Friday, 24 February 2012

There's No Other Way....It's PORKLIFE at The Bull....To The End - 2011 Masterchef's Winner Tim Anderson & Finalist Tom Whitaker

2011 Masterchef's Winner Tim Anderson (R) and Finalist 
Tom Whitaker (L) made an appearance to explain the menu
With kind permission from Copyright All rights reserved by karohemd
Porklife Menu
Little Board : "Hoggis,"pickled neeps and whisky tatties; Crispy brawn 
with Korean chilli mayo; Marrowbone, pea and smoked hock soup shot; 
Fennel and black pudding sausage rolls
Intercourse: Pulled pork soup with Savoy cabbage and butter beans; 
Rillettes of smoked hock on toast with homemade guanciale 
Rillettes of smoked hock on toast with homemade guanciale
Big Board : Slow cooked jowl with fennel cream; Salad of crackling, trotter, 
and ears, watermelon, chilli, peanuts, and fish sauce vinaigrette; 
Spicy andouillette sausage; Smoked slow-cooked belly; served with Caraway 
pretzels, apple mash, parsley root and celeriac remoulade, Belgian ale 
BBQ sauce and gherkins
Close up of the big board
Salad of crackling, trotter, and ears, watermelon, chilli, peanuts, and fish 
sauce vinaigrette
My plates of pure yumminess
Cinnamon sponge, rhubarb jelly, boozy cherries, walnut and crackling praline 
with Vanilla and fennel ice cream
Cleaned plates
Tim's own brew : Old Major - Bock Ale

If you haven't heard of Tim Anderson, where were you hiding in 2011? That was the year the Masterchef series hit supernova. From it being moved to prime time BBC1 to the 7.1million viewers watching Tim Anderson, aged 26, the youngest ever Masterchef contestant to win the title, beating off fierce competition from Tom Whitaker. Throughout the entire series, he has been mesmerising, coming out with the unlikeliest and inventive concoctions, taking inspiration from Japan, American and all over the world. So when I found out that he has teamed up with Tom to form a group on Twitter called Porklife , aiming to celebrate their mutual love of the animal and launching their first ever pop up tasting event, I was quick to follow and subscribe their tweets. The theme for their first event was simple, a rare breed of pig will be sourced and delectable dishes will be created, utilising every part of the animal, nose to tail.

On the day the tickets were released, I missed it and the tickets were sold out quicker than you can say...hold that pork! So when it was later announced that they have added another date to this high in demand event, I made sure that I bought the tickets this time the very minute the tickets went on sale, all thanks to the magic of twitter.

The pop up event was being held at The Bull, Highgate from 7pm -10pm. My partner-in-pork and I arrived 7 o'clock right on the dot. This modern facade pub was festooned with lights, giving a very welcoming glow in  contrast to the gloomy, drizzly evening. Upon entering, we were send off upstair where the area has been booked for this 'nose-to-tail with a pint of ale' culinary extravaganza. The interior of the pub was surprisingly tradition, with wooden floor and chandeliers, and unexpectedly, real live log fire place. Without any hesitation, we parked our weary bodies on the table right next to the open fire, cosy and comforting.

While waiting for the feast to start, we grabbed ourselves a couple of Tim's own bock brew, Old Major. What an excellent choice that was. It has a caramel sweetness, rich and smooth, slightly bitter but all-in-all, truly delectable and easy on the mouth. As we were studying the menu to find out what treats were in store for us, Tim made an unexpected appearance from behind the kitchen and straight across the room in a blink-and-you'll-missed style and just as quickly, he disappeared. By now, it's half an hour since we arrived. We were beginning to wonder about how long it will be before they start serving the food. The room were still half empty so we figured that we will probably have to wait for the rest of the guests to arrive. 

