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8 June 2016

Burning Down the House, Ink, London


 'Burn everything and anything, and it tastes better; leeks, onions, the house [burning down the house!]'

Martyn Meid or Tom Jones...not a direct quote...

About 2 years ago now, I was invited to a blogging event that changed my life (big claim here, it's going to get emotional guys, grab the tissues). The event was held by Miele and it was a chef's table with Martyn Meid, the Nordic genius who burns everything (EVERYTHING) he can get his hands on. What I thought was a big blogging event turned out to be an intimate 9 course tasting menu for seven of us. It's one of the best events I've ever been to, the food was amazing, the atmosphere was really great and I had such a fun night. This in itself doesn't make the event life changing, but meeting Sophie and Frankie, definitely does. We speak to each other everyday, I hang out with Sophie more than any of my other friends and I definitely know more about both of them than I should. Anyway from meeting these two gals at the Miele event, I never thought we would be so close. 

Becoming friends with Sophie and Frankie has opened us up to meeting more bloggers that we'd never met before. We're all grown women and we live in the digital age (urgh I sound so old, who says 'the digital age'...I think my boyfriend's dad does...) but meeting people through the internet can be scary and you should definitely be cautious. We play it safe by meeting new people together, so if one of us meets a blogger that they think is cool or someone approaches one of us and says hey let's hang out (this mostly happens to Frankie...she has one of those faces), then we'll meet them as a group rather than one on one. It just makes it feel safer for everyone, the new person knows you're not a psycho because they're meeting you with another blogger as well, and in the reverse if the new person is a weirdo you're a lot safer with your friends. That being said people invest a lot of time into blogging and I think you could tell from a personal blog if a blogger isn't who they say they are (it's difficult to get so many pictures of the same girl eating a burger in different clothes without actually being that girl), plus you know we've yet to meet any weirdos. I've made some really great friends this way too; Persephone alongside Sophie is one of my closest friends, she's the kindest person you'll ever meet and us all together with our manfriends/P's fiancé make a good little dozen for hanging out (they're getting hitched in November, and Sophie and I are making their wedding cake [ok it's brownies but, you know, still a cake!], which I am super excited about and cannot wait for them to tie the knot), Gianni is the not-so-crazy cat lady with a talent for penning short stories and the best laugh you'll ever hear, Hannah is hilarious and I really can't say anything else without being explicit, Mike is cool and I'm not just saying that because we have the same taste in music I mean he also knows where to get the best burgers in town (not exclusively London town either, I think you could tell him a city and he'd tell you where to eat), Emma is my food twin and the adventurer I wish I was (check out her latest trip to Vienna here), and then there's Lauren, a real sweetheart with the best fashion sense. 

That was completely off topic but I just wanted to show you what could happen from spending the night enjoying the food of Martyn Meid. Since that event and probably every time Sophie and I get together we always talk about how great the food was that night, so much so that  my manfriend, Dan, asked if we could go to Martyn Meid's restaurant, Ink, for his birthday. A night of great food and the possibility of a second life changing experience quickly settled me booking a table for two at Ink in Bethnal Green, for the 72 hour tasting menu after all it's not everyday your young man turns 11 (first Harry Potter reference of the post...Dan's not really 11). What's a 72 hour tasting menu? Well you tell Martyn 72 hours before your booking that you want to try that menu and he creates a 7 course tasting menu for you (without any food you dislike at your request) for £72 per person with a glass of wine per course. This has got to be the best price I've ever had for a tasting menu in London with wine, I'd even go so far to say it was one of the best tasting menus we've ever had (definitely up there with those we tried in Reykjavik, see post here, and our London favourite, Pollen Street Social, which was ridiculously expensive but one of the best meals of my life). The first challenge of the night, was trying to find Ink, unless you know where it is it's really quite difficult to locate, Frankie had been before and told me it was in an estate so we were prepared but we didn't know it was actually right in the middle of the estate. If you follow the canal from Bethnal Green you'll eventually get to some blocks of flats/offices and Ink is nestled on the end of one overlooking the canal. I really hope they get a good amount of traffic, because the food and atmosphere are excellent, but the location probably isn't somewhere you'd look to find a restaurant. 








Anyway inside, white walls, comfortable laid back seats and dark wooden furniture simply laid with a sprig of lavender, create a clean scandi vibe, and I really like the use of large tree branches which cross the ceiling creating an interesting focal point where the rest of the restaurant is very sparse, as the day draws on their shadows are projected on to the wall providing a bleak but beautiful visual. An open kitchen dominates the right side of the restaurant as you enter, which is a great touch as you can see Martyn and his small team creating the dishes before they come out. As we'd already opted for the tasting menu with wine, we were presented two glasses of champagne on arrival and introduced to the sommelier who as well as introducing the wines to us with each course also acted as our waiter. The sommelier was the same guy I met at the Miele event, very down to earth and funny, he certainly got us settled  in for a good night. The champagne was accompanied by a canape of a round of rye bread topped with pink grapefruit, borage flowers and salmon roe. It was beautifully presented, but personally I didn't think the grapefruit worked with the rest of the ingredients. I'm not a huge grapefruit fan, I wish I was, many a grapefruit cocktail has been ordered under the wish to have something clean and refreshing, and it be sour and just wrong (I have judged you grapefruit and found you wanting).




The next salad of peas, asparagus and onion, with a burnt onion ash and frozen yogurt was cleansing and fresh with a huge injection of sweetness from the vegetables, a world away from the confused canape. This was a very simple dish where the vegetables shone, I really enjoyed the frozen yogurt as it dissolved across your palette. 

One big juicy pan fried scallop was served on celeriac puree with geranium leaves, edible flowers, and a trusty helping of burnt leeks and leek ash, was my favourite dish of the night. The scallop was sooooo good, when I had scallops at the Miele event before they were humongous, so I had big expectations (excuse the pun) but Ink didn't disappoint. This dish had the right level of sweet and saltiness, and although I knew you could eat geranium's it's not something I've actually done before so that was definitely a new experience and will be making it into our edible garden when we buy a house (#gardenambitions #webetternotbuyaflat). 




The next dish of a pan-fried fillet of John Dory was served with a sweet langoustine tail and langoustine foam, with courgettes and pearl barley risotto. The fish was perfectly cooked and all the flavours married well together, it was definitely a highlight of the evening. This was the first time I'd seen a pearl barley risotto and it was really earthy and nutty, and paired very well with the fish. A perfect fish course finale. 

The meat dishes were quite similar in a way as both were paired with a sauce flavoured with chocolate, which I won't lie I did enjoy but I would have preferred to have something different for one of the courses as they were quite similar on the palette. The first main was pork belly with a chocolate sauce, slices of radish, apple, leek and, of course, a burnt leek ash. I felt the sauce was quite rich and the meat was very fatty, which you expect, from a pork belly but it felt very heavy and didn't go together as well as the second dish where you had slices of iron rich lamb heart, watercress and a chocolate jus. This pairing was simply amazing, the chocolate sauce cut through the richness of the lamb heart and it tasted divine. I haven't enjoyed eating beef heart in the past (give me chicken hearts anyday, hello Sushi Samba!) so if this was on an a la carte menu I never would have chosen it for myself but I'm so glad this was on the tasting menu because it was just heavenly.

To finish the meal we were presented with a plate each of strawberry granita, blue berries, chantilly cream and pain perdu, while a very dramatic berry scented dry ice smoke blew across our dish. I loved everything about this plate, it was delicious and very easy to eat. I only wished there was more pain perdu, because I could have eaten a whole loaf of it! We were both deeply relieved it wasn't a chocolate dessert after the two previous courses!

I'll be honest by this time the 7 large glasses of wine I'd had were taking their time and I was very, very, tipsy bordering on drunk. As a consequence I'd stopped noting down what wines we were drinking and just noted our favourite, a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc by Umbrele from Romania, sweet, crisp and refreshing it was glorious. Despite being 7 glasses of wine down, we couldn't help but order a final glass of this to savour after we finished our meal and cheered in Dan's birthday. As well as being one of the best meals we've had it was definitely one of the cheapest tasting menus we tried. Cheers to that.


Let's end on a high with this shot of the juicy scallop from Ink. Oh scallops, I love you. Scallops I do. I'm currently on a cheese diet after coming back from France last week, what that means is that I tell everyone 'hey I'm on a diet, cutting out cheese, bread and alcohol' but actually all that's getting me through this week is Sophie's cheese and wine night on Saturday. Dan and I have a box of stinky French cheese in preparation for Sophie's party. I'm not going to lie, it smelt so strong I had to put the cheese in a tupperware box, three cooler bags and a rubbish sack to try and drown out the smell...it didn't work. So apologies if you were sitting in the same train carriage as me. In summary the diet is not going according to plan, but exercise I'm getting behind. I think it's fair to say that since leaving university...last year...ok several years ago...I have done 0 exercise. It was a dramatic change from being captain of my sports team and exercising everyday to working full time and feeling like I had no free time to work out. I've finally realised that working full time doesn't mean I don't have time to exercise, it just means I have to plan it and I have to plan it. Tell no-one, but I'm now the same weight as Dan...I have no words. If anyone does have any, words that is, comforting ones not 'run fat girl run', feel free to drop them below. Closing out this pity post. Sayonara.