The atmosphere crackled with excitement as we filed into Brigade Bar + Kitchen to celebrate ten years of cooking, educating and bringing hope to nearly 7,000 homeless and disadvantaged people from in and around London.
After 18 months of Covid lockdowns and uncertainty sweeping across restaurant and bar kitchens there was an air of festivity amongst guests, likely heightened by a fruity, welcoming glass of Sloe It Spritz cocktail: 15ml sloe gin, 20 ml house gin, topped up with Prosecco.
Brigade is located in a Grade II-listed fire station in Tooley Street and operates the restaurant for the Beyond Food Foundation, an organisation that aims to inspire people under the remit of #GoodFoodDoingGood. It’s run as a social enterprise helping vulnerable people into employment, specifically within the hospitality sector.
I had a seat at the table as a guest of PwC, the giant financial services firm and one of Beyond Food and Brigade’s major sponsors.
Click Brigade Bar & Kitchen for more information.
Head chef and founder of both Beyond Food and Brigade and culinary educator Simon Boyle had invited his mentor, chef Brian Turner to curate the meal. Brian is best known for his TV appearances and being a founding member of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts. Speaking to the assembled diners, Brian said chefs and cooks are ‘bringers of happiness around the table’.
The restaurant has an open plan kitchen and uses noisy, live fire and smoking to cook creative and classical dishes.
Fundraising, eating and celebrating
Under the guiding, watchful eyes of Simon and Brian our evening unfolded through a mix of fundraising, brassiere dining and live entertainment with one surprised guest, a professional opera singer, finding himself belting out a song he’d written.
First up was a smoked eel with a celeriac remoulade (full menu, and recipe below). A classic French brassiere combination, with the meaty eel playing with the sweet salad and fresh acidity of the apple and walnut dressing, this was a delightful entrée to the meal.
Our table choose both white and red wine to help frame the meal. We started with a single-varietal Rioja Verdejo Blanco from El Coto, Spain that offered a crisp, aromatic, vibrant accompaniment to the surf-forward opening dishes. For the turf choice of veal we poured generous glasses of Merlot St Esteve from Languedoc, southern France appreciating its juicy, round style and soft plumy flavours.
For the second entrée, baked scallop mousse with an unami-packed brown crab sauce was offered. Floating on an intensely flavoured sauce, the dish was a contrast to the soft, fluffiness of the scallop mousse whose sweetness acted as a counterbalance to the savoury covering.
One of my hosts had visited the kitchen three days previously and seen early preparations on the go, not least for the syrupy, aged Madeira demi-glace which was poured over the fondant potato and had guests begging for more. This had a real depth of rich, lingering deliciousness that more often than not you’ll only get from a professional kitchen.
The velvety textured veal was fine-grained, firm and offered a delicate flavour. Served alongside its classic pairing of fondant potato was a delicate pile of zesty, buttery new season cabbage cooked in lemon and garlic butter which provided both acidity and sweetness to enhance the flavourful veal.
For a visually engaging finish, we had an Old Fashioned White Chocolate & Raspberry Trifle, served in a Martini-style glass dish. Kirsch, white chocolate, Swiss roll, and raspberry coulis served with a rich egg custard was a sweet ending.
Since opening, Beyond Food and Brigade have helped over 6,000 vulnerable people impacted by trauma, poverty, the effects of addiction, criminality and social exclusion and hundreds of apprentices into jobs and given thousands of homeless people new skills.
Brigade is open to the public for lunch and dinner. http://www.thebrigade.co.uk
Menu created with surf and turf
The evening’s menu was developed by Brian:
- A Light Salad of Celeriac Remoulade with Smoked Eel, Apple & Walnut Dressing
- West Coast Scallop Pudding with Brown Shrimp & Tomato
- Roasted Rack of Veal, Butter Fondant Potato, Baby Carrots, Lightly Pickled Green Cabbage & Aged Madeira Sauce
- Old Fashioned White Chocolate & Raspberry Trifle
- Macarons, Chocolate, Hazelnut and Passion Fruit.
Macaron heaven from Emma Dodi Cakes
Our macarons were gifted to us at the end of the meal to take home, or perhaps eat on the night train as it rushed through London suburbs over bridges and through tunnels and into the English countryside. My pair of French-style macarons were hand decorated, delicate and tricky to make. Created by London-based Emma Dodi my macarons had enviably smooth domes, frilly middles, and softly giving ganache filling. These delicacies rely on a cooks patience, perseverance and practice and a low humidity kitchen for the almond, egg whites and sugar to combine deliciously. None are given or easy to find. Our cakes were decorated with one of Emma’s motifs, a floral design. Mine, similar to those pictured, were light and delicately flavoured. Bite-sized, but I prefer to nibble, the initial meringue-like crunch yielded into a cloud-like centre, and a sweet, creamy centre. Perfect with a morning espresso.
Recipe: Smoked Eel with Apple & Walnut Dressing
Here’s the recipe for the smoked eel starter © Brian Turner.
A Light Salad of Celeriac Remoulade with Smoked Eel, Apple & Walnut dressing
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook time: 0
Stuff you’ll need
For the Salad:
400g smoked eel
1 lemon, juiced
1 small celeriac
6 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp double cream or crème fraîche
Fresh horseradish, grated
4 baby gem lettuce leaves, equal size
Granny Smith apple, small, neat dice
50g roasted and smoked walnuts, chopped
Apple Cider Dressing:
125ml apple juice
25ml cider vinegar
12g grain mustard
60ml rapeseed oil
Get stuck in:
- Tip the lemon juice into a bowl. Thinly slice, then cut each slice into matchsticks and toss in the lemon juice. To and tail the celeriac and use a knife to remove the thick skin.
- Mix in the other ingredients and season. You can eat this straight away, but it will soften if you leave it for a few hours, and the flavour will mellow.
- Skin and debone the eel, slice into 1/2cm slices, add to the celeriac, reserving some to garnish.
- Spoon the celeriac neatly into the baby gem leaves, providing some height. Place a slice of eel on top, drizzle with a little dressing and garnish with micro herbs.