Patrón Secret Dining SocietyCultureFood & DrinksRestaurant & bar reviews
The Patrón Secret Dining Society is aptly named; unless you’re a social media fanatic with a taste for unique events, chances are you’ve only heard of it in whispers. This latest installment, hosted in a modified Dalston mechanics’ shop, is about as secretive as they come. The aim? To highlight and promote Patrón in all its forms, whilst also showcasing the brand’s excellent ethics. Tequila has something of a mixed reputation, so seeing a premium brand working hard to showcase its potential is always refreshing.
For the first London dining event, Douglas McMasters, chef of the world’s first zero waste restaurant Silo is providing the food, whilst Iain Griffiths of Mr Lyan and Dandelyan fame is pairing each dish with a Patrón-based cocktail.
The first course is a simple sourdough and butter, which is perfectly nice but not exactly blowing anyone’s mind. Maybe they want to ease us in, because the rest of the menu looks fairly out there. It is, however, paired with a truly beautiful Bloody Mary that’s almost more akin to an alcoholic consomme than it is a cocktail. Perfectly pale and clear, it’s infused with a heady kick of heat, and all those delicious sweet and umami notes that we love about tomatoes: it’s a simple but accomplished bit of mixology. The drink that follows is made from corked wine treated more like a sherry, and flavoured with apple and pine. This one is a little less successful, much heavier on the nose and so powerful that the tequila provides an alcoholic burn and not much more.
Next is McMaster’s offering from wastED, with a few tweaks. Carrots have been baked in a lemon compost and are topped with buffalo milk curds and a sauce made from reduced milk. It’s a remarkable little dish in and of itself, even ignoring the wider messages it has about waste. The innate sweetness of the milk, the carrots and the curds harmonise beautifully, as well as doing remarkable things to the fruit. The citric depth of lemon is so often lost, used simply as a sharp cleanser that cuts through rich flavours, but here it’s able to go about its work much more quietly, almost more akin to the profile one would expect from an orange.
Its accompanying food dish, however, is truly gorgeous. King oyster mushroom, celeriac and rosemary are all used to create the meatiest vegetarian dish you’ll ever eat. It’s remarkably robust, full of earthy flavours but somehow the often overpowering celeriac is just muted enough for it to all work. McMaster has talked about his desire to see vegetables at the core of dishes more often and when they’re of this quality, it’s easy to see why.
A dish of sea buckthorn with brown butter concludes the meal and is perhaps the most divisive. The sharp tang of a sea buckthorn granita is cleansing but for many is a little too strong. A generous curl of brown butter cream, a much gentler jelly and some fir-infused liquid all soften the blow a little, but to our mind the ratio is still slightly out. Halve the granita and this would be a stunning dish, a rollercoaster of sharp berries into luscious butter concluding with the woodiness of the fir. As it is, it’s still a great effort, but not quite to the standard of the other two dishes. It’s served with a cocktail of kombucha, cucumber, aquafaba and Patrón, which reads like a disaster but is actually surprisingly delicious, the chickpea water giving it a smooth, delicate texture.
As a meal, this achieves that rare feat of really capturing the essence of the company that’s throwing it. It’s easy to just slap the brand front and centre, pouring the relevant coffee or tequila or chocolate into every dish, but this was more than that. The event really stressed the sustainable and ethical components that Patrón strives for, all without beating you over the head with a big stick and reprimanding you for being a terrible person. When we talked to McMaster earlier in the day, he spoke of his idea “plant food wins again” and of the importance of feeling good about making positive strides in the world. If there was ever a feel-good meal, this was it.
Photos: Tom Nicholson
For further information about Patrón Secret Dining Society visit here.