fernandez and leluu
Ever since our first supper club experience at the Loft Project we had been wanting to try one of the more laid-back venues on the scene (i.e. didn’t cost £100 or have a professional chef at the helm). We set our sights on Fernandez and Leluu, which despite only starting in October 2009, has gained quite a following and their fortnightly dinners are frequently booked up months in advance. We were thrilled to finally secure a place (after a false start a month ago), and arrived at host Uyen’s East London flat on the designated day, bottles in hand (it’s BYO).
After shedding our coats we found our seats and started introducing ourselves to our dining companions for the evening. We were all deep in conversation when the first offering from the kitchen arrived – Rice Pasta with Pork Scratchings, Vietnamese Salami (Lac Xung), Coriander, Grated Egg and Sweet Soy Sauce. It was an unusual assembly of ingredients but the general consensus around the table was that is was a successful, and delicious one. I particularly liked the contrast of the thick ribbons of soft rice pasta against the crunchy scratchings and chewy sweet salami bits.
Next was a grilled Miso Aubergine , served with a scattering of spring onions. This is a dish I usually order with rice at Japanese restaurants, as the miso glaze is such an intense hit of sweet and salty it needs a neutral buffer. F&L’s version however had a thinner, much lighter glaze, making it perfectly suitable served alone – the creamy aubergine flesh being enough to mellow the deep flavours.
The plate of Summer Rolls and Chicken, Carrot and Coriander Salad served with a side of Prawn Crackers, was a real crowd-pleaser with almost everyone declaring the refreshing salad as their favourite dish of the evening (Meggie on our table labeled it as her dream packed lunch). Equally enjoyable were the pliable rolls of omelette, prawns, shredded pork skin, barbecue pork, mint, sweet basil and cured Vietnamese ham , served with a tangy fish dipping sauce.
Perhaps the most unconventional dish of the evening was the Salmon Sashimi and Chips with Wasabi Mayonnaise – a surprising twist on fish and chips. The soy-drizzled sashimi was fresh and laced with ample fat, and the chips were so good (ideal crisp to fluff ratio) that we decided there must have been a deep-fat fryer in the kitchen upstairs. Having said that, I’m not too sure if the inventive combo worked as a whole, with the handful of pickled shallots on the plate particularly superfluous.
After all the snacky selections, a warming bowl of Won Ton Noodle Soup really hit the spot. Like all the other dishes it came as a portion to share between two and I had to fight the urge to polish the lot off! The dumplings were meaty and juicy – lovely with the delicate broth and springy egg noodles.
The servings were all pretty generous so I was pretty content by the time the Caramelised and Braised Coconut Pork Belly and Quails Egg dish was brought out. Although tasty, it was a touch sweet for my taste and the pork belly wasn’t as tender as it could be. Also the rice that came with it wasn’t soft and fluffy – it wasn’t inedible by any means, but had an odd, slightly hard texture. Uyen was aware of this and was actually quite frustrated about it – there had been a bit of a mishap with the rice cooker and the rice hadn’t cooked evenly. I assured her that no one except us seemed to have noticed (we Asians are all exacting when it comes to rice!)
The pudding of Coconut and Lime Pannacotta with Mango Jelly was an ideal end to the feast – a good balance of sweet and tart, with a zesty lift from the lime and mint. I did miss my usual end-of-the-meal tea or coffee, but I imagine that navigating hot beverage orders for that many (there must have been at least 30 in the small front room) would be a tall order.
At around 11pm Uyen and Simon wandered down from the kitchen to relax and mingle with the diners. They were both charming and Simon spoke at length about how the supper club has allowed him to work with some amazing ingredients, and not only indulge his passion for cooking but also meet some great people.
We really had a fun time at Fernandez & Leluu – apart from the food, there’s a wonderfully chilled but friendly vibe to the evening (it helped that we were sat with some very lovely guests). It’s a shame I was so preoccupied with taking photos of the food I neglected to capture the atmosphere and surroundings on film. Luckily you’ll find plenty of pictures of past supper clubs, as well as Simon and Uyen themselves, on their website.
Fernandez and Leluu