Just the night before Boris Johnson’s launch of Plan B against Covid, I had my first supper club experience in London hosted by be.llong. Chef Long is a well-known young and creative female Taiwanese chef amongst the Taiwanese community in London. I bought my ticket as soon as they were released online and it proved to be the right move as the tickets sold out within a few hours.
The supper club was held in Benk&Bo near Aldgate. A truly arty space hidden behind skyscrapers in the heart of London. In the basement, there is a professional kitchen and a dining area that can sit around 20 people. When I arrived (fashionably 10 minutes late), the room was buzzing with laughers and chit-chatting, the cosy candlelight and the elegantly arranged flowers on each table were inviting and charming. Great first impression.
I sat down with my friend and two other ‘table mates of the night, two young Hong Kong professionals work in London, one is a lawyer and the other one is a web designer.
The welcome drink was pretty smart and delicious: honey and elderflower flavoured Taiwan beer mixed with green tea. As we could bring our own wine, I brought a bottle of Vènt Trento Doc Extra Brut 2017: a bottle of sparkling wine with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, aged for over 36 months on the lees made by Cantina di Toblino in Northern Italy. I have to say it was a great choice for the night – the wine was elegant and dry, with fine bubbles and appetising lemon curd, peach note and creamy texture, paired well with the creative Taiwanese dishes that we had.
The starter was a triple-cooked daikon radish cake. In Taiwan, we eat radish cake so often. In older times, it was an essential part of the Chinese New Year dishes which were believed to bring good fortune, but nowadays, we have it for breakfast or any meal of the day. We Taiwanese love savoury food for breakfast! But this radish cake was beautifully made, a substantial square cube which was crispy outside and soft inside. Topped with the Taiwanese style dried anchovies and the smoke mayo, saltness, sweetness plus the umami notes were so well balanced.
The next appetiser was also sophisticatedly presented. Popiah (薄餅/潤餅/spring roll or Taiwanese crepe if you prefer) is a type of spring roll that is traditionally served in early April around the Tomb Sweeping Festival. The pastry is white, thin and soft, we can choose what to put inside, for example, all sorts of shredded vegetables, plus thinly cut pork or other meats. The essential part of the wrap is the peanut powder sprinkle and corianders. Chef Long did just that but in a more sophisticated way. She layered the fried pork chop, Hispo cabbage, burnt leek, pickled daikon, coriander, peanut powder on top of each other and we wrapped it up ourselves. The roll was small enough to eat in 2 bites but was packed with multiple flavours.
Peppercorn prawns came next. Once again, it was a great combination of sweetness vs savoury and a tiny bit of spicy note from the peppercorn. Great flavour but let down a bit by the texture of the tiger prawn as it seemed to be on the soft and creamy side, rather than what I was expected – ie the crunchiness from super fresh tiger prawns that we so luckily have in Taiwan.
Next up, the main course. Grilled chicken leg with sesame oil rice paired with rice wine soup. A hearty but healthy dish reminded me of what we would normally have in my grandmum’s house for a casual dinner on cold days. Though nothing fancy, this was a dish brought on pure nostalgia.
Then the grand finale, the dessert that brought me back immediately to the Taiwanese night market where we could enjoy a bowl of shredded ice with various sweet treats to choose from. Chef Long made a different interpretation of this. An elegant bowl of grass jelly, sweet potato tapioca ball (dango), mung bean gelato and dressed with muscovado syrup. What a remarkable finish!
The night was filled with good food, a good vibe, banters, lovely wine and great company, we had such a good chat with our new friends; people from Taiwan and Hong Kong tend to have a lot to talk about!
Thank you the be.llong team!