8-Course Tasting Menu Experience with CREM Kitchen (in Collaboration with Hype Experiences)
The weather last Saturday was absolutely miserable in London as we expected another storm over the weekend, but it hadn’t ruined my good mood one bit as it was a very special day for me. I had a very exciting girls' brunch plan, where I was going to enjoy great food with my dear little queen A (gossip girl fans anyone?).
Before I tell you how amazing the brunch experience with CREM Kitchen was, let me start with how I even got this opportunity, as all this wouldn't be possible without Gin, a gorgeous lady from Hype Experiences. Hype Experiences is kind of a media agency x concierge service providing company where they offer all exciting experiences across different cities at a very affordable price (basically the host will offer the experience for free, while Hype charge a small concierge fee, in exchange for a review article that will be posted on their website. What this does is the host gets media exposure while the content creators get to enjoy the experience at a fairly low cost.
When I first booked my table for two with CREM Kitchen via the Hype website, I was being clumsy as usual, and made a mistake of booking for a wrong date. So I contacted Hype (thank goodness that they had a chat box on the website because Gods know I hate making phone calls) and this fine lady, Gin, quickly responded and sorted everything out for me. She didn't stop there, she rang me a couple of days later, making sure I know how the whole thing works, and she even contacted CREM Kitchen on my behalf to arrange a pickup for us from the tube station!! I would have been so lost if she didn't hold my hands throughout the process and I am so very grateful <3.
On the day of the event, the restaurant manager Charit picked us up from Newsbury Park station and chauffeured us to the venue. We were very grateful for his kindness as we definitely wouldn't be able to find our way there if he didn't come! It didn't take long before we arrived at this gorgeous house, where we were greeted by Megha, the chef, and her lovely daughter Reya. We were then led into a spacious room with tasteful decor and soft music playing. I got to say I was slightly overwhelmed when I stepped into it as the setting definitely felt very high class and I was wearing my normal workday outfit... Regardless, we were made very comfortable. Charit even offered to hang up our coats. I do believe it was little things and thoughts like these that made the experience extra special.
The handmade and personalised menu was on the table already at the moment we sat down, giving a vague idea on what to expect from our 8-course tasting meal. Not only was this a very sweet and considerate touch, it would also make a great conversation starter if this was a date night dinner. The 8-course tasting menu was heavily influenced by Indian cuisine to honour the chef's cultural heritage, but the dishes were expressed in a French way (or ‘modern eclectic Indian’, as the chef would have described it), and we had high expectations towards the kind of experience this menu would offer. There was also a small info card on the table with the WiFi passwords written on it for those who needed it. That was a very thoughtful move. After all, who could come to a nice restaurant like this one and not take lots of insta-worthy pictures?
There was another info card on the table that contains a short description on the chef. I have to say, Megha has a pretty impressive CV as she’s worked in more than one world-famous, Michelin star restaurants! That definitely upped my expectation towards the meal to come.
While we were waiting for our first course, we were offered to have a look at the wine list, and we chose a cava by the restaurant’s recommendation. It was very nice indeed and we were both enjoyed it a lot.
Our first course was a finger size appetiser composed of Lincolnshire poacher cheese crisp, quince paste, white chocolate and macadamia nuts. I thought I've tasted a lot in my life but oh dear this is so delicious, and I have not tasted anything like it before. This cheesy base is crispy and salty, combined with the sweet and slightly tangy combo of quince paste and white chocolate, while the toasted macadamia nuts completed the dish with its nutty flavours. This dish was simply delicious and made us so much hungrier. I know this is exactly what an appetiser was supposed to do, to make diners crave for the next course. But Goddess have mercy, why they did this to us as we came with an empty stomach! :(
Fortunately, it didn't take long until the second course arrived, and it was a very intriguing one. This appetiser was inspired by an Indian street food called Gol Gappa (otherwise known as Pani Puri). It consisted of a light, airy and thin deep-fried potato shell, encasing a sharp and pinky juice made with fermented beetroot, horseradish snow and tamarind chutney. We enjoyed this refreshing finger food so much and we were so excited when the chef offered us a second portion!
The third dish is a Keema Pao, served with a refreshing and herby dipping sauce made with raw mango, mint and coriander. The bun component of the Keema Pao was very similar to a steamed bao bun, stuffed with Keema filling made with lamb and a mixture of exotic Indian spices. The stuffed bun was very delicious on its own; the bun was tender and moist, while the filling packs a punch in the best ways possible. Enjoyed with the vivid, bright green dipping sauce though, it really took the whole dish to a whole new level by adding that touch of herbiness and cooling mouthfeel to it.
The fourth course on the menu is called 'Khatte Aloo'. According to the chef, it translates directly into 'sour potato'. This meal is just getting more and more exciting isn't it?
What this dish really was is a smooth and light potato mash, covered in a layer of melted Coolea cheese, served with crunchy potato skins bits and whey sauce. The whey sauce is what gave this dish the tang, and the crunchy potatoes gave it texture. The drops of green oil floating on top of the sauce were in fact curry leaf oil which gave the dish its fragrance and the exciting element.
After enjoying two carb dishes, we were looking forward to the main courses and that's what we got. The first main course was a fish dish, composed of a moist and juicy piece of cod marinated in a flavourful herby, spicy tikka sauce; and served with a dollop of thick, creamy, cooling crème fraîche and a spoonful of fermented raw mango oil. The fish was good, very good. It was cooked to perfection, with just the right amount of spice. But that pickle oil... It's very hard to describe; it's very fragrant, exotic, and unlike anything else I've ever tasted. I think it's that one spoonful of oil that elevated the whole dish to a Michelin star level.
After the fish, we glanced at the menu and were expecting a beef course... and then a cake came :o. Ok, fine, it wasn't a cake and I'm just being dramatic here. It was a gigantic piece of buttery brioche with crunchy onion bites scattered all over it.
The brioche was meant to be a side dish to go with the beef as it came with a rich korma sauce. If I'm being honest though, the bread was very much good enough to be served as a bread course on its own. It's so fluffy and buttery, I wouldn't have doubted if the chef told me it was delivered straight from the oven of a famous bakery.
And then the beef came. OMG this is probably one of the most tender chunk of beef short rib I've had in my life; it just melted in my mouth like a piece of supreme fatty tuna belly would. We were told that this fork tender chunk of beef was slow cooked for three days before it ended up in our plate! The korma sauce was spicy, flavourful with mild heat. And now I understood why we were given that big piece of bread, because it's what was needed to wipe up all that rich and creamy sauce! This would have been a rather heavy dish if the chef didn't top it with the refreshing mixture of onions, chives and pomegranate seeds. It gave the lightness this dish needed, and that hint of fruitiness of the pomegranate definitely helped lightening the dish.
At this point we were pretty filled up were a little sceptical at whether we could manage dessert. Thankfully, the chef has included a palate cleanser of orange granita and almond cream to reset our palate, as well as to help us regain our appetite. The granita was zesty and refreshing, and the creamy almond cream balanced out the sharpness of the orange nicely, with just the right amount of sweetness. It most certainly made us look forward to the dessert to come!
How lucky was I to be served my all-time favourite, warm apple tart, for dessert! It was very well crafted indeed. The puff pastry base was light, airy and crispy. Megha told us the trick was to only make these at the very last minute, and to make sure they’re served right away in order to keep them from getting soggy. The slices of apple were stewed to perfection in a cardamom infused syrup, and are arranged in a way that it blooms into a rosette once the baked tart was turned onto the plate. I have made this dessert before and I know how difficult it was to stew the apple to just the right texture. If overcooked the apple becomes mushy; while if it's not stewed for long enough it won't be fork tender. This one by Megha deserved a big applause.
Although the apple tart was amazing, the ginger ice cream was the real star of this dish. The ice cream was thick and luscious, rich and silky; the warmth from the ginger contrasted with the coolness of the ice cream, with just the right amount of sweetness. Not only did it complement the apple tart very well, it also cuts through the sweetness of the syrupy apples and balanced out the dish nicely. The chef knew we loved the ice cream so much and she was very kind to offer both of us a second serving. Well, but of course sweet little A had my share. I simply did not have the heart to not give her my portion as I was quite certain that her stare would have melted the ice cream otherwise...
Overall, the menu was very well designed. Megha’s cooking was fun, exciting and expressive, and I have a lot of respect for the effort this talented chef has put into it. If this wasn't sponsored by CREM Kitchen this meal would have been £80 per person, but I think it'd totally have been worth it, especially if it's going to be a special occasion dinner with my significant other. Also, just before we left the restaurant, we were gifted with a bag of vanilla macarons, handed to us by the lovely Reya; was that not priceless?
After the impeccable meal, Megha came for a chat and asked us how we liked the food. We were very delighted of course! I also got to learn a little about the chef’s story, on how she ended up at where she is right now, and I have nothing but great respect to this fine lady; for the pride she take in her food (I mean, not even the best restaurant out there would spend 50% of their cost on the ingredients alone!), and for the effort she's made to become a chef. She has risen from humble beginnings in India. Although she has always had a passion for food as she was inspired by her parents, both wonderful cooks, she had no idea culinary was going to be her career back then. A trip to Paris was how it all started. According to her, it was her first ever trip outside of India and she was mind blown. The food in Paris was eyes widening and opened her mind. With little support from her parents in the beginning, she held on to her dream and decided to study the art of cooking in the City of Lights even under great pressure. She has worked in many famous, Michelin star restaurants across the globe, which wouldn't have been easy. Without exceptional talent she wouldn't even stand a chance. I do believe cooking is her gift in this life. And with her dedication and endless efforts, I have no doubt that she will rise so high, through the glass ceiling that she doesn’t even know existed. She was also very fortunate to have met Charit, her partner in life and now also a partner in business, who according to her was the guy who turned CREM Kitchen from dream to reality. I have so much respect for this couple. I might not know how bumpy the journey they took to get here was, but I understand that it couldn't have been simple. The chef is highly talented and the two of them made the perfect team; there is nothing more I could do than to wish them all the best.
If you too would like to meet this lovely couple and have a taste of Megha's sorcery of flavours, you’re in luck. They are hosting a pop-up supper club on 7 March 2020, in Clapham Studios. Reservations are required (at least 3 days in advance – if you want your beef be cooked to perfection!) and you could do so on their website here. Act fast before the tickets sold out which I know they would! Alternatively, CREM also does private dining with bespoke menu, tailor made to serve just you and your pals, at the comfort of your very own home, if that’s what you’d prefer. Because who wouldn’t want a private chef serving you fine food while you rock with your pack, without even having to step a foot out of your home sweet home?
Disclaimer: The meal was sponsored by @CremKitchen while Hype Experiences organised this visit with a small concierge charge. But the review is 100% my honest comments and I was not paid to write this article.
Official Website: http://www.crem.kitchen
Address: 2 Clermont Place, Rushdon Close, Romford RM1 2EY
Phone: 020 8064 1865
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