I was recently contacted by Zomato about contributing on their website – a restaurant discovery platform. I’d never heard of them before, but met someone from their team to find out about them, and came away impressed by what they do: Zomato provides a simple website and mobile app, which is free to download and use, allowing users to search a database of restaurants to see the menu, venue, and discover user generated reviews and ratings.
I was even more impressed when Zomato invited me to a blogger event at Ink restaurant in Bethnal Green the week after – a chance for me and several other bloggers to have a sneak preview of Ink’s new seven course taster menu. I took a brief look at Ink’s restaurant and liked what I saw (maybe a few more swirls, foams and smears than I am used to), so was keen to accept the invitation, and also have the chance to meet fellow bloggers (it’s not all about the free meal for me!).
The restaurant itself is not that easy to find, tucked in a residential complex near Bethnal Green, but I received handy instructions from Zomato about how to get there. Unfortunately I am extremely geographically challenged and have no sense of direction, so I did end up going a bit off-road (clambering up an embankment next to the canal) but eventually made it (slightly sweatier than I intended, but a nice glass of prosecco on the terrace helped me to cool down).
I was delighted to meet some fellow food bloggers and share experiences with them (and I have added links to their blogs at the bottom of this post so that you can explore their sites too), and the team from Zomato were lovely, so we started our meal with a great atmosphere (the restaurant had been closed for our private party, which made us feel special). We were introduced to the team behind Ink, including Lithuanian chef Martyn Meid who explained the background to each course as it was served, and then we started our feast.
Martyn explained that the bread was a very traditional Nordic recipe – a plain, slightly crispy flatbread which is served without butter. It came balanced on two large radishes, which had been stuffed with bone marrow. I loved the bread – it reminded me of my favourite matzo crackers, although this bread was softer. The salty, meaty flavour of the bone marrow in the radishes was lovely, but it left a greasy coating in my mouth afterwards which I wasn’t quite so fond of.
Scallops are one of my favourite things in the world, and I am used to seeing them served with pea puree, which I adore. I wasn’t convinced I would appreciate the peach puree with the scallop, but it was utterly delicious. The delicate flavour of the peach enhanced the sweetness of the scallop, and my huge scallop was beautifully caramelised – a flavour which was echoed in the burnt onion part of the dish.
This coral chunk of lobster tail was accompanied by cucumber jelly, cucumber granita and a slice of cucumber (proverbially cool), along with edible flowers and herbs. The colours on the plate were beautiful, but I found the intense sea-salt flavour of the lobster too strong – it reminded me of the smell of where the fishermen land their catch on the seafront. The cucumber did a good job of diluting that strong flavour, but it still wasn’t my favourite dish (not that that stopped me from cleaning the plate!).
This dish was one of my favourites, and it also provided a first: a meal served on a (very large) pane of glass. Clearly Chef Mead had not considered how difficult this would make it for all of us bloggers to take a picture of our meal (de rigeur for a roomful of bloggers!), but we struggled to take our pictures, and then dived in.
I would not choose a pea pannacotta from a menu, but it was sublime: with a texture as soft as a feather and an intense fresh pea flavour, the richness was complemented by the sharp citrus sauce made from a lemon and quail’s egg emulsion. It was served with more edible flowers and spheres of new potato. Beautiful, especially with the crisp sauvignon.
Chef Mead explained that the celeriac butter puree was actually made of 70% butter, 20% celeriac and 10% garlic, and it was – unsurprisingly – incredibly rich and buttery. But there was just the right amount of it to pair with the meaty monk fish (although to be honest I could have tucked into a bowl of the stuff). Thin slices of carrots and parsnips topped the fish, along with juicy raisins and (more) butter drizzled on the plate. It was delicious, and rich, so at this point I was starting to feel a little full. Luckily we were then served with a palate cleanser: Japanese beer sorbet.
Next we moved on to the only meat dish of the evening: pink and tender slices of roasted goose breast, with caramelised hazelnuts and popcorn. The gravy served with the goose was sticky and meaty, and if I hadn’t already eaten so much I would have loved some bread to mop it up with. The nuts were crunchy and sweet, but the popcorn didn’t really do much for me, although it was quite funny to see it there on the plate.
Finally the piece de resistance – chocolate pudding. I have heard of chocolate mousse made with avocado before, but the idea of it has always turned my stomach. I was wrong. The mousse was delicious and creamy, but also very light. It was piped on top of an intensely flavoured (and gluten free) chocolate cake. The texture of the cake reminded me of the crunchy, chewy outside of a chocolate brownie, and it was perfect to accompany the creamy mousse.
Chef Mead explained that the chocolate was made in-house, and the dessert had only a small amount of sugar and fat, making it a relatively healthy chocolate dessert. It didn’t taste healthy though – it tastes indulgent, and was the perfect dish to end a lovely night. The pudding wine served with it was also gorgeous, and I might just have to treat myself to a bottle of it.
It’s a real shame that Ink isn’t easier for me to get to, as this menu is worth returning for. In fact, it is called the 72 hour tasting menu because you need to give the restaurant 72 hours notice of your likes and dislikes and they will design a tasting menu for you and your party, which will cost £72 per person, including wine pairings, which in my opinion represents great value for money. I’d love to go back some time, especially as now I know where to find the restaurant! If you do go, make sure you ask Ink for directions from the tube station!
You can see my restaurant reviews on Zomato by visiting my profile here. And you can view the websites of the bloggers I met below: