Abinger Cookery School, Abinger Hammer, Surrey RH5 6RZ - supper club review
PUBLISHED: 13:20 07 June 2015 | UPDATED: 12:36 08 June 2015
(c) Martin Poole
Having recently launched a supper club series, Abinger Cookery School teamed up with their watercress growing neighbours at Kingfisher Farm Shop to produce a six-course menu celebrating the peppery leaf. Matthew Williams was invited along for a taste
Reviewed: Abinger Cookery School, Guildford Road, Abinger Hammer, Surrey RH5 6RZ
Tel: 01306 730470
Service: N/A (professionally served up by the hosts)
What we ate:
Six-course supper club menu: £35 per head
Canapés (from the ‘seafood secrets’ course)
Mackerel ceviche with grapefruit and watercress
Starter (from the ‘best of British’ course)
Hen egg parmesan custards with dippy soldiers
Mid-course (from the ‘pasta’ course)
Watercress, ricotta and wild garlic tortellini with chicken consommé
Main course (from the ‘BBQ’ course)
Grilled bavette steak with onion rings, parmentier potatoes and watercress puree
Dessert (from the ‘dinner parties to impress’ course)
Watercress jelly, strawberry mousse with lemon pepper shortbread
Petite Fours (from the ‘Macaron’ evening course)
REVIEW: Most supermarkets and many restaurants would have you believe that watercress is passé and rocket is a superior leaf: but they’re wrong.
Fortunately for us, last year’s Surrey Life Food & Drink Awards winner of the Pride of Surrey title, Barry Arminson from Kingfisher Farm Shop in Abinger Hammer, is still going strong.
While the once thriving industry has all disappeared, even here in Surrey, watercress is still produced largely due to the determination and entrepreneurial spirit of Barry, who grows the vegetable in beds next to the farm shop.
With his family’s interest in the business rooted all the way back to 1854, his commitment is not surprising.
So it was that Abinger Cookery School stepped up to the plate to celebrate National Watercress Week, with chef Jake Pinn cooking up a six-course supper club menu for lucky guests with Barry’s freshest produce.
How creative can you get with a salad leaf, you might ask? Very, it turns out...
As dish after dish arrived across the evening, guests (mainly from the village, but word is sure to spread if the places aren’t snapped up before sale by the locals) sat back in wonder at the magic that was unfolding in front of them on the long communal dining table.
The venue itself is a former pub that no one seems to miss an awful lot, which has been stylishly transformed into a top end cookery school.
It’s an intimate place, but the interior designer’s dream of a dining room seems a world away from the kitchens that would usually bustle with wannabe chefs-to-impress in the room next door.
Mackerel ceviche with grapefruit and watercress canapés were brought out by our host Lewis, to be enjoyed with the bring-your-own wine that’s the way of such supper club occasions.
The beautifully fresh raw fish impressed from the start, with its lovely citrus hit and the warm pepper depths provided by the watercress; a hit with the sun still just about shining outside.
As we took our places at the table, we finally got to unwrap the hidden delights within the egg cartons that had been sat alluring among the cutlery.
I still don’t really understand the dark magic behind this delectable dish, but inside an almost whole egg shell was a glorious mix of egg parmesan custard atop a watercress purée – with dippy soldiers, of course.
A delicate watercress, ricotta and wild garlic tortellini was served up next with a chicken consommé so deep you could uncover Atlantis.
As the evening swum by, talk turned to the cultural shift that has seen renewed interest in the field to fork process and the provenance of what we eat.
Much like the apathy that led to the horse meat scandal, we seem to have let variation disappear from our salad bowl; relying on the same readily supplied staples.
But I guess that’s a conversation that could take us on another 1,000 word tangent…
The grilled bavette steak shook me out of my reverie, smoked to a booming finish and complemented by onion rings, parmentier potatoes and, of course, watercress puree. It could become the county dish.
And so, onto trickier times: dessert.
We’re used to fragrant herbs taking us on unexpected pudding adventures, but watercress?
The guys at Abinger decided to blend it in jelly form with strawberry mousse and lemon pepper shortbread, and while the watercress was subtle it still made its presence known.
Last but by no means least were the incredible macarons – admittedly sans watercress but moreish with a coffee.
So, one question remains. With watercress bursting full of enough vitamins and minerals to be one of nature's superfoods, and with a steady production available on our doorstep, why aren’t we ensuring this forgotten delight thrives?
It’s time to get creative in the kitchen, and at Abinger Cookery School they have the skills to ensure your dinner parties, supper clubs or family meals are the talk of the village - and you have the confidence to use ingredients that may have slipped from the recipe books…