I’m fascinated by the idea of flavour: of playing with flavour, and playing with people’s expectations of flavour. I had long had an idea of deconstructing people’s preconceptions of a tea party, and last year I took the opportunity to do that. Just before Christmas, in the secret walled garden nestled behind Fish Shop in Dublin 7, I hosted an intimate afternoon tea party. I wanted to play around with the idea of afternoon tea and use it as a framework within which to explore the spectrum of savoury through to sweet, rather than regarding them as a binary. I wanted to push the limits of cake, playfully, to expand people’s palates and view of flavour. So rather than starting with finger sandwiches and quiche, the ‘savoury’ aspect of my afternoon tea incorporated cake, but I balanced the sweetness with savoury elements.
I felt a perfect place to start with this was soda bread – an Irish staple, yet actually far more akin to cake than bread. I decided to intensify its ‘cakeyness’ by making it with ancient grains, nutty and toothsome, studding it with bitter 80% dark chocolate and spreading it with a bitter chocolate ganache. I added cherries that had been soaked in cognac and star anise until plump and boozy, in turn lending their dark juices to the cognac which I then reduced right down to a thick sweet parenthesis of syrup, the star anise lacing it with notes of aniseed. It was then topped with a pan-seared slice of intensely rich foie gras; the bitter punctuation of dark chocolate and the sweetness of the cherries lifting it off the palate.
Every aspect was inspired by an Irish tradition, but in an unexpected, cheeky form. Imagine the taste of Christmas ham in biscuit form, the concentrated saltiness of dehydrated bacon, piquant against the clove-spiced gentle sweetness of the honey laced biscuit. Or the cloying chalkiness of raw milk goat’s cheese stridently leading and beckoning notes of bitter coffee to follow, balanced with sweetness from nettle syrup and juxtaposed by dense, moist espresso cake.
Here is the full menu:
Redbreast 12 cocktail : Pear juice, Long Pepper and Star Anise
Bertha’s Revenge Milk Gin Cocktail : Quince Juice, Cardamom Bitters, and Fig Garnish
Savoury / Sweet:
Whipped St. Tola Goats Cheese, Ash, Espresso Cake, Nettle Syrup
Irish Honey & Clove Spiced Cookies with Jack McCarthy’s Bacon Dust
Lemon & Black Pepper Cake, Smoked Salmon, Yuzu Marinated Cucumber Dice
80% Dark Chocolate Soda Bread, Bitter Chocolate Ganache, Foie Gras, Dark Cherry,
Star Anise, Cognac Reduction
Fig Scones, House-Churned Brandy Butter, Clementine Marmalade, Sea Salt Caramel
Jasmine Green Tea
Dark Chocolate, Coconut & Tonka Bean Granola, Buffalo Yoghurt
Cakes & Sweets:
Gingerbread Cake, Jameson Whiskey, Dates, Pecans, Cinder Toffee, Whipped Mascarpone
Winter Citrus Cake, Lemon Curd, Italian Meringue Buttercream, Pomegranate Martini Pipette
Spiced Clementine & Earl Grey Cake With Whipped Ricotta
70% Dark Chocolate, Sea Salt Caramel Triangles with Tonka Bean Ganache
Preserved Plum Cake, Ancient Grain, Star Anise, Long Pepper
“Milk & Cookies” : Dark Chocolate, Cayenne & Smoked Sea Salt Cookie With A Glass of Raw Milk Laced With Laphroaig 10
With many thanks to Peter & Jumoke at Fish Shop for letting me use their gorgeous space and kitchen, Rincy Koshy for photography, Claire & Patsie at The Informal Florist for greenery and props, Karen & Natalie Keane, and, always, my magical wingwoman Nadia.