And when this happy dozen were all sat down together we were officially informed that tonight we were guinea pigs and I can assure you that everyone there was very excited to hear this. We were at Sugar & Nice in Inglewood to preview a collaboration between their uber talented team and pastry chef young gun Brendan Owen – it was time to get sweet and enjoy a dessert degustation. Six courses – bring it on!
There is something really exciting about the chance to be in the debut group to give a new idea a test run. You get to experience the creativity of the chefs and provide feedback on any slight adjustments that would enhance the experience, though I doubted any would be required. I felt very fortunate to have found my way to this table.
‘Back to childhood’ was the introduction we were given to the first course and two small shot glasses arrived and mystery abounded as to what childhood memories had been captured within. Starting with the powder I carefully tapped the side of the glass hoping a little would elegantly cascade into my mouth. I tapped a little too hard and ended up with a face full of this amazing Nutella powder. It was a learning curve and as I tided myself up I decided I would use my spoon from that point forward. It did taste lovely, the powder just melted in your mouth! The next glass was a creative take on peanut butter and jelly and as your spoon worked its way through the layers you could taste the sweet strawberry and then the creamy peanuts. Unique, creative and delicious and everyone was all the more excited about the courses ahead.
Anyone for apple pie? A perpetual crowd pleaser of a dessert, the spin on this course was that apple pie ice cream had been scooped to fill a perfectly fresh donut, then milk crumbles had been scattered over the top. That donut was epic, so wonderfully light and despite initial expectations that this dessert would sway on the much sweeter side it was very well balanced and the ice cream actually provided a very refreshing finish. Sublime. I’d take a dozen please.
It was time for chocolate to make an appearance next and we were encouraged to come up to the counter where the dishes were being assembled to witness the magic. I enjoyed that interactive element of the experience and getting to see the chefs in action as all the components were expertly arranged on the plates. It was quite lyrical to watch the team all working together to make their creations come alive.
This dish was a deconstructed Twix. Twix often makes me think of Seinfeld and when George is outraged that someone ate his Twix and there’s much discussion about how it is the only chocolate bar with that cookie crunch. And that crunch was not far away in this dessert either. There were heavenly caramel ice-cream quenelles with just the right amount of salt, there was chocolate mousse in artistic squiggles, crunchy honeycomb and the hidden addition was a slight dash of miso. But would miso work in a dessert? It surely did. It was subtle when combined with all those other flavours, but punchy at the same time, you definitely knew it was there. There was an intense saltiness, but as the talented chefs had not been heavy handed, so it was perfectly balanced and cleverly countered some of the sweetness from all that chocolate action.
Time for a change of gears next and the focus switched to cheese. Not just any cheese though and not served with any old cracker, but the heavenly Brillat-Savarin, an epic triple cream brie, which was served with palmiers and fizzy fresh fruit. I love cheese and anything with a triple cream tag is always going to rate highly because it is so decadent and there is a real indulgence to just how creamy it is. The palmiers made for a really interesting cracker too, melt in your mouth flakey, with a little sweetness from a sprinkling of sugar, it was divine.
Now chocolate came roaring back with a vengeance for course five and again creativity was the fore. Stacked on our plates was a piece of waffle, another expertly quenelled scoop of super rich dark chocolate gelato, topped with a piece of candied chicken skin and then drizzled with maple syrup. Yep. It was a bold flavour combo, but they went there. Let’s push the dessert boundaries with a little chicken skin, why not. And with it candied it added some sweet and salty crunch and was a really interesting addition. The waffle was perfectly cooked and tasted delicious, but for me I found the chocolate icecream just a touch too intense and it sort of overtook the other flavours. I liked where they were going with it though.
Our final course aimed to leave our palettes feeling fruity and refreshed. It was an ode to the Jaffa so there was mandarin sorbet with an Oreo crumb and some chocolate Persian fairy floss. It was a dish that looked delicate in appearance with the sprinkling of cookie crumbs and wisps of cotton candy, but bam bam bam it was a flavour hit. That mandarin sorbet had such an amazing depth of citrusy flavour captured within that scoop, it was delicious! And it made for a really punchy end to proceedings.
What a night! The dishes had been beautifully presented and the flavours were balanced and well considered. Nothing had been too sweet or two heavy so the six courses was totally manageable. For a debut event they had their timing down like a pair of old hats and the night ran so smoothly. Keep and eye on the Sugar & Nice Facebook page for details of their next dessert degustation event and book in quickly because I am sure they’ll be in hot demand!