Well it had been a few months of planning this pop up once again at the rather special venue of Anno Distillers in Marden. The event we held in 2015 was a smaller affair and this time we decided to make it bigger and a little more special with the addition of another chef along with yours truly.
So on a couple of chilly October evenings we found ourselves humping equipment into the well-guarded lock up of Anno’s just off Pattenden Lane in the industrial heart of Marden!
We were joined by former royal chef Visen Anenden who hails from Mauritus but has a veritable who’s who of a culinary background. He trained with Michel Roux at Le Gavroche, spent some time working on events for Anthony Worral Thomson and then spent just on ten years working as the personal chef to HRH Prince of Wales.
He has recently had his own pub in south London (The Duchy Arms) and then also recently been cooking for the likes of Simon Cowell and the business magnate George Soros.
Visen arrived mid-morning on the Thursday and we then spent the rest of that day prepping the dishes ready for the first night on the Friday. I like to do two nights back to back as it means we can maximise not only the menu offered and the numbers we can serve it makes the whole process a lot easier with the “Mise en place” required.
It was a mountain to climb – three whole huge Pork Belly’s, had to be boned, rolled and then poached in a flavoursome stock, fillets of fresh salmon required curing with sea salt, sugar, spices and a generous dousing of Anno’s Elderflower vodka whilst yours truly had already made a homemade Membrillo laced with the Anno’s Sloe Gin as well as a Jelly to go with the homemade “Duck Rillettes” made from confit duck legs.
It was a challenging dinner as there were firstly five courses to prepare and serve and we had no cooking facilities whatsoever- so we had to make sure the menu reflected this and was able to be done under such conditions. Every piece of crockery, cutlery and glassware was transported to the venue…
One guest was in awe of our achievements with one plug in oven, an electric hob, one induction ring and then a small deep fat fryer! We were not allowed gas or naked flames (e.g. candles) as this is rightly a risk with so much alcoholic spirit kicking around!
So Friday was a full house with 24 guests firstly partaking of a welcome G&T in the balcony office area as they munched their way through some nibbles, a Pan Catalan, cauliflower soup shot and deep fried chick pea fritters. (Saturday we served the same but a freshly made carrot and orange soup instead of cauliflower)
As guests sat at one long trestle table conversations flowed – new friendships were formed and both of the Anno founders gave a short precis history talk of the origins of their little enterprise each night and how they came about producing a truly artisan product.
The main course was as stated the slow cooked Pork Belly that we had poached for three hours in a stock and then placed on a tray and pressed flat overnight to compact the meat. The sauce served was a mix of the stock with roasted pork bones with white wine and fresh spices including finally a big bunch of fresh fenugreek infused in the reduced sauce! All this was served with a king oyster mushroom plus some freshly sautéed Enoki mushrooms. A braised halved little gem lettuce was for one guest a revelation. Some pork crackling that had been dehydrated for twenty four hours and then deep fried to make it all go puffy was the garnish along with a pressed potato and black pudding cake that was layered thinly sliced potatoes and black pudding infused with butter and duck fat completed the dish.
We served the cheeses in the French fashion after the main and these constituted of the local Winterdale Shaw and then tangy and much enjoyed Stichleton (Like a Stilton but made with raw milk)
Dessert was also a big hit, a savarin (yeast raised brioche dough sponge) was cooked off and then left to absorb a sugar syrup jus laced with Anno’s latest 60 percent proof Gin. A half-pound packet of butter (each night) was left to brown in a pan before being strained and added to some Crème Chantilly (sweetened cream) laced with vanilla. This all served with fresh local raspberries from the suppliers to M&S and Waitrose located on Seven Mile Lane by West Peckham completed the meal.
The dining space next to their still known as Patience was cavernous and whilst guests were asked to make sure they had plenty of layers on to keep warm, the final flourish of a hot coffee was served with homemade chocolate truffles that showcased their final artisan product. The dried cranberries had been marinated in Anno’s Cranberry Gin for a couple of days before being added to the chocolate ganache.
It had been a great couple of nights and the comments we had in our guest book were nothing but complimentary … thanks once again to both Norman and Andy for their support and allowing us to use such a special venue. Plus my thanks to Visen for agreeing to join me on this event. We are always on the hunt for something new and different and we will hopefully have some new venues to use in 2017 – please watch this space!
Do check out Anno Distillers and try their products they are very special indeed and I know we have converted many to them… just watching the guests go home laden with their purchases on the night was something to behold… I do hope none were stopped by the local constabulary on their way!