Last week I had the amazing opportunity to attend a dinner by Dinner Lab. For those of you who don’t know about Dinner Lab, it is a company that produces pop up restaurants in US cities with rotating chefs. The really fun part? You don’t know the location of the event until the day before. This creates a true “Pop-Up” atmosphere because odds are you might be in a space that has never been a restaurant and probably won’t continue to be a restaurant after the event.
The event I attended was called The Sun Never Sets: Cuisine of the Global British Empire. The theme was based around the cuisine of former British colonies which include Australia, India, and South Africa, just to name a few. I was very excited to learn that this was the theme for the event because I studied abroad in Cape Town, South Africa in college. And while the menu didn’t include any South African cuisine per se, the continued influence of British culture was something that I noticed while living abroad and enjoyed, especially when it came to food!
The dinner was held in a church in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. Fort Greene is one of my favorite neighborhoods. Just north of Barclay’s Center, this neighborhood features great restaurants, trendy bars and gorgeous brownstone buildings on tree lined streets. It’s the neighborhood I wish I could afford in Brooklyn (I mean, Kensington is not bad by any means…But it’s just not Fort Greene!). As I was getting out of my cab, I ran into another guest and OMG SHE’S SOUTH AFRICAN. It’s like the universe knew that I needed some good SA vibes and it was just uncanny how we met at an event with this theme. Needless to say we’ve hit it off and are now planning more foodie adventures!
We were greeted by a hostess who gave us the most delicious Pimm’s (rhubarb I believe with a fresh slice of cucumber) and were left to mingle until the chef’s drew us all together to go over the night’s menu. The chefs, Nick Leahy and Matthew Basford, are based in Atlanta and brought a unique southern flair to the night’s menu.
First up was a Aussie Grass-Fed Meat Pie with Pickled Beet Root. I can’t begin to describe the wonderful unami flavor in this dish. Also I really appreciated how eco-friendly the event was. Each dish was served on a palm leaf plate that both looked beautiful and is compostable. Awesome!
Up next was a Coronation Crab Salad with Marinated Cucumbers and Pickled Nigella Seeds. This was my favorite dish of the night. It’s a classic British dish with a twist. I asked Tai’s dad (who’s from the UK) if he’d ever had this and he was over the moon that I had tried one of his favorite dishes. It’s very popular in the UK and sold almost everywhere.
We then moved on to a Chicken Tikka Masala with a Caroline Gold Rice and Spiced Peanuts. I was seated with a lovely Indian couple who at first balked at the idea of a different rice (it was more like a rice pudding than the traditional rice) but loved it after first bite. And those peanuts! They were spiced with vinegar and turmeric and were an amazing addition to this dish!
And now came the adventurous part of the night, kangaroo. Yes, as in I ate kangaroo. And you know what? It actually tasted similar to venison but less gamey (which for me was a wonderful find!). It was served with collard greens and a grit cake, which definitely showed the chef’s southern roots. And although I’m not a southerner, I LOVE collard greens. We have a dish called Utica Greens that’s similar but nothing beats the original southern style.
Lastly we were served two desserts. on the left is a classic Pavlova with a Passion Fruit Cream and on the right is a Strawberry Eton Mess. Both were a delicious way to end the meal and that passion fruit cream was a dream!
I really enjoyed my experience with Dinner Lab and honestly can’t wait for the next one in NYC so that I can bring my boyfriend along with me next time! It’s such a unique experience and I especially loved how this one featured both the cuisine of the global British Empire but also the southern cuisine from the chefs’ backgrounds.