Friday, 19th July 2019 – Blo Deady
After the disappointment of the previous supper club event (Aldo Zilli) it was good to be back at West Hall with no mention of the Daily Telegraph, and a chef on fine form in the kitchen. That chef was the slightly oddly named Blo Deady, a private chef with a strong reputation, who seems to be known for his supper club events. It was to be expected that he would not be thrown off course by the kitchen at Weston Hall, given he must be used to dealing with all sorts of kitchens! He certainly put on a splendid meal for us which more than made up for the disappointment of our previous visit.
As usual we first gathered for an aperitif and something to nibble with it. Unlike normal practice, instead of cheese straws, we had proper canapés, in this instance crudités with bagna cauda, and crab salad with nam jim dressing. The bagna cauda was excellent, spectacularly garlicky, but was something of a technical challenge, as it was served to around 60 people standing around, with no plates or anything to put it down on. All you could do was dredge a chunk of vegetable through the sauce and try not to drop it down your clothes or on the carpet! The crab salad was lightly more manageable, served in tiny little dishes, and the nam jim (or nam chim) dressing packed a salty, sweet, spicy and sour punch, but it was still something of a logistical headache. I think I won because I didn’t end up wearing any of it… It might have been easier served at the table. Some of the guests didn’t like either of the options, but I enjoyed them. All the while we had a choice of gin and tonics (no thank you!) or a very pleasant Domaine du Vieux Pressoir Saumur Brut NV, described by its makers as “elegant and subtil”. This one is aged for 14 months and is a mix of Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, which gives notes of fleshed fruits (pear, peach) and toasted brioche. In short, an ideal summer wine, which means it was a shame we were confined indoors because the weather was less than clement and the conservatory was leaking!
Once they’d finally got us all rounded up and seated, the first course proper arrived, in the shape of grilled squid with roasted red peppers, Kalamata olives and marjoram. It was refreshingly clean, with some excellent dressing. The squid was tender, properly cooked and not at all rubbery (by all accounts you either have to cook squid very fast, say no more than a minute or two, or very slow, as in around an hour or more) and it went very nicely with the pepper and the olives. Again, it felt like a pleasingly seasonal dish, redolent of Mediterranean summer holidays, not that I’ve had one of those for a very long time.
Up next we had a soup course, a refreshingly sharp chilled Isle of Wight tomato water shot through with lemon verbena. I would call it a slightly more refined gazpacho, and it was just right in both texture and flavour, serving as a palate cleanser ahead of the main course, but also providing interest, while not filling anyone up to the point of not wanting their next plate. With it we drank an interesting Gascogne wine with it, a 2108 La Bonne Franquette Blanc, which was a blend of slightly obscure grapes to anyone who doesn’t know the area, paring the common Sauvignon Blanc (45%), with equal parts Colombard (45%), and a dash of Petit Manseng (10%). This comes from a small vineyard, run by the Marcellin brothers, the splendidly named Médéric and Silas, the latter making the wine after training in Bordeaux and New Zealand.
Next up was poached monkfish with a chive Hollandaise, samphire, new season peas and jersey royal potatoes. This wasn’t quite as successful as the squid though that’s not to say it wasn’t very good. I just felt the monkfish was a tad overcooked, but then when you’re having to get food out for 60-70 people all at once, there’s always a risk that something might not be at its absolute best. It was delightfully “meaty” and the Hollandaise was just right, the chives giving it a hint of alliums, and the peas as sweet as you could hope. It was accompanied by a 2017 Fox & Flamingo rosé from Black Elephant Vintners, that the makers say is modelled on old-school Bordeaux clairet, so it’s bordering on red to look at. It’s entirely Cabernet Sauvignon, the grapes pressed and left to macerate with their skins for a day to get the dark rosé colour that we saw in our glasses. It was ideal for a strongly flavoured fish dish like the monkfish.
We finished the meal with a soft meringue with poached gooseberries, créme Anglaise and sweet geranium. It was somewhat unstructured but tasted divine. It occurs to me that you don’t see gooseberries often these days, and that’s really a shame. We used to grow them when I was a kid, along with our own raspberries, red currants and black currants, and mum would poach them or use them in pies. It was a bit of a blast from the past, and all the better for the added taste of nostalgia!
And so, a most satisfactory dinner consumed, and a glass of port to round it off, we fought our way home from Weston by yet another different route (it’s a pig of a place to find). Hopefully, this won’t be the last supper club event, though we’ve since heard that a massive increase in insurance premiums means William may not be able to run any more in the house. Here’s hoping that an alternative venue can be found.