These days pop-ups are ten a penny but as soon as we heard whispers about Ravinder Bhogal’s four-week, Saturday-night supper club residency, Fork Me Spoon Me, at the recently opened South Place Hotel in east London, we were excited. Calling-our-friends-immediately kind of excited. A former beauty journalist turned chef (she was thrust into the culinary spotlight when Gordon Ramsay named her his ‘Fanny Craddock’ on the F Word back in 2007), tv presenter and award-winning author of Cook in Boots, Bhogal is definitely one to watch. So we booked our place pronto.
Despite being only a hop and a skip from Liverpool Street station, the hotel is in a strangely quiet pocket of streets (at the weekend, at least). Yet within a few minutes of stepping through the swing doors into the restaurant and sipping on our welcome rum punch, it was full and buzzing, mostly with a young, smart set. Fork Me Spoon Me is a tongue-in-cheek nod to Valentine’s Day, meant not just for couples but for threesomes, foursomes - anyone in fact. So a long communal table stretching the length of the dining room was filled with several groups of chattering, laughing friends, while smaller tables were dotted around the outside, along floor-to-ceiling glass windows that face the street. There’s contemporary art on the walls, an open kitchen at the back and just the right level of music coming from the hotel’s adjoining bar.
The idea is that each week the set menu (£65 per person) will be inspired by a different part of the world - the Middle East, Asia and Italy - but first up, for us, it was a five-course jaunt through India. We kicked off with an oyster Mumbai shot, a shot glass of spicy tamarind water with a puri (a small shell of puffed up bread) containing an oyster and Bombay mix balancing on top. Our waitress advised us to pour half the tamarind water into the puri and eat it that way, sipping the rest of the water as we went. It was delicious but messy (we poured a bit too enthusiastically and spilt - not a good look if you happen to be on a first date).
The Hyderabad influenced soft shell crab and baby aubergine, with a roasted nut and tamarind relish, was equally good, but for us, the absolute star of the show was the third Kerala- themed course: lobster kedgeree with green coconut dressing and a green bean, cashew and coconut salad. A quick straw poll of a few of our fellow diners and we were all in agreement. The freshness of the salad, the lobster that fell out of its shell at the slightest touch and the combination of zinging flavours had us wishing this was the kind of cooking that came out of our kitchen at home. By this point we were almost full, but got stuck into three plump Tandoori lamb cutlets on lentil salad (the accompanying pomegranate and mint raita was gorgeous) before shamefully admitting defeat towards the end and asking for a doggy bag. Finally, rhubarb jelly and rose kulfi with pistachio praline was a sort of fancy, far-nicer Indian version of jelly and ice-cream.
So what did we think? The menu was utterly original, each dish was bursting with interesting flavours and we loved that each course was so well-spaced out. Fork Me Spoon Me isn’t about rushing your food so you can move on somewhere else; it’s about making a night out of a really good meal. And you really can make a night of it if you wish: after dinner the DJ switched to playing Bollywood tunes and the hotel has a 6am license for any serious night-owls. Just one word of advice - this is a real feast, so you might want to skip lunch first.
The ELLEuk Score
Style of food: Indian (2nd February), Middle Eastern (9th February), Asian (16th February) and Italian (23rd February)
Good for: Special occasion; first date; romantic; group dinner
Prices and other details Fork Me Spoon Me
Address: South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, London, EC2M 2AF
Opening times: 7.30pm – 6am
Set menu without wine: £65
Price per bottle of house wine: £21, Verdejo, Diez Siglos (white), £21, Klein Steenberg (red).
Price of glass of house wine: £4.95, Verdejo, Diez Siglos (white), £4.95, Klein Steenberg (red).
Price of bottle of house champagne: £50, NV Piper Heidsieek.
Price of glass of house champagne: £11, NV Moet & Chandon Imperial.
Private dining: No
Garden/al fresco dining? No
Best table? No
Who goes? Serious foodies, South Place Hotel guests
Nearest tube: Liverpool Street or Moorgate
southplacehotel.com, enq 020 3503 0000.