Blogger Zeren Wilson drops by the new pop-up on Cathedral Street, Borough Plates
The handsome 19th-century building of number 1 Cathedral Street, hugging the edge of Borough Market (formerly home to the Market’s trustees), saw Cuisson’s supper club Popdown pop up in the space last year—now, the upscale catering company is offering another chance to enjoy the produce of the Market cooked a short stagger away from the traders, with Borough Plates.
“The new, two-month pop-up presents an innovative step forward in the relationship between supplier and chef. We are excited to be working so closely with traders and cannot wait to give diners a behind-the-curtain look at how the dishes are put together,” says founder Paul Hannagen on the collaboration.
“This is a chance to showcase some of the amazing food sold at Borough Market,” agrees Darren Henaghan, MD of Borough Market. “It really highlights the wealth of ingredients and products available.”
Around 10 small plates are offered between £6-£16, and each weekly menu features an array of ingredients from different traders. On our visit, I start with goujons of whiting and smoked garlic aïoli, from Sussex Fish and Turnips. Strips of whiting are smothered with panko crumb, sprinkled with lemon zest and nori powder. The crumb is feather-light, the seasoning deft, the morsels of fish delicately fried—a good first few bites, which we enjoy with a glass of muscadet from Château de la Bretonnerie.
A pretty plate
Our second choice, the mushroom pâte—which I’m told (each dish gets a little run-through by one of the chefs as it’s brought out) is made by trader Pâté Moi—with cauliflower (also Turnips) is a real looker. Nubs of lightly grilled romanesco, dehydrated ceps, pickled mushrooms and a crisp of fried tapioca (which looks a bit like crackling) add colour and texture. A pretty plate indeed.
This is a vegetable dish that snaps enough umami synapses to keep even avowed meat-eaters satisfied—earthy and savoury, with bursts of acidity keeping things in check.
Our third and final dish, pork casserole, features slow-cooked pork shoulder, with wedges of caramelised apple and kale playing a bitter/sweet jive—Northfield Farm and Chegworth Valley are the traders name checked here.
The concise wine selection is thoughtfully chosen, a real highlight being the Turkish white from Pasaeli, made from the indigenous yapincak varietal. Another great choice is the rarely-seen schioppettino grape of Friuli, Italy—herb-scented and full of character, here made by Valdonica Arnaio.
Playful, creative flourish
Cocktails have a playful, creative flourish to them, and also make use of Market traders’ finest ingredients: a ‘new fashioned’ features spiced Creole Rhum, orange cream bitters and blood orange from Turnips, while a ‘smoky margarita’ combines tequila, triple sec, rum, pequin chilli and smoked salt (Spice Mountain). Beer-drinkers can knock back an Innis & Gunn or Coedo craft lager, both of which hail from Japan.
Other dishes I’d have liked to pile into stomach-space permitting included salt marsh lamb cutlet and belly from Rhug Farm, served with parsnips and capers; pressed winter roots with celeriac mousse, pumpkin seeds and sprout tops; or baked dover sole meunière—preferably followed by an old school, cosseting plate of rhubarb and custard.
Gazing out of the window and watching the buzz of Market life outside, all-in-all, it’s safe to conclude that Borough Plates is a great way to enjoy the best of the season’s produce—from market, to kitchen, to table.