Well now what do we know?
We know Ouseburn is an up and coming area of Newcastle upon Tyne, dotted with great little pubs and it is at the centre of a redevelopment that will create a very interesting village within the city.
We know there is a lovely little “off strip”, café-cookhouse-restaurant on Ouse Street (actually called The Cook House) right smack next to the Newcastle Town Moor Tunnel entrance (and behind the Hotel Du Vin), that has been created from old metal shipping Containers. It is all very “Now, hip and happening” and terribly a la mode.
We also know the lovely Anna Hedworth, @the_grazer, is behind the Cook House enterprise. Anna is part designer, architect, part cook, allotmenteer, full-time food lover and a visionary. During the day Anna runs the Cook House serving coffees, snacks, breakfast, lunches and the like. All made by herself from the best ingredients she can. She is often feted in magazines for her enterprise, and her quality of blogging. However during the evening the Cook House is a venue for parties and events, and in this instance a Pop-Up, Cheffy Chef night.
It would seem we know that much, but we need to know a smidge more. Like who are these Cheffy Chef types? Together they are known as Trial Shift; separately they are Shaun Hurrell and Tom Anglesea.
Our young Mr. Shaun Hurrell blossomed over in the USA in Northern California, in the Wine Country of Sonoma County. Somehow after a few years working his tail feathers off in a small bistro, he ended up in Newcastle Upon Tyne working for non other than Terry Laybourne at Jesmond Dene House.
Everywhere where you look in the North East where quality Chefs are to be found there is almost certainly to be the footprint of Terry not far away.
Shaun put in 4 hard years of work in the very busy kitchen, before scooting off to London for the next 5 years. While in London he worked for Marcus Wareing at the Berkeley, Fergus Henderson’s St John Hotel, James Knappett’s Kitchen Table, and had a short time as a head chef at Farrs in Dalston. Following all that he mooched back up to us here in the North East. He was the Head Development Chef tasked to create the kitchen, and to bring the chefs, the menus and recipes up to speed at the newly launched St. Mary’s Inn (at Stannington). He is a man with a plan, and that also includes starting a family and working towards opening a restaurant with his good long time friend Tom Anglesea.
So what of this Tom Anglesea fellow? What do we know about him?
Tom was born and raised in Durham and began his career washing dishes at the local bistro, Chadwicks. Tom is another super Chef with the Terry Laybournes pedigree, having stints in Café 21 and Bistro 21 before he too headed to London at the very tender age of 19 to work at Gordon Ramsay’s Boxwood Café.
Tom then went on to train under Thomas Keller at Per Se in New York, Neil Perry at Rockpool in Sydney and also spent time at Rene Redzepis Noma in Copenhagen and Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck. Returning once again to England Tom took a sous chef position at the Red Lion rural pub in East Chisenbury, and whilst there was part of the team to win their first Michelin star in 2012. Now back in the North East he and Shaun could very well be the next wave of Cheffy Chefs to become part of Newcastle’s new improved dining scene. It is certainly something I would like to see.
The nature of the evening was a showcase of talent. Not only was it a showcase of what the two talents on the pans can do with ingredients, it was a showcase of the talents of the wizardry of the region’s most elusive specialist and stand-out specialist vegetable grower; yup you guessed it Ken Holland. You have as much chance of seeing this rare fellow as you have being introduced to The Scarlet Pimpernel or finding a packet of hen’s teeth and a pile of rocking horse pooh. However you will be able to eat his superb produce should you venture into the likes of Jesmond Dene House, Peace & Loaf, Raby Hunt, St. Mary’s Inn, House of Tides and a canny few other places of inestimable repute that I can’t mention, because Ken has not told me I can. I do what I am told by Ken, I know my place.
Anna’s Cook House was almost at its capacity with booked guests by the time we arrived; remarkably I actually knew 3 of the guests. The long table was bedecked with colourful crudités and dips on a roll of brown paper, cunningly low tech and easy to clean away as we found out when it was time to clean and make ready the next course.
On our arrival we were greeted with a clean zingy cocktail of rhubarb and blood orange & gin spritz. It had a fresh lightly tart flavour and was a very pleasant little gargle to sip while saying hello to our fellow diners.
