One of my favourite things about living in London is that there is always something new to discover. Every single day there are a whole host of hidden gems, secret events and exciting pop ups opening around the city, some of which may be completely one off or disappear again almost as unceremoniously as they appeared, meaning unless you happen upon them you may never even be aware of their existence.
I like this idea. Not everything has to arrive with fan fairs and marching bands in order to be successful. Sometimes its refreshing to see something come along quietly and purposefully, do the job it set out to do and then pack up again, safe in the knowledge that it made a few people happy and sowed a few seeds.
And the really exciting part is when you are lucky enough to have been privy to that diamond in the rough, to have seen it shine for that very brief moment whether as a magical one off or as a sneak preview of what may be to come later down the line.
A couple of weekends ago, GB and I visited a rather unique pop up which I have a sneaking suspicion may just have been one of those diamonds.
After Hours is a concept which has been set up to offer young pastry chefs the opportunity to show off their culinary skills in a restaurant environment, allowing the dessert to be the star of the show by forgetting the starter and mains and simply giving the customer three courses of the sweet stuff! They operate (after hours) in unassuming coffee shops around London and switch the chefs around for each new run of the event.
It’s no secret that I’m a major sweet tooth and often the quality of a restaurant for me is decided upon how good their pudding menu is, so as you can imagine the minute I read ‘Three courses of dessert’ I was aching to try it…
If I hadn’t have stumbled across a random article online, I may never have have known this eatery existed. Hosted inside a simple coffee shop on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, you could walk up and down the many hip pubs and quirky food establishments in this area, completely unaware that there was a top chef waiting to serve you exquisite dessert delights from just behind that coffee machine.
I guess that’s what makes it special, the setting is simple yet comfortable and you are surrounded by a mix of other in the know pudding lovers in what to the outside world just looks like a bunch of folks enjoying a late night coffee.
Farokh Talati (ex Fat Duck, York & Albany) was the chef in charge of our pop up experience and the Heston Blumenthal influence didn’t go unnoticed. Although small, each dish was beautifully presented, intricately put together and with an explosion of hidden flavours.
Our first course was a refreshing pink grapefruit sorbet with grapefruit segments, lemon and tonic foam and negroni jelly. The sorbet was delicious but it was the the tonic foam which was really interesting, settling on your taste buds like a sip of gin and tonic before evaporating in your mouth before you had time to take it in, making it extremely moreish. Next up for me was strawberry and pistachio, a strawberry mousse with fresh strawberries, olive oil biscuit and pistachio crumb, while GB opted for the Coffee and white chocolate, coffee ice cream with sweet mascarpone and caramelised white chocolate.
But we both agreed that our final course, Chocolate and whisky, was our favourite. A slab of dark chocolate mousse and single malt whisky ganache with cherry gel and salted vanilla toffee sauce. It was divine. Now I’m not a big whisky drinker (despite the Scottish associations I know) and the taste of the single malt was strong but mixed with the bitter sweet of the chocolate mousse and combined with the tart cherry and a spoonful of that toffee sauce made for one intensely enjoyable mouthful. Don’t ask me how but the combination of all of those flavours is award winning.
All of this was washed down with a glass of sweet sparkling moscato and finished off with a short of plum infused sake (much nicer than regular sake) and flavoured jelly petit fours.
If you are not a sweet tooth, then it’s a given that this particular style of dining might not be for you but as pop up experience it’s one of the best I’ve been to.
I’d probably suggest that it’s perfect as a sweet after to a late lunch or early dinner, otherwise like us you may find yourself craving salt and stodge later on, but overall I can’t fault the quality of the food and the originality of the idea. So much so in fact that I’m letting you in on the whereabouts of the diamond so that you too can experience it shining!
We visited the pop up at it’s May home of Allpress Esspresso on Redchurch Street however it has now moved to it’s final June stop at Bird and Ballard on Great Eastern Street so hurry if you want to try it before it finishes it’s run.
After Hours is open fortnightly on Friday and Saturday evenings throughout June. Tickets are £20 per person for 3 courses of dessert, coffee and petit fours and you can book your place here. Enjoy!