Slowly, the place began to filled up; the even has around 40 tickets and they were all sold out! Finally, at around 8 o'clock, both chefs made a mandatory appearance to explain the event and the menu. Leaving us with what they said joking might very well be their first and possibly last Porklife event if things do go badly for them but all comments, good or bad are welcome. Off they go to prevent our dinner from burning.

The first course appeared not long after. The small board consist of little nibbly treats. The absolute standout dishes were the black pudding sausage rolls, crunchy puff pastry with rich and sweet filling were a joy to eat; so is the little shot of buttery, bright green, smokey pea soup. The smell was divine and it just packed with such intense flavours that the smokiness lingers on long after the shot were consumed. Every last drop were scooped up by the use of my finger, to which my dining partner frowned with disgust.

'But it was finger licking good,' I protested. 

The crispy brawn were coated in a light crispy shell and were tender and almost velvety-like on the inside. However, it was a little under seasoned which was a shame. The spicy Korean chilli mayo that accompanied however were lovely, sweet with a definite kick. As for the deconstructed Haggis or 'Hoggis', the oatcake slightly overpowered the subtle sweet whisky flavour. I do admire the Beni Shoga-styled red pickled neeps or turnips, this is what was apparent in Tim's cooking style, giving a unique global twist to an otherwise, traditional ingredient.

Next on the agenda was the intercourse, and yes, that was the exact word they used to describe this interval course, a pulled pork, Savoy cabbage and butter beans soup and a little rillette of smoked hock and Tom's home cured guanciale on the side. The soup was once again robust and full-flavoured, it has the intensity of a Japanese Ramen soup base, which is notorious for the hours it will take in order to achieve such feat.  The sandwich too were scrumptious. Creamy smoked hock with a slight anisee fragrance, sandwiched between two small slices of toasted caraway bread.

There was a long delayed before the next course. We were presented with some warm plates after the intercourse but the plate swere left empty for quite a noticeable period of time, trouble in the kitchen? Thankfully, a complimentary pint of the delicious Old Major were served to ease the wait. Slowly, big boards appeared one after another, but for some bizarre reasons, they never seemed to make a stop at our table. The smells waffling around the room were just a tortured. While the other guests were munching their way through the selection of main course delights, praising about certain elements, we were still left with an icy cold, empty plate. 

Finally, the big board arrived. What a glorious sight it was. The spicy andouillette (stuffed intestines) were nicely flavoured but a bit too pongy for my liking. The apple mash were smooth and creamy, just how it should be and nicely seasoned. The standout dishes were the smoked sous-vide pork belly, tender to the bite with a rich oakiness, pairing it with the Belgian ale barbecue sauce, it was just simply irresistible; the slow cooked pork jowl were meltingly delicate and wrapped with a sheet of crispy crackling, the combination of the texture were superb. The crackling salad were a tad disappointing. It was one of my most look forward to dish but it appeared to have been pre-dressed way too soon and have lost all that crunchiness. The trotter were too slimy and the ears were too chewy, just don't seemed to work at all. The salad itself though, were refreshing and the additional of the sweet watermelon and peanuts in a salty fish sauce dressing were excellent. As for the lack of crunchiness, I did eventually found a nice piece of crunchy crackling hidden among the pile of smoked slow-cooked belly on the main board to compensate for it..what a delightful treat that was!

After the main course came the pudding. The light, sharp rhubarb jelly was delicate to the palate but the cinnamon-spiced sponge, together with the smooth, creamy ice cream and the crunchy honey-sweet caramel cracklings were just to die for, absolutely perfection. So much so, there were cleaned plate within minutes.

The entire meal cost £40 each plus booking fee, but the generous portions and the abundance of goodies that we get to consumed and taste fully justified this. So was I disappointed in the meal? NO! There might be a few little hiccups but the overall culinary spectacle was sensational. Kudos to both TIm and Tom for completing this mammoth of a task and with such gusto. I can't wait to see what they will come out with next in the name of pork.

The Bull
13 North Hill
Highgate
London
N6 4AB
The Bull on Urbanspoon

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