The crudités that were on the table were pickled candy beets, raw heritage carrot, baby radishes, roast young parsnips, broad bean tips, forced pea shoots and fennel seed rye crackers, the dips were a fabulous, rich, colourful gochujang/black sesame, wild garlic/white miso and wood smoked baba ganoush. All the veg was undoubtedly crisp and fresh. Ken grows them to harvest when small so they are bursting with the sweetest taste. He even has a forcing tunnel where he is able to grow pale, sweet, tender sprouting vegetables. The pea shoots were testament to his skills. The ganoush wild garlic miso (this no doubt fresh from close to home) and fermented gochujang were superb everything that was dipped was enjoyable; the rye crackers were a fine example of a home-made crisp thin and brilliant for ladling lovely dollops of dip to my appreciative buccal cavity.
The remnants that remained were all neatly rolled away to make way for a Waldorf Salad Gougere (a Parmesan choux bun filled with blue cheese mornay, brushed with apple caramel, celery salt and shaved walnut). Beautiful is what I will say about this. The pastry was perfect, the cheese filling, tangy sweet, the salt and sweetness of the apple caramel and saltiness of the parmigiano superb with the nutty walnut which has that slight edge of bitterness. All in all, a lovely combination of flavours.
Details for roasted parsnip dish below coming soon
Roast Onion Broth, Dumplings
This was a clear, savoury onion consommé with floating white pickled turnip, Parisian fine herb dumplings, onion compote settled on the base of the bowl bringing sugary sweetness into the dish, wild garlic. The charred onions and spring onions added a bitter caramel and mild fresher green onion taste on the palate.
Beets, Leek & Horseradish
Horseradish bavarois topped with pickled beets, baby leeks, oyster leaf and forced beet leaves. I can only say this was a stunning cacophony of tastes and an absolute riot of flavours, beautiful vibrant colours to the eye too. The picked beets were sweet and vinegar sharp and the soft creamy (almost custard-like) smoothness of the horseradish bavarois created a near desert-like savoury dish. What never fails to impress me is the oyster leaf. My brain just cannot quite grasp the nature of its flavour, as it fools the olfactory senses into believing one is eating oyster or some fish oil flavoured substance; but it just not flesh it simply is vegetable. You must taste it at your earliest convenience.
Cumin Roasted Carrots, Yoghurt & Flowers
Then was charcoal grilled heritage carrots, labneh, primrose petals, mint and coriander condiment and cumin oil. The composition of cumin, mint and yoghurt with the charcoal grilled carrots was super, real comfort food textures working well together. Colourful and pretty as a picture
The Thai crown prince squash (family style) was rubbed with a paste made from lemongrass, galangal, Thai shallot, coriander root and palm sugar then filled with coconut cream and baked it until soft. This thickened the white subtle center to an almost cream cheese consistency. It was served and presented with some great soft flatbreads so that we could create wraps and have some glorious aromatic tasting finger-food. Satay sauce, tamarind water, chili oil, crispy shallots, Thai herbs and lime wedges, all gloriously combining in an Asian inspired fusion dish. It was great fun, and a good talking point with my adjacent diner; particularly as the whole of the squash was to be consumed, the skin softening during its cooking.
Mint, Lime IcePops
As a freshener we were served ice pops, which were yoghurt, milk, mint and lime zest. I found them an interesting event in the meal, and the combination of ingredients suited my palate, however this I think was one of those ”marmite moments”.
Tea & Carrot Cake
By the time the carrot cake made it to the table my girth was beginning to groan with the strain of so much marvelous food. Made with the heritage carrots, a walnut butter in the middle and a carrot and cream cheese frosting served with a scattering of toasted walnuts simple and comforting it was.
The tea was made from dehydrated carrot, verbena and star anise, and was a delicate final curtain to the gastronomic theatre.
Throughout the night the atmosphere was friendly, convivial and fun. We enjoyed the food and conversation and appreciated the hard work and effort that made it all happen. Huge thanks to all, and my congratulations for a fantastic team effort
So what do we know now? Well, if the Trial Shift boys show up near you, court their presence and judge them for yourselves, it will be worth your time and your taste buds will thank you.