Award-winning pâtissière Corinne Payet of Gourmandises has been hosting supper clubs and pop-up restaurants for years but they had been put on the back burner whilst she set up Gourmandises Académie, her home studio for workshops and events. Le Bistrot Clandestin, inspired by the wonderfully simple bistros and cafés off the beaten tracks in rural France, was created by Corinne to share the cuisine of Réunion, the tropical island where she was born.
Réunion, an overseas department and region of France, sits in a remote spot in the Indian Ocean between Madagascar and Mauritius. It is a mosaic of cultures and culinary traditions, particularly from mainland Africa, Madagascar, China, India and France. In terms of flavours Reunionese cuisine can be described as a melting pot, where different foods and spices are blended to create flavourful dishes like their iconic cari. Réunion is also a mosaic – a combination of distinct elements coming together to create one beautiful picture. That is the spirit of Corinne’s Bistrot Clandestin.
My love for Persian food comes from my “brutha from anutha mutha” Ali, who was born in Iran. You can imagine my delight when I heard My Persian Kitchen were planning to bring their traditional fare to Cambridge through their new pop up and shared dining experience concept. In fact, the duo behind My Persian Kitchen, Sirous V Naderi and Abigail Plet, are no strangers to pop ups. You may remember them as Workshop Kitchen specialising in French and Italian cuisine, in which Sirous trained professionally. However, it is through Sirous’ grandmother and mother that he developed his passion for Persian cooking.
Cambridge was definitely ready for something new and exciting. Their pop up at Espresso Library on Saturday, 22 October completely sold out! Attendees ranged from newbies intrigued by the menu to Persians who were proud to introduce this cuisine to their friends.
Persian cuisine is exquisite and varied so there’s a lot I haven’t explored yet. My Persian Kitchen’s three-course menu included dishes steeped in tradition, made with quality ingredients. The menu wasn’t fussy or complicated but it was a great idea to have a description of the dishes printed in the back of the menu, as well as a brief history of Iran. Reading all about the dishes really helped set the tone for the evening whilst we waited for the food to be served.
The ambience was welcoming and relaxed, with dimmed lights, flickering candles and a lovely jazz soundtrack. Espresso Library have a nice drinks menu so Paulo and I shared a bottle of Belstar Prosecco to go with our meal.
UPDATE: Novi are no longer hosting regular pop ups. They have their own chef and menu.
There have been some exciting new developments at Novi on Regent Street in Cambridge. Since their rebrand last year, Novi have taken the innovative approach of hosting pop ups in their kitchen. They have moved away from serving small dishes to inviting local independent traders to showcase their menus.
Described as an espresso bar, cocktail bar and kitchen, Novi certainly tick all of the boxes. They acquired a Nuova Simonelli Aurelia II T3 espresso machine making speciality coffee supplied by Frank and Earnest. Tick!
But that’s not all… they have a selection of teas by Kandula and recipes for some of the best smoothies I’ve tasted. I’ve tried Novi’s yummy smoothie with mixed berries, banana and apple juice. Another great one is made with frozen banana, nut butter, cacao powder, blueberries and toasted almonds.
Novi also specialise in botanical cocktails that can be ordered in the restaurant or enjoyed in the gorgeous bar upstairs. Tick! A few of my favourite cocktails are Seventy Seven, Detox While You Retox and Sloe Down. Be sure to ponder the menu and choose what tickles your fancy. The cocktails are great on their own but even better with the delicious food served by the pop ups.
Pizza lovers rejoice! Fired Up, run by Nancy and Rory Laffan, make some of the tastiest pizzas and have taken over the kitchen at No.77 for the whole month of January 2016. No.77, located in the village of Caxton just 13 miles from Cambridge, usually serve Thai food but their chefs are taking a break in Thailand this month. This is where Fired Up come in! With their handcrafted mobile pizza oven in tow, they are delighting customers with their authentic wood fired pizzas prepared with homemade dough and topped with fresh ingredients.
The official launch of Fired Up at No.77 was held on Saturday, 9 January 2016. Nibbles and fizz were on hand for the celebration but Paulo and I booked a table for dinner. We were delighted to run into Kelly Molson of Grub Club Cambridge / Rubber Cheese and her fiancé Lee Allison so we shared a table. Good company and good food… what else could you ask for?