A few months ago, I received an email about the one month Masterchef Pop-up Restaurant and Bar happening in London. Basically, several Masterchef winners and contestants were going to be cooking food every week over the course of a month (Mostly October 2014). Each week was featuring different chefs, and Tom and I decided to go and check it out. We do watch pretty much every iteration of Masterchef in the UK (some of the ones in other countries are a bit over-dramatic), so I chose a group of chefs that I remembered being really good: The 2012 winner (Tim) and runner-ups (Sara and Tom). I also opted to get the tasting menu that consisted of two courses from each of them.
So we arrived. The venue was the 10th and 11th floor of the Blue Fin Building near the Tate Modern. The bar was on an outside terrace with a few drink selections available. We started with Bloody Marys, but unfortunately, they were a bit lack-luster and the celery was a bit wilted. We also had some Pimms and I had a G&T. They drinks were okay, but nothing great. Also because the terrace is outside on the 10th floor, it got quite cold quite quickly, and it soon became obvious we weren’t dressed well enough. We tried to see if there was an indoor bar in the restaurant, but we were turned away. Luckily, they told us about some indoor seating someplace, so we got a drink to bring there where we could be slightly warmer.
At 7:30 we could get seated, and they presented us with a complimentary glass of champagne which was a nice touch. We were told that there’s an open kitchen area were we could look into the kitchen, so we decided to take a look before dinner. We did get to see a glimpse of Sara and Tom working, but Tim seemed to be missing that night. The venue itself is quite simple, but they did try a bit to make it a bit nicer than just a standard cafeteria-style area. We ordered some wine to go with the first two courses (champagne) and settled in for our meal.
We opted to get a bottle of champagne to go with the starters. They were serving Laurent Perrier, and while it’s not the best champagne available, it is always tasty and enjoyable. The first starter was a confit salmon with micro greens and lemon. And the flavor was really nice, but the salmon was a bit overcooked. The second starter was rabbit. And the rabbit was probably the best course. The tureen is really delicious, and I really enjoyed it, so with the first two courses down, I was really looking forward to what else there was to come. Although the fish was overcooked, the flavors seemed nice. We also managed to get quite a few bread refills. There was a white roll and a rye roll. Both were really great. Apparently other tables were offered a rosemary potato roll, but I think those ran out quite early on.
We now switched to a barolo for the mains. The wine was quite nice, so we were happy about that. The first main was fish again, and unfortunately, it was quite disappointing. The broth it was served in was really tasty, but the fish itself was incredibly overcooked. The mussel that came with it was also really terrible. The only saving grace was that the scallop was cooked well, but overall the course really lacked quite a bit. The fourth course of pork belly was tasty, but again wasn’t amazing.
For dessert, we got a half-bottle of the Tokaji. Again the wine was really tasty, but the two desserts were a bit disappointing. The first one of mango and passionfruit with candied olives isn’t an original flavor combination for me (we had something similar last year at Pollen Street Social), but the red sorbet it was served with was really tasty. The S’mores was also really disappointing. I was hoping for something really gooey and delicious, but it was just kind of boring. Since Tim is an American, I was hoping he’d get this course right, but it really wasn’t very exciting. The gold popping candy that came with it was really good though.
The service was a bit spotty as well. Even though our server Amber was really nice, she didn’t seem to know what she was doing. Even though she claimed we were her top priority table, it really didn’t feel that way. We also talked to one of the organizers of the event when she came by our table and when we were leaving. She asked us how it was, and given how much wine I had been drinking, I wasn’t shy in telling her that it was quite disappointing. The food was nice, but not great, and the execution of the dishes was really lacking as several courses were overcooked. Given there were 100+ diners there for tasting menus, it’s clear that it was just too many people to handle. Maybe a lot of them aren’t experienced with that kind of food, but I was expecting a lot more. So when we were asked if we’d come back if they did it again, I had to tell them no. That I enjoyed the experience of having food cooked by Masterchef contestants, but the execution and the set-up really let them down. It’s all a learning experience I’m sure, and maybe they can improve, but for £65 a head, there are far better places in London I could be eating dinner.
So overall the experience was interesting. I’m glad I went to try something new and experience some previous Masterchef contestants’ food. (Although the meal we had in Cornwall at a restaurant of another contestant was far superior to this.) I can’t say it was the best food I’ve had, but it was fun. So, for me it was a definite three star experience. I hope that they manage to improve things over the next few weeks, and maybe it will improve quite a bit if they decide to do it again.