Today I am writing about a new food destination in London and an original dining experience, called Stripped Back, by Ben Spalding.
Since leaving Roganic in April, Ben has worked in different kitchens, experimenting with food while also planning to open his own restaurant. In July he started Stripped Back at Broadway Market and, following its success, he has confirmed it will stay open long-term.
The concept of offering a seated dining experience at an outdoor market is unique in London. Match this original idea with the talent of a chef that has worked in several Michelin starred restaurants, and you can expect successful results!
At Stripped Back, Ben uses basic ingredients, such as tomatoes and basil, with more exotic and rare ones, such as mallow juice, ras el hanout or bronze fennel. The four-course meal provides the diners with a fulfilling and unique experience at a value price (£17.50) and with the added bonus of sitting in front of the chef, receiving a personal and attentive service.
The space is organised with four tables underneath a marquee; Ben and his team stand in the centre using one table to store the ingredients and a small camping gas stove. There is no refrigeration and, if cooking is required, it is done beforehand. From the moment you sit down, the preparation of the dishes is quick and everything is plated in front of you. The chef does his job stripped out of all the comforts of a real kitchen.
Eight diners can be seated (maybe ten if you are willing to squeeze) on a 'first come, first served' basis, so come early or be willing to wait. The lunch lasts about 30 minutes, so that's usually the longest you have to wait for. Totally worth it.
As soon as I heard about Stripped Back, I knew I wanted to go. However, finding a free Saturday lunch time in my diary proved to be hard! Either I was working with Olive Branch at a farmers market, or I was away in Rome or at Feast....there was always something coming in the way between me and Ben! :(
Then last Saturday I finally made it! A prior engagement got cancelled and, even though it SO was the perfect day to be at the lido, sun-bathing and lazing by the pool, I really didn't want to miss the chance to try Stripped Back! So I made the decision to face the journey from South West to East London (it wasn't that bad actually...) and the hoards of hipsters in Broadway Market (that awkward feeling of not being cool enough...).
And of course, I am glad I did. I loved the concept and its realisation, the food didn't disappoint and a lot of my Twitter friends turned out to be there as well, which meant I was in good company. Many of the friends I met on Saturday had already blogged about Stripped Back and were back for the second or third time (the menu is different every week). And although the nearby Broadway Market was over-crowded, the London Fields schoolyard where Stripped Back takes place wasn't, making it a small oasis of peace.
We started with a Henney's Apple & Elderflower Fizz drink and two types of delicious homemade bread (Malt, Yoghurt & Muesli loaf; Crusty Sourdough baguette) with Salty Jersey butter.
The four-course menu included:
1. Salad of English Vittoria Tomatoes and homemade Goat's Curd, Bronze Fennel, Bread Curls and Mango Juice.
I wish I knew where Ben got these tomatoes from! They were by far the best I have ever tasted in this country!
2. Cured and roasted Cod Flakes, dark Cauliflower Cream, Fried Bacon, Mallow Juice flavoured with Fig Leaves.
3. Hot Lamb Broth, Chorizo, Coriander, Beans Sprouts, Red Onion and Peas.
4. Sweetened Goat's Milk Yoghurt with toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Maple Syrup and Wild Blackberries.
The treat at the end was a spoon of Peanut Butter and Jam Fudge.