To celebrate the spice season at RBG Kew Gardens taking place between 23 May until 6 September, Peyton and Byrne have arranged a series of special one off supperclubs at the Orangery.
We were fortunate to be invited to the very first of these, hosted by Oliver Peyton and Alfred Prasad, Michelin starred former culinary director of the Tamarind Collection.
It’s fair to say that while we like a little spice, we do only like a ‘little’ of it, so there was a certain amount of trepidation as we embarked on a six course spice menu, featuring a vindaloo as the pre-dessert finale.
But things started well when the amuse bouche appeared. Spiced chickpeas with fresh and dried pomegranate, yoghurt with pickling spices and pomegranate molasses chutney all in a crisp puri shell. It had a delightful balance of flavours, and everyone around the table made noises that suggested that they were enjoying it.
The first course proper was themed around Mango-Ginger, which we thought was two different foods, but Alfred explained that in fact this is one thing. A gingery-thing with a mango taste (my words, not his). The dish itself contained spiced raw scallops, lime, cucumber, red onions, watermelon scallions and the now famed grated mango-ginger. The sliced scallops were just amazing. So fresh, so tasty.
The Mustard-flavoured course was herb-crusted sea bass with Kasundi mustard paste, whole mustard tempered crab meat and prawn tempura in mustard oil. Every mouthful of this meal was proving to be delicious, and the spices were incorporated so well we started to feel a little more confident about the vindaloo ahead! But were we getting over confident?
The next course was all about peppercorns. Pink, black and green peppercorn crusted veal onglet, smoked aubergine mash with chilli flakes and toasted coriander seeds. The spices were certainly getting a little more intense, and the evening was getting more interesting as we learned more about Kew Gardens (mainly from the other guests, many of whom were members, and two were actually members of staff) and more about our food.
Apparently pepper was so valuable that it was often used as collateral or even currency. (Which made me head to Wikipedia the following day to discover that In the Dutch language, “pepper expensive” is an expression for something very expensive).
The amazing thing about all these dishes was that you could taste almost every ingredient individually. It wasn’t just a mash of flavours where the strongest conquered all. Full credit to Alfred Prasad, this was becoming a very impressive evening.
Ok. So it was time for a palate cleanser ahead of the vindaloo. It came in a small shot glass – watermelon granita and Himalayan pink salt. We were all expecting something very mild, but surprisingly this was the most testing flavour so far. Most people around us only managed about 3/4 of the glass! If this is the cleanser, what lies ahead?
The Chilli course. Chicken vindaloo. I braced myself.
And it was delicious. Served with a Pickled chilli raita that was a gentle accompaniment and took a little heat away, it was actually the green chillies in the pulao (rice) that turned the dish from ‘quite hot but pleasant’ to ‘omg, what have I done?’ But one accidental bite of the green chilli was enough education on the matter and I ate around them! My first vindaloo, and I survived!
The dessert was focused on Saffron, the most expensive spice. Poached milk dumplings with strawberries, raspberries and (on the side) Kashmiri kahwa tea made with saffron and flaked almonds. I’d say that this was probably the least successful dish for me, although my dining partner enjoyed it immensely – especially the Kashmiri tea.
In case it’s not apparent from this glowing review, this was an excellent dining experience. Almost every mouthful was divine, combining flavours that I would never normally order and creating dishes that I will remember for some time. The setting, in the Orangery, on a warm summer day, also made the occasion feel even more special. A real experience.
You’ll find more information about the next spice supper club on the 16th of July with Atul Kochhar – right here.