I don’t usually write about pop-ups, it seems a pointless task. After all, what is the point of me sharing an opinion if you are unable to visit on your own accord? Don’t get me wrong, I love a good pop-up, as my girlfriend will testify (sorry, I was unable to turn down such blatant innuendo), but for the purposes of this blog I will always tend to stick to those inbedded in their own bricks and mortar. One off events are great fun but of little use to anyone other than the ticket holder.
I will, however, try to justify these six hundred or so words. Birmingham is the capital of street food, with the very best vendors now branching out to permanent premises all over the city after years of perfecting their craft. The brilliance of Original Patty Men are soon to be joined to be at least two other street food vendors who fancy a crack at a full time restaurant. Judging by the food I ate three weeks ago at the Hare & Hounds, it would be of little surprise if Baked in Brick was the next to join them.
Baked in Baked is the latest project of Lee Desanges, a chef who saw the opportunity to get in on the street food act, taking a shiny red mini cooper and sticking a grill under the bonnet and a pizza oven at the back. He understands the importance of theatre from stints in some of the cities top kitchens, which works wonders at outside events where it is possible to view bit of scorched chicken tikka on the front of the car. But here the mini is tucked firmly away in the pubs garage and I am sat in a gloomy back room lit with neon lights, awaiting three courses that I have paid twenty quid upfront for.
The food speaks of an experienced hand, classically trained and with an eye for big flavours. A mini calzone starts, the dough with the heat prints only a properly hot oven provides. The ragu inside is all comfort and warmth, with thick strands of long braised beef shin and teeny wild mushrooms. Two more of these would make my perfect three course dinner.
Planks of wood are held aloft like sedans and are carried into the dining, each carrying a row of poussin, unrecognisable in their salt crusts. The crusts are a clever way of introducing theatre back into what is essentially a roast dinner. The baby chicken is tender, with delicate flavour. There is creamy mash and green beans with bite, though it is the humble carrot which would steal the show. The veg has been marinated and sous-vied, before being finished off on the grill at the front of the vehicle. Lee would later tell me that it took three days to get the carrots to that level. It was worth every second. It is that intrinsic level of detail which takes supposed street food to an entirely different level.
Dessert is a baked apple with punchy calvados cream and honeycomb. Its a dessert for adults who never wanted to grow-up. I love it. And with that we leave, all agreeing that the twenty quid was a bargain for what we ate. The evening has served its point, to create interest and to show what he is capable of. And all of this from the two ends of a mini; a grill and an oven. So for once, no recommendations, no restaurant for you to visit and no score. Just a solid piece of advice; hunt him down, try the food and keep a firm eye on him. The man, the mini and the food are going places.