Two Cats Roaming Kitchen is the brainchild of Nick Astley and his Latvian partner Diana Fjodorova. They describe themselves on Facebook as “A pop-up taking a modernist culinary approach to north eastern European cuisine and making fine dining accessible, away from the table cloths and pricetag”, which is a pretty fair depiction. Except if it were up to me, and Facebook allowed, I’d underline the price tag, because it was ridiculously good value. Sure you don’t know the location and it’s not the plush surroundings of a Michelin starred restaurant, but this is less about the dining and more about the food.
I’d missed Two Cats Roaming’s first outing, but their second took place under the arches of Water St, in indie bakery Peel & Stone’s usual Saturday brunch hangout. No designer wallpaper or modern British artwork, there was a table set for 11 and decorated with wine and Kvass – simple but convivial.
The first course, a rosti of quail egg, lumpfish roe and chicken liver prompted some discussion on whether to go all in or politely nibble. Either way it was delicious. The next course, bread, butter and smoked fat sounded simple, but the bread was made from a traditional recipe and had a sort of molasses taste to it which could’ve easily been eaten with some jam for supper. The most squeamish might not have been too keen on the smoked fat, but they’d have sorely missed out as the saltiness and sweetness from the bread were a wonderful contrast.
After a little rest from the doorstop of bread we were treated to Pelmeni, cep broth and an egg yolk. Pelmeni is a dumpling, but with wafer thin dough so think tortellini rather than stodgy and these were lovely – you could easily eat a bowl full. Our fourth course was a sort of venison tartare served on a sort of hemp paste with raspberry sheets and roses. The paste wasn’t to everyone’s taste, but i thought the texture added an interesting contrast to the venison.
Competing with the dumpling for my favourite savoury dish of the night was monkfish cheeks, truffle mayonnaise, parsley and kale. The monkfish was delightfully cooked; giving it meatiness without being too tough, which was delightful by itself, but more so with the accompaniments. The sixth course was a sort of bridge between sweet and savoury with carrot, curds, honey and lavender. Having a lactose intolerance, I tested this out of curiosity but I think the testament to the dish went to the fact that it was welcomed by the person sat opposite me, who ate both portions.
The main sweet of the night was an utterly delicious elderflