Friday 26 August 2011

The Clove Club at Frank's Cafe

I don't suppose the thought of dining on top of a multi-storey car park in Peckham would appeal to most people. But I was too intrigued not to give it a whirl. And I'm so glad I did. For a couple of months over summer (pah!), this very nice and enterprising bloke called Frank, sets up a really great bar called Frank's Cafe & Campari Bar atop said multi-storey car park in deepest Peckham. So great is its success, it's now in its second year and is a very cool bar indeed. Nothing lavish or pretentious, just a solid wooden construction with a large awning and some simply made wooden tables and chairs designed by the clever team at Plus a fully stocked bar serving excellent cocktails at a bargain £4.50 including their signature Campari-fuelled Negronis.  And local beer from the Meantime Brewing Company in Greenwich. There is also a simple kitchen area producing various tasty dishes.

This week, The Clove Club featuring The Young Turks (James Lowe, Isaac Mchale and Ben Greeno - budding chefs extraordinaire) took over Frank's Cafe and hosted a fantastic dinner over two consecutive nights. I went along on Tuesday, and despite the monsoon weather that day, it was certainly a fun and memorable evening.

Now, part of the adventure of dining on top of a car park, is actually getting up there. I hooked up with a fellow blogging friend and we took the intrepid journey together, winding our way down a dodgy alleyway alongside the multiplex cinema and through a side door into the car park. It's just as you would imagine a multi-storey car park in Peckham to be like - a dimly-lit concrete mass with graffiti-clad stairwells, flickering lights and a strong smell of urine and disinfectant. I won't deny it was quite unnerving walking up to the top (the lifts were broken of course), as it grew darker and more intimidating with each level and I feared we may be confronted by a desperate junkie or a knife-weilding hoodie hoping to sell us his Primark looting-wares from the recent riots. But apart from a few random skate boarders and bikers, we finally reached the top unscathed and it felt as if we had emerged into an entirely different world... greeted by a haven of friendly people, delicious food aromas and great music.

Fortunately the rain had stopped and even though it was grey, it was dry enough to enjoy a few pre-dinner cocktails and take in the amazing views and iconic landmarks, including the rapidly growing Shard, dominating the London skyline. Ruth (who is a dab hand at organising pop-up dinners) showed us to our communal table and before long, a bunch of us were all seated on the cool rustic furniture, introducing ourselves to one another and waiting enthusiastically for the feast to begin. I met Frank at the bar and he made me the most delicious drink - a glass of rose wine with lots of ice and a twist of orange zest. That may well be knocking my Hendricks & Ginger Ale tipple off its perch!

Being a communal-style dinner, all the food came on platters in a sharing format which made it much more fun and sociable. Dish after glorious dish arrived and we all got stuck in and agreed that pretty much everything was simply fantastic. Those Young Turks certainly know how to cook up a storm! My end of the table was shared with a group of lovely guys who only talked about football for a few minutes, then it was back to discussing food, wine and a potential new potato invention (sorry, it's top secret!). So, let me tell you about the food. Being sharing platters, there was no regimented starter or main course, just endless tasty plates and all for just £26 per head.

Rye bread with aubergine & smoked cod's roe purees
Radishes & Black sesame
Cured pork fat & cobnuts
Buttermilk fried chicken & pine salt
Grilled onion with redcurrants & pickled elderberries
Grilled leeks with XO brandy
Mackerel with fennel, nasturtium & cucumber
Chicken skin fried with mead
Lamb's heart in flatbread with sheep's yoghurt & anchovy
Grouse sausages with damson and bread sauce
BBQ pork cooked with molasses & fennel blossom
Mulberry jelly, raspberries & hazelnut mousse

So there we were, eating awesome food, drinking fine wine and just having the best time in the most surreal and unlikely location. And to prove it was Peckham, I even found Del Boy Trotter's Robin Reliant parked in the car park! I reckon if you ever get the chance to eat on top of a car park, you shouldn't hesitate. It may just be the best dining experience you've ever had. And even though The Clove Club aren't there now, Frank's Cafe is still open until the end of September for drinks and light bites, so I really recommend you get yourself down there. Especially if summer shows signs of a final hurrah! And hopefully Frank and The Clove Club will be back there next year. Pretty please!

10th Floor, Peckham multi-storey car park
Rye Lane
SE15 4ST
Thur - Sun 11am - 10.30pm (until end of Sept)

Monday 22 August 2011

Miss Immy's Boutique Tea Party

Last Sunday I invited a posse of girlfriends over for a Boutique Tea Party in the garden. I spent the day before, beavering away in my Cath Kidston-esque kitchen (full of pastel saucepans in which I convince some friends I make pink marshmallow soup...) I created a giant pavlova, an almond and orange cake and a delicious mackerel pate (recipe care of a certain Mrs Longsmith), then feeling pretty chuffed with my culinary antics, I sloped off to bed.

Sunday afternoon came and with the table set, the prosecco chilled, the boutique playlist blaring and the sun shining, it was time to get the Boutique Tea Party show on the road. A lovely lady called Poppy drove all the way up from Hampshire, and set up shop in the garden to sell her rather fabulous replica jewellery, which went down a storm. In fact, if you dear reader are interested in checking out her wares, just drop me a line here and I'll send you her contact details. My friend Uyen also set up a mini boutique in the sitting room, showing off her unique and stunning items of clothing and jewellery, all designed by her own fair hands. You can check out her designs here.

Then the girls started arriving one by one, all dressed in gorgeous frocks and armed with bottles of fizz, wine, quiche, cakes, tarts, cheese and Mr Kipling's fondant fancies. You name it, they brought it. One friend even turned up with a pizza and a packet of frozen fish fingers! And not to mention another who baked a delicious batch of chocolate whoopie pies that very morning. Not sure why they're called whoopie pies - possibly because they resemble a whoopie cushion. Or perhaps you just feel like yelling Whoopie! when you bite into one.

We all gathered in the garden and sipped fizz from bone china vintage tea cups and tucked into the amazing spread of sweet and savoury delights whilst being serenaded by boutique vintage tunes and the buzzing of humble bumble bees gathering en mass amongst the vast lavender bush behind us. And despite being a tea party, ironically no actual tea was harmed or consumed during the production of this tea party. Wine being the preferred beverage of choice.

The afternoon raced along and how we laughed, chatted and ate ourselves into a state of euphoria. Before long, it was time for guests to make their way homeward, this time armed with doggy bags, bundles of lavender and jewellery purchases.  Thanks to all you lovely ladies for coming over and making it such a fun afternoon. As Lou Reed would agree, it really was such a perfect day. And I'm glad I spent it with you...

Cake and salad for dinner tonight!

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