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Pidgin review

Pidgin review

by Gemma Harrison Wednesday, August 5, 2015

James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy go from supper club hosts to restaurateurs – Gemma Harrison heads down to Pidgin to find out what’s on the menu.

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Gemma is Marketing Manager at Great British Chefs. She can usually be found in a restaurant, at a food festival or cooking at home.

I’m lucky I don’t suffer from hangovers because Pidgin has a VERY good drinks list, and James Ramsden is a dab hand at recommending a drink. Or five…

This Hackney restaurant is owned by two friends, James Ramsden (who is also a Great British Chefs contributor) and Sam Herlihy. Originally running a much lauded supper club, The Secret Larder, the duo brought it to a close near the end of 2014. Shortly afterwards they embarked on a podcast – The Kitchen is on Fire – and there was a weekly dose of James, Sam and a host of foodie guests to keep us entertained. Fast forward a few months and they announced they were opening a restaurant just round the corner from Hackney Central station – and as I never made it to The Secret Larder, I wanted to be one of the first in line to try Pidgin.

They’re not alone in this venture though. Elizabeth Allen, previously of Islington’s Smokehouse, is behind the stoves, and having eaten her delicious beef rendang dish at Too Many Chefs a few weeks before I had high expectations. The restaurant manager, Margot Tyson, also curates the small-yet-perfectly-formed wine list, which changes every week. In addition to wines there are some excellent cocktails – including a G & T using their homemade tonic water (available as a PT no G for non-drinkers). Along with the weekly changing wines and cocktails, the food also changes, with the four course set menu coming in at a wallet-friendly £35.

So, back to that drinks list. We started with a Brit Spritz (Kamm & Sons, elderflower and prosecco) and a Lime Ricker (mezcal, soju, mint, coriander, chilli, papaya, lime and roasted rice). They mix a mean drink at Pidgin, and we loved both – the Lime Ricker having a nostalgic Sugar Puffs aroma from the roasted rice on top.

It seems restaurants are really stepping up their bread game at the moment and Pidgin is no exception. Their potato sourdough has a soft, yet weighty texture and is served with a very well-made butter. With three slices between two, you’ll be fighting for the last piece – so don’t take your eye off it for a second.

James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy, photo courtesy of Vivi Pham
James Ramsden and Sam Herlihy, photo courtesy of Vivi Pham
Potato sourdough
Potato sourdough

Our first course was Cylindra beetroot with blackberry soured cream – simple, yet brilliant in terms of flavour. The blackberry-flecked soured cream was a real highlight and a great match for the earthy beetroot – it was unexpectedly wonderful.

Next up was Barbecued cauliflower, puffed wild rice dukkah and watercress. Cauliflower has experienced a renaissance in the last year or so, with Dean Parker at The Manor and Lee Westcott at Typing Room producing some of the most talked about dishes. Barbecuing cauliflower has been particularly popular, and Pidgin use purple and romanesco cauliflowers as well as the more traditional white variety. Along with a silky cauliflower purée and the puffed wild rice dukkah, there was plenty of variation in flavour and texture to make it a truly stand-out plate. In fact, it’s the best cauliflower dish I’ve ever eaten, and paired especially well with a white wine from the Languedoc.

 
 
Cylindra beetroot with blackberry soured cream
Cylindra beetroot with blackberry soured cream
Barbecued cauliflower, puffed wild rice dukkah and watercress
Barbecued cauliflower, puffed wild rice dukkah and watercress

The main course of Lamb belly with glazed turnips, green tahini sauce and sumac was equally delicious, and accompanied by a bowl of flatbread to share. I haven't come across lamb belly before and I do hope I see it on a menu again – it’s much more interesting than the ubiquitous pork belly at any rate. It was served with a glass of dangerously drinkable Malbec that didn't overpower the dish; the absence of an oak barrel making it a much more elegant affair.

There was almost a sense of disappointment with the realisation that there was only one course left, but the dessert at Pidgin didn't disappoint. A gorgeously moist pistachio and polenta cake was joined by red gooseberries and a frozen yoghurt made from goat’s milk. The sourness of the gooseberries and freshness of the frozen yoghurt was a clever match for the richness of the cake, and a glass of Prosecco was an unusually good partner. What I loved about all of these dishes is that there were a lot of really rather clever things going on, but they were done in such an unassuming way that you could just sit back and enjoy them.

 
 
Lamb belly with glazed turnips, green tahini and sumac
Lamb belly with glazed turnips, green tahini and sumac
Pistachio and polenta cake with red gooseberries and frozen yoghurt
Pistachio and polenta cake with red gooseberries and frozen yoghurt

For petits fours, there were some beautifully smooth chocolate truffles rolled in coconut. They were some of the nicest I’ve had in a very long time – I would have happily bought a boxful to take home. A last drink of G & T (for research purposes, obviously) left me undecided about which cocktail I liked best. Luckily, I've already booked another table, so it won't be long until I can try a few more.

And so, channelling my inner Grace Dent, I left in a slightly giddy manner, professing my love for this little restaurant all the way home. So go, and tell your friends... but just make sure there’s a table left for me once in a while.

About the restaurant

You’ll find Pidgin at 52 Wilton Way, Hackney, E8 1BG. For reservations, visit www.pidginlondon.com.

Main image courtesy of Vivi Pham.

 
 

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