roots, glad I got a chance to try them.

Inspired by the 'paladares' or home restaurants in Cuba, Horton Jupiter opened his own home restaurant 'The Secret Ingredient' at his council flat in Newington Green, London. I must confess I have been thinking of doing this myself for about 5 years but it has taken Horton's initiative to give me the courage to do it. Watch this space!
It seems to be a trend. A group I know in London are doing the same thing this month, this time with a Marie Antoinette dress code. As the credit crunch looms, people cannot afford to eat out, so what better weapon to offset the cost of home entertaining than charging your friends to come over and eat? Your friends will bring their friends, so, into the bargain, you meet new people. Horton charged £10 for a meal of about 8 courses with sake wine.
His living room had been turned into a 2 table dining room, with red and white decor, candles and mood music. Horton is in the avant-garde band 'They came from the stars, I saw them...' so even his choice of music adds interest.
As I entered I saw Horton, perspiring in chef's whites, darting about in the kitchen, cupboards open, platters on every surface.
My fellow guests consisted of a lute maker who also refurbishes a Scottish castle; Ms Canal Explorer, always sparkling company; an anthropologist who investigates brands not tribes and two other delightful ladies who unfortunately I didn't get a chance to speak to, but knowing Horton, they had to be cutting edge arty types.
The food was Asian in theme: miso soup (delicious), cabbage wrap sushi, interesting pickles served in oyster shells, rice, lotus roots, new potatoes in a rich tamari sauce, nicely seasoned Chinese mushrooms. The strangest item was a solitary large onion, one each, apparently a Japanese speciality, but which looked like one of those pickled onions in a jar that you get in fish n' chip shops. (Horton asked for feedback on the food a few days later and had noted that the onion was left. Now how many restaurants do you get asking for your honest opinion?). Food was aplenty, we were all fair groaning with the amount we had eaten.
For dessert we made room for a strange waxy dessert, a mixture of salt and sweet bean paste. We then played by sticking our spoons onto the remainder of the mixture and lifting our plates with the spoons.
The dishes were stylishly presented on star, leaf or shell shaped dishes (we all had different plates) and we were served by Horton's fragrant girlfriend Rachel, as silent and smiling as a geisha.
At the end, Horton, slightly pale, came out and flopped on the sofa. We all applauded. It was a magical, unusual evening, very enjoyable and had that individual touch.
Unlike my personal experience in Cuba of a 'paladare' home restaurant. Maybe I was unlucky but the food was poorly cooked, (despite pretending that the husband had fished it himself that morning, the clearly frozen langoustine was dry and tasteless), the children stood around looking resentful and the whole meal was over in 40 minutes. It was as if they couldn't wait to get rid of us. Although I speak good Spanish, conversation was desultory and we had to argue about a bizarre surcharge at the end, which also spoiled the mood. Their goal in earning a few quid from tourists was a little too evident. But, I must say, in general Cuban food is pretty bland, even before the revolution.

Similarly there are 'mothers' restaurants in Bologna (link). Everybody knows that the best Italian food is at mama's table, this project enables you to eat with an ordinary Italian family, experiencing regional traditional rustic food. As a stranger guest you become a "companion" (companion is derived from cum panis, which means "with whom I break the bread"). The cook, the mama is called a 'cesarina'. Don't you just love that? Like a female Cesar, you are in her domain!
Homefood says "we have affectionately named "Cesarine", in praise of all the grandmothers, the carers, the aunts, that have enriched our childhoods and made them happy with tastes."

Lastly there are Jim Haynes, an American ex-patriate, Sunday suppers in Paris, just the thing for that city, which can be so hard to penetrate if you are an outsider. He has been doing this for over 30 years. In the next few months I am going to visit them all.

14 comments:

  1. This is something we encourage when people book us for house concerts around the world, to make it a complete home dining plus show evening. Some folks do full catering and charge more or invite a "bring a dish pot luck" with guidelines of what to bring.

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  2. Do they have home restaurants in Ireland too? Welcome to my food blog, John!

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  4. Paladares is an absolute stonker of an idea. Unfortunately if money is involved, this would then constitute an enterprise of some sort. What with our nanny state and its idiotic health and safety rhubarb, I'm afraid to say I smell contravention!

    But then again we could all go underground on this.

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  6. Bellaphon (what does your name mean by the way?)
    I have a health and safety certificate so I guess that's ok.
    As for making money, Horton probably only covered his ingredients!
    So when I set mine up, I take it you are keen on coming?
    The underground restauranteurs, I like it!

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  7. Pretty Phonograph or to that extent, I sell audiophile turntables, not the dj types.

    Yup, put me down for yours.

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  8. yes, of course i'm worried about the council, getting closed down because my front room doesn't have enough fire exits. Does anyone know what the wordage would have to be to keep these those kind of braindeads off my tail? I'm just cooking for friends and they're paying for the ingredients after all.

    Thanks for the word up though, marmite. Come again! Ditto anyone reading your blog. To find out the future opening nights, feel free to join:

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=55452040361&ref=nf#/pages/City-of-London-United-Kingdom/The-Secret-Ingredient/114200085161

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  9. I need a record player.
    My teenager was once trying to describe a vinyl record to me ..."you know, those big black CD's".
    She likes those big black CD's now.

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  10. CDs- if anything that's tantamount to sacrilege as far as vinyl addicts are concerned.

    Record player- I'm your man, shouldn't be a problem sorting one out. An amp and speakers are necessary, surely you've got those.

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  11. We have a similar idea in Brunei and they call them 'nasi Katuk' or loosely translated as rice upon knocking.

    It almost feels like going to a mates house for dinner - with the mum doing the cooking.

    Would be a great idea in London - esp with the shrinking pockets.

    :)

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  12. That's interesting Kang. Do tourists as well as locals go?
    BTW the 'Underground Restaurant' you asked about is my home restaurant. Opening night February 7th.

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  13. Hi, I'm wondering if you know of any home restaurants in Dublin?

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  14. Hi Louise,
    Join the supperclub fan group http://supperclubfangroup.ning.com/
    I'm sure one will emerge soon.
    Also have a look at the press clippings in the side bar. A friend, Maria, did a one off supperclub in Eire but I don't know if she's doing any more.
    If you hear of one, let me know
    x

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