On Monday we had the extreme good fortune to be invited to the Underground Cookery School in Shoreditch, London. Having followed that up with a most excellent dinner with some good friends last night, it’s fair to say that right now we’re both feeling pretty tired. Not since our days as students have we come off the back of a Monday-Tuesday late-night double-whammy! As well as the exhaustion (being a foodie is hard!) we also feel extremely lucky, and we’re excited to tell you all about it (but please forgive us if we start talking jibberish).
The day started off like any normal Monday (work, ugh) but the morning flew by and come lunchtime we were able to sack off our day jobs and don our foodie mantles! We stopped at Friska on the way to the station to pick up some really excellent crispy pork pho (Vietnamese noodle soup – if you’re in Bristol, or Vietnam for that matter, try some!) and pretty shortly we were on our way to the big city.
Since we had a free afternoon and the whole of London at our disposal, we took a short wander through Hyde Park to stretch our legs and meet some of the locals (swans, a heron and a moorhen!) before heading to the Victoria & Albert museum. It was the first time either of us had been to the V&A, and it’s one of those places we could get lost in for days! Apparently if you were to see everything in the Louvre in Paris it would take you a solid week, and while we’re not sure it’s quite that big, it was nevertheless impressive. We wound our way through some 19th century sculpture, historic Japan, took in the gardens, stumbled around mediaeval Europe and finally, feeling quite overwhelmed, decided it was about time to find some good coffee.
Deciding to neglect tea and cake in the V&A for some strong coffee we did a quick Google and came up with Shoreditch Grind, a rather trendy looking place right on Old Street roundabout. We weren’t quite sure we were cool enough to go in – there was a cinema sign, neon and plenty of industrial barstools – but we put our best hipster faces on and went in. We knew right away that this was the place for us, the aroma of amazing roasted coffee hit us and shook any thoughts of tea from our minds! Fats went for a flat white while Bird chose a macchiato, both were incredible, they even rivalled our Bristol favourite, Small St Espresso.
After working out how to sit on a barstool without almost falling off every few seconds we happily whiled away the hour or so before it was time for our cooking lesson. There was a brief thought of going somewhere else for a slightly more intoxicating drink (Dutch courage and all that) but a candle and a bar list was plonked in front of us so we settled in for a cider (Bird) and a beer (Fats). Minds lubricated and inhibitions fractionally lowered, we headed off to our first ever blogger event!
We’ve been to a couple of cookery schools in Bristol, but the Underground Cookery School is a bit of a different proposition to what we’ve experienced before – they promised a “fun and informal” approach to cookery, as well as a “Hoxton Brasserie” vibe – and it certainly delivered! On entering the stylish and modern underground kitchen/diner we were warmly greeted by Carlos, who immediately thrust a welcome glass of Prosecco into Fats’ hand while Bird dived straight in with some mussel de-bearding. After a few delicious canapés Matt – founder and head chef at the school – gave us a short introduction explaining what was on the menu (moules marinière, ballotine of chicken and tarte Tatin) before splitting us into two groups of 10 and setting us to work.
We started off by learning how to de-bone a chicken. This is a great skill to have, and is not something that we have done before. It was great to see an experienced chef do this with such ease, it immediately filled us with confidence! We’re going to blog a tutorial about this sometime soon, so watch this space. Once we’d de-boned it, we took the breast and flattened it with a rolling pin (by whacking it! Great way to unwind…) before laying it on a couple of leaves of lightly wilted cabbage and spreading with a mixture of cream cheese, leeks and bacon (definitely didn’t sneak a cheeky taste of that…) and rolling tightly in cling film and kitchen foil.
We were then shepherded quickly to the next lesson of the night, tarte Tatin. This was done in teams, with a couple of us slicing apples, a couple of us making caramel and the rest assembling and covering with pastry. This lesson especially was a great way to get to know some of our fellow bloggers – there was a really great atmosphere, and a bit of competitive spirit (who can assemble the most perfect tarte Tatin? Who can slice the thinnest apples??) didn’t hurt!
Onion slicing like a pro came next, where we also learnt that they make you cry by wafting into your eye and promptly turning into sulphuric acid (we can thank our fellow blogger Heidi for that one!). Throughout the evening the chefs were absolutely great, taking a really relaxed approach and happy to go over anything again if we didn’t quite get it the first time.
Moules marinière turned out to be about the easiest thing we’d ever cooked! Cook off some onions and garlic, throw in a healthy slosh (like, half a bottle) of wine, reduce a bit, then in with the mussels until they open up! Toss in a bit of oil and parsley and serve. Just don’t eat the ones that stay closed.
All of the food we cooked was totally delicious, and we shared a real combined sense of achievement (we were all eating each others’ food, so a bit of trust helped!). The wine and conversation kept flowing through dinner and too soon we had to run to catch our train home to Bristol (but not without boxing up our tarte Tatin for the road).
We had a great time at our first blogger event – we met some really great people and learnt some useful skills! Big thanks to Matt and the team, they really made us feel welcome. We can thoroughly recommend the Underground Cookery School for any event, we can’t imagine a better way to spend an evening. Here’s to many more blogger events to come!
The Underground Cookery School offer team building, hen parties and private events. They can be found near Old Street roundabout in London and at undergroundcookeryschool.com.