The first day of the fourth month may well be associated with 'April Fools' but I'm sure you'll agree that when it comes to good food, it's no laughing matter! With this is mind, The Best Foodie Friend (BFF) and I were keen to accept an invitation to sample the culinary expertise of one half of the Dinewithi venture; a supper club and pop-up restaurant fronted by local chef, Tim Owen and marketer, Carlton Jefferis that has been tantalising the taste buds of Bristol's enthusiastic 'foodie' community; predominantly from gastronomical go-to, 40 Alfred Place...
Date and Time: Sunday 1st April 2012, 17:30
Name of Establishment: Dinewithi*
Location: Tim's Totterdown-based residence
Reason for Visit: A taster of the Dinewithi experience
With its name stemming from the notion of how a Bristolian might colloquially refer to the Channel 4 hit series; 'Come Dine with Me', Dinewithi aims to provide beautifully cooked and locally sourced fare which is both unfussy and flavoursome. Thus, an ambitious ethos to adhere to but, upon entering Tim's humble abode whereby the initial blast of fantastic food smells emanated from the kitchen, it become at once believable. Furthermore, sitting around a tastefully dressed table within an aesthetically pleasing and atmospherically lit dining room, we were invited towards an 'amuse bouche' of avocado hummous which, accented with sharp citrus notes and a touch of chilli, had been generously applied to crisp, oil-infused crostinis; a combination which amply refreshed the palate for the courses to come. Next up, a halved and unmistakably home-made scotch egg; rustically composed and altogether satisfying given its abundantly meaty filling whereby good-quality pork had been coupled with well-seasoned salami; yum! What's more, served alongside a dollop of wild garlic mayonnaise as well as a small mound of sweet and smoky caramelised onions, it's fair to say that the medley of contrasting tastes and textures here really packed a punch!
The main event constituted Confit of Duck which was beautifully executed; the meat all but falling off the bone. Accompanied with fluffy-middled duck-fat roasties and the bitter-sweet appeal of braised red cabbage, as well as a communal vessel of vichy carrots, (served al dente and therefore, just how I like them) and a dash of parsnip and parmesan purée, there was certainly a lot going on. That said, the elements had been thoughtfully arranged so to compliment each other within each mouthful. An apple and pear sauce, seasoned with fresh juniper completed the ensemble, along with a dousing of rather intense gravy – hence, this was perhaps not as 'unfussy' as initially proposed but in fact, certainly not to its detriment given that this really was a truly outstanding plate of food.
Before I move onto dessert, I feel that I must talk to you about the man behind what was currently shaping up to be an incredible dinner...Tim himself is quite a character, lending to the occasion his vibrant personality which is reflected somewhat in the no-nonsense approach to his cuisine. And, as the evening progressed and the wine (fuelled by a B.Y.O policy) continued to flow, we were treated to a repertoire of musical snippets which were strummed out upon Tim's acoustic guitar; an occurrence (ironically a little like the after-dinner entertainment commonplace within an episode of the aforementioned namesake) which even led to a little sporadic sing-song, (when we knew the words that is!) Thus, as a chef, we're definitely talking the sweary charm of Gordon Ramsay rather the doe-eyed innocence of Jamie Oliver but, nevertheless, this made for a fun, laid-back evening whereby Tim and his wife Theresa were both hospitable and fully integrated with the evening's proceedings.
And now, onto the eagerly anticipated dessert course which, at least on my part, would function as soothing relief for my chocoholic self! In Tim's words, we were to tell him if we ever found, “a better fucking chocolate cake anywhere else” - indeed, a rather assuming statement and yet, I have to say that the Piedmonte Chocolate Orange Moussecake that had been set before me, with its crown of Grand Marnier cream and the drizzled tang of an orange reduction, really was up there with the best I have ever tasted, (not that I would dare to inform Tim had this not been the case!) Yes, with its rich, gooey, truffle-like disposition; which had been offset against its coarsely-textured ground chestnut content, this was pudding-porn and then some...!
Overall, this was not an experience for the faint-hearted – it was raucous, boozy and, in my view, a lot of fun but, solely based upon the evening’s etiquette, (albeit lacking on this occasion), wouldn't necessarily be to everyone's taste...That said, a formal 'restaurant' setting would no doubt alter the ambience somewhat and there is no denying the quality of the cuisine which is quite simply fantastic; proving well-presented, appropriately portioned and above all, utterly delicious. Given that the next pop-up appearance of Dinewithi (scheduled for the 25th April 2012 at 40 Alfred Place and at only £25 a head) is set to be well-attended, you better get a move on if you want to bag a ticket – otherwise, you may find yourself in a similar predicament to Tim and Theresa's little cat who, for the duration of our meal watched us dine from beyond the reinforced glass of the patio doors...and no one wants that....!