Pop-up

Baked in Brick @ Quarter Horse Coffee

I’ve been a fan of Baked in Brick since the very first events. If you had took heed of my words during his first pop-up (when I suggested that you keep a firm eye on the man and the mini) you’ll know that the fifteen months since that pop-up have been eventful for Mr BIB himself, Lee Desanges, as he took the title of the country’s Best Street Food last September. Not wanting to miss out on his cooking, I popped along to Quarter Horse to check out the latest of his pop-up evenings, where he was showcasing the oven and grill on that red Mini of his to maximum effect.

IMG_9025

The amouse we are served is a direct nod to that Street Food Finals victory. The winning beef shin calzone is represented as a tangle of the meat on a little disc of sourdough, all topped with a little stilton. It’s decadent and deep. It’s also very obvious why it took first place. Sharing the plate was a little chicken tikka and mango chutney; another nod to the wrap that was entered into the Best Dish category. I happen to think the wrap is as good as the calzone and judging by the reaction on the table I was not alone.

IMG_9023

Wild mushrooms on sourdough toast is an exercise in the virtues of simplicity. The muddle of mushrooms are rich and earthy, enlivened with the aniseed whack of tarragon and a smattering of rarebit for comfort.  The sourdough is well sourced from a bakery in Codsall and has a little chew. A slow cooked quails yolk is all the sauce it needs. It’s absolutely glorious. I will get him to make me breakfast one day (possibly post-coital. Probably not) and this is what I will insist on.

IMG_9024

Shit. Jesusfuckingchrist. Not my words, but that of a fellow diner I had not met before as she bit into the steak sandwich. Her reaction was not overstated, the spider steak was rare but still had a little chew. The flavour deeply bovine. It was nestled on a cushion of dauphinoise potatoes with a little Iberico bacon and a splodge of béarnaise sauce.  It is the ultimate steak sandwich, a clear warning shot to the steak houses of the city that he means business should he ever wish to find a permanent venue.  A heritage tomato salad with a little burrata and dehydrated olive is all the respite we require.  Seconds of the beef are offered with more béarnaise.  Everyone in the room takes them.

IMG_9027

I’ll forgo the menu description of the dessert for copyright infringement, though you may know it as the French term ‘doissant’ – a hybrid of the donut and croissant.  Here it is given the full twist, piped with a vanilla crème patisserie, rolled in light brown sugar and brulee’d with the blowtorch.  It’s filth.  Total utter filth.  I didn’t know whether to make love to it or eat it.  That’s a lie.  I knew exactly what to do.  Seconds are offered.  Everyone in the room takes them.

If you are not inclined to listen to my opinion, let me tell you about the dining room for this pop-up.  Chef’s of serious pedigree, restaurateurs, major industry players, all paying to eat food cooked on the front of a mini.  It’s astounding when you put that into perspective.  They all know what I know, which is Lee’s cooking is up there with the best – he just happens to be doing it on the move, not from a permanent residence.  The man I once said was going places has truly arrived.  And only an idiot would miss out on it.

And now the plug; I am up for Best Food Blog at the forthcoming MFDH Awards, where Baked in Brick is up for Best Street Food.  Please give us both a vote here http://www.mfdhawards.co.uk/vote-now/

Baked in Brick at Hare & Hounds, Kings Heath

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.

004

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.

005

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.