“Those who are generous with food have a certain kind of goodness about them” Nathan Filer
Philip Dundas, food writer and pop-up restauranteur supremo can be held responsible for bringing the essence of good, honest fare to the lanes of central London. It’s no secret that our great city and beyond has blossomed with the ever-burgeoning scene of the ‘supper club’. The concept of delivering high quality set menus for a fixed, affordable price to those who appreciate an intimate and convivial form of eating ‘out’. Most commonly under the roof of one’s home or temporary rented space, Pipsdish thrives from this clever business idea due to the low overheads and minimal wastage. Philip has taken this one step further. Having dabbled in the ‘pop-up’ himself, taking him from his own home dining room space to a quirky disused Citroen garage in Islington, his extensive culinary experience has paid dividends to this latest long term offering along Exeter Street in the heart of Covent Garden. The little blue building is notably the jewel in the crown.
Pipsdish’s evident success can be placed on the simple ethos of delivering effortless plates of high quality nosh within an eclectic and charming, yet homely setting. I’d heard a fair amount of buzz in their opening weeks, plus Fay Maschler rates it and I devoutly agree with whatever she says. The aesthetics hold charm; boxed book cases filled with vintage tomes, memorabilia and inspirational cook books are all well thought out. With an understated refinement of the prerequisite communal tables, Philip encourages the art of sharing space by offering an easy balance of sweet nothings-intimate seating and open windows, promoting free flowing eye contact and conversing ease. After all, once inside you qualify for a free ticket to their friend’s and family club.
Upon arrival, the waft of English Spring was instantly recognisable; an aperitif fizz was in full flow, echoing delicate flavours of elderflower, rose and mint. Truly quaffable! But now on to the serious fodder. Happily resigned to the steady stream of supremely executed plates arriving at our table, I felt uncharacteristically comfortable allowing the man in question to dictate my order. Bursting with fresh and high-quality ingredients, the dinner tour commenced. With winning flavour combinations such as Smooth-Hound (a underrated member of the shark family with succulent meaty flesh – you heard it here first) served above a ras el hanout Moroccan marinade delicately laden with wild garlic flowers for attractive visual effect, and steamed plump asparagus with translucent blankets of Pecorino and a sublimely made-from-scratch hollandaise. Such light plates left us ready for the occasional encore. Without shame I’ll add. Also on the ticket, a ham hock terrine with Bernese piccalillie (a clean, punchy pickled cabbage and cauliflower combo – wonderful), Hogget with harissa yoghurt, and Wild garlic and ricotta parcelettes; each distinctive, rich and ludicrously moreish. As an unsaid rule, conversation was staggered between hand to mouth actions.
Savoury complete, it was time for sweet. As an enthusiast for creamy, toothsome-coated puddings, our Poached rhubarb with fresh cream and pastry pillows lent a zingy and ethereal contrasting balance to the palate thanks to its tangy fruit stewed base and patisserie perfect sugared cap.
Leaving with a copy of Philip’s book, Cooking Without Recipes (in keeping with his footloose and creative style) I was thrilled to have found a no frills eating establishment within a central location combining seasonal, fresh produce with heart and soul to boot. One visit, and I left with a peachy spring glow. Pipsdish has already formed a rather special place in my stomach.
For more info visit http://philipdundas.com/pipsdish-covent-garden/