There was a time when French techniques ruled the pass. When the likes of Marco Pierre White and more recently a certain Gordon Ramsay brought French techniques and haute cuisine to London restaurants. Those guys are still knocking around, one selling stock cubes and the other working hard to promote his TV career, but it seems quite clear that their time has come and gone. Now is the time for the new breed, of new food and of innovation, and London is where you are going to find it.
So much of the buzz in London right now surrounds this new brand of young chefs who are beginning to form how the London restaurant scene seems to be shaping. It wasn't that long ago that I attended Tudor Road, a supper club run by Ben Greeno. Using his experience whilst cooking at Noma (the worlds number one according to San Pellegrino), he produced a stunning menu of fresh (and foraged) ingredients, clean flavours incorporating modern techniques and most of all, innovation. This kind of food was extremely new to me, but little did I know how much I would be experiencing and enjoying this kind of food over the following few months.
Ben was one of the founding members of the Young Turks, a band of chef who formed in 2010, eager to do their own thing. Alongside Ben, was Isaac McHale, an alumnus of the Michelin system, having worked across the world in the kitchens of Noma, Momofuku, Marque and more recently, The Ledbury. Rounding off the three musketeers is James Lowe, ex head chef of St John Bread and wine via some of England's most renowned restaurants, including that of the River Cafe and the Fat Duck. These guys were good, no, great at what they do. They just wanted to do something else.
Sadly, Ben has left for Sydney to head up Momofuku's first restaurant outside of America, but James and Isaac are still going strong. Holding events across London, often in conjunction with the Clove Club, I've managed to visit two events held by these guys in the last few months. The first was a dinner located in an old office block in Canary Wharf.
With a startling view of the Blade Runner-esque Canary Wharf, it was a perfect location for the meal we were about to eat. Starting with fresh peas, we embarked on a menu incorporating fresh, clean flavours, seemingly straightforward in execution but incorporating a multitude of flavours and textures. Tomatoes, followed by mackerel, followed by smoked beef, rounded off by a sublime combination of raspberries, ewe's milk yoghurt and beremeal cake. Nope, I'd never had ewe's milk yoghurt or even heard of beremeal cake before, but that's what a lot of this kind of food is all about, introducing us to new ingredients many of us would never had heard of.
It appears the Young Turks are fond of heights as their next outing saw them occupy the premises of Franks Campari bar, a Summer pop up located on the roof of a multi storey car park. With the theme being an Ocakbasi (or a Turkish BBQ), we knew that it would never be that simple. What we got were a procession of meaty nibbles including fried chicken with spruce, strips of pork fat and cobnuts and grouse sausages to name but a few. In fact, it was a gojuchang mayo (served with the humble radish) which astounded me that night and which has now begun to feature regularly in my dinners. How anyone can knock up such a fabulous feast on the roof of a car park, battling against the elements is totally beyond me.
A large amount of these ingredients I had never had before and helped me challenge some perceptions of food, including a wrap containing both lambs heart and anchovies, something I would never even had considered trying as recently as two years ago. I always look forward to the Young Turks as I know I will be well fed and in for a new experience. So if I were you, I would keep your eyes peeled for any future events, and I hope you're not too scared of heights.
More pics here if you fancy it.