When I caught wind of the latest food based pop up by the Superette gang I knew I wanted in, and secured a reservation sharpish despite having next to no idea what it pertained of, I found myself intrigued by references alluding to cuban cigars and a unique location. I missed their first offering but went to, ate, enjoyed and wrote about their second; a gloriously, unashamedly retro and blinging burger pop up. Just days ago, I was emailed the secret location and password. The menu went live on their website. Exciting.
The day arrived looking like a pretty spectacular sunny February Sunday, all blue skies and flattering sunlight. At five minutes before the designated ‘start’ I found myself, along with a group of friends, peering into the window of what looked like a small antique shop. With no sign of life within we worried fleetingly if it was an elaborate hoax to leave us stranded in far North East London, and if it wasn’t then how many covers the small shop could possibly seat. Fears were quashed when the door opened shortly after noon and we were ushered through the front door, past a clip board bearer (who mercifully failed to make us utter the password “oink oink”).
Walking single file through the presumed shop, we pass through an antique strewn white washed room, then a kitchen galley, and emerge into a walkway that seems to lead outside and back into the sunlight. Passing a large dining room to the right, the walkway suddenly opens up and I fail to suppress a gasp as we emerge into the most stunning high ceilinged courtyard, or warehouse of sorts, it’s finished welcomely with a glass roof. Bare brick walls are home to an eclectic mix of leather sofas, chairs and other desireable antiques masquerading as furniture; see the foosball table and travel chests as tables. In fact the kind of odd and giant furniture I have (or want) at home but on a far grander scale; a mirror in the dining room is epic, there’s giant, glamourous flashbulb lit stars dotted randomly (obviously LOVE). The showstopper however is the bar anointed, just that in case you weren’t sure, with giant gilt letters telling you so, adorned with more flashbulbs. Shards of sunlight pouring through the roof add to the drama and industrial sized spotlights emit megawatt warmth that encourage lingering, as do the bottles and bottles of booze…I actually want to live here!
I’m not surprised to discover that on googling the venue later that evening, Castle Gilbert is a group of five premises designed to be used as sets, they also sell the antiques and props, and this ‘Ruby House’ is their latest acquisition, a five story Victorian townhouse that used to be a restaurant, the large warehouse space at the back is part of what used to be their MC Motors location
But we’re here for Sunday lunch so I tear myself away from the beautiful ‘set’ and into the equally stunning dining room where the theme is gorgeously fading, decaying elegance; distressed woodwork and white washed walls are the stage for mismatched wooden tables and chairs of varying periods, the effect is evocative and whimsical and I’m loving every second so far. Taking our pews, it’s far from warm but the anticipation is exhilerating, the Superette pigs head logo gazes out at us from placemats eerily, as if communicating from his grave. A string tied, brown paper wrapped, mystery parcel unwrapps to reveal delicious chunks of sourdough bread which is heavenly dipped into bowls of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Is it wrong that I crave some butter?
Ordering starters is simple; soup (boring), salmon (gin cured! But clearly not for me due to fish content), or pigs head terrine? Clearly pigs head is the winner, with confit shallot, pickles and sourdough. What arrives is certainly hearty; satisfying chunks of pig deliver a myriad of textures but not so many flavours, I find it slightly lacking in the seasoning it needs for a bit of punch, cornichons add much needed piquancy but I’m saddended that the long slice of white bread is not the advertised sourdough but sliced from a rather powdery loaf, it’s inadiquacy highlightd by the superior package of bread beside my plate.
Mains I find harder to choose, my head says pork (I have been reliably informed it comes from pigs that have been living in a veritable ‘piggy Hilton’) and the spooky logo seems to echo my thoughts, but my heart will always go for beef and yorkshire puds for a roast. My dining companion and I come to a compromise; I order beef (Hewitt’s farm rare breed rib of beef, roasties, red cabbage, cauliflower, yorkie and gravy), he orders pork (Garnett’s farm slow roast pork belly, roasties, chantenay carrots, apple sauce and gravy) and we promise to swap a tiny portion so we get a taste of each, perfect. Anticipation mounts as picturesque plates glide past and onto other diners, and I’ll admit when my roast is served it certainly looked the part, however it wasn’t without fault.
The poor roast potatoes (a perfectly roasted potato; crisp and golden on the outside whilst light and fluffy inside is a highlight, a joy to behold, and surely an integral part of any good roast) had suffered in the battle for an elegant plate. Whilst a plate piled attractively may look impressive, it does mean that certain elements are smothered, as my spuds were, under a mountain of meat. What might have been crispy specimens once had been rendered soggy by the time I’d dug them out of their edible grave. The beef was good and plentiful if a little overdone for me personally, but a taste of my companions pork made me doubt my heart, as the small morsel of meat, unctuous with thick rows of fat, a shard of crackling and tangy apple sauce, melted tantelisingly in my mouth.
Feeling full, my appetite is suddenly revived by the brownie that appears next to me on the next table. Food envy is a dangerous thing and my jealous streak quickly enables a sweet, second stomach; not to be greedy we agree to share. The chocolate brownie is easily large enough for two and even if not in size then it’s certainly rich enough. It is a near perfect specimen; dark, dense and fudgy with a shiny crisp crust, it’s studded with white chocolate chunks and topped with decadent clotted cream. Heavenly.
We’ve not been too speedy in our eating and as they have three services to complete there’s plenty of clearing and re-setting around us but at no point do the lovely staff rush us. We settle our bill and wander back into the communal bar area in order to linger in the rather romantic setting, if it wasn’t so far from payday it would be all too easy to sink into one of the leather recliners and drink the rest of the day away….