Nuno Mendes The Loft
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Date of Last Visit: Friday, April 3rd, 2009
The Victims: Q, Canadia Boy, Stacey, Eric, Sarah, Stuart, Steffi
The Damage: £100 each.
The Background: Q likes to drink tea. He e-mails me one day in early March to tell me that he was drinking tea at TeaSmith the other day, and Nuno Mendes (the former chef at Bacchus) was there. Apparently, they know each other from drinking tea around town. Well, Nuno tells him about his new London venture: The Loft. It's a supper club. And we're invited.
One thing leads to another. I invite Canadia Boy and Stacey. Canadia Boy invites Eric (Chilango Eric) and Sarah and Stuart and Steffi. And hence it is how we all find ourselves at Nuno's Supper Club in, well, his loft.
But when we get there, there's a surprise! The infamous Ms. Marmite Lover is also there. I'd met her a few weeks earlier at Tsuru and let the Nuno thing slip. She'd followed up on my tip and now here she was, in a journalistic capacity, working on a new project and with a big fancy camera.
So…it begins..we're treated to some Proseco. And we chat and chat. And then the gougeres arrive. Served by Nuno himself. God I love gougeres. How can anyone not? They're warm and light and served on spoons–and by the chef. In his home. Not a restaurant. His home. It's a perfect start to an amazingly outstanding evening…you can probably tell that already by the tone of my review, huh?
We take our seats at the dining table, reluctantly. One of the things I loved most about the evening was how, on our initial arrival, we all chatted, amicably, in the loft's kitchen. Just like as if we were over with friends. That's the feeling behind The Loft. It's like being at the most intimate of dinner parties, with Nuno serving the role as gracious host.
The Food: And so it begins. And before I start, let me just tell you that it all ends six hours later, when I arrive home from Nuno's, by mini-cab, around 1:30 a.m.
Words are going to really fail me to describe what we had at The Loft on Friday night. You know I eat out a lot. And if you've been following me long enough, you know that I only have so many adjectives. Truly, the food we ate was so different and interesting and thoughtful that my words in comparison will be useless. I e-mailed Nuno the next day to ask for the menu, and the nouns only tell half the story.
When we sit, there is flat bread–sort of like that Sardinian flat bread, but not–and it's sprinkled with coffee. It's nice and light and perfect. And then there's toasted bread with romesco and I am hard-pressed to not pick up a spoon and eat all the romesco directly.
One of our first "courses" arrives…marinated mackerel, avocado, daikon, and crispy ponzo. The mackerel, one of my favorite things, is perfect and meaty and oily. The ponzo is a great contrast.
Later, one of the most inventive dishes of the evening arrives (in my humble opinion). It's a prawn with seared gambon, chunky miso fennel, prawn juices and orange. We all put the prawn in our mouths and then squirt the prawn juices in. It's a fantastic combination of crunchy, salty, and sweet.
Back to the kitchen…I take a photo of Nuno making his onion soup moderne. You'll have to experience this dish for yourself. I won't ruin the surprise.
Back to the table…(and bear in mind I've skipped some courses here or else you'd be here forever)…there's a scallop with aubergine roe consomme and truffle. Now I'm not sure if that's aubergine AND roe or "aubergine roe." But suffice it to say, it was delicious. But then again, I love aubergine. It had me asking Nuno if he'd spent a lot of time in Japan. (Some, he explains, but really, he's spent a lot of time with Japanese chefs.)
After the mackerel, my favorite dish of the evening is the seabream. It's seabream and LAMB. Yes, lamb. Lamb belly. With mussels. I would never think to serve seabream and lamb together, but what he's done with the lamb makes it work beautifully. The lamb is in soft piles under the fish and it's salty and delicate and (are you ready?) perfect.
We lose a few members of our team around midnight (trains, babysitters), which leaves just a few of us to enjoy the second of the two puddings at The Loft that evening. It's a little white chocolate cake? Cake doesn't seem to describe it well-enough. But it's served with black olives and passion fruit and although you would never think the three would go together, they do. Wonderfully so.
The Loft's Loos: Molton Brown products. That's more than you get at some high-end restaurants.
The Verdict: There are nights that you wish could go on forever. Where you want the trains to keep running and the babysitters to stay so that no one will leave. Where you think that ten courses should be twenty and that you can never have enough wine. This was one of them. You should try to get your place at Nuno's table at The Loft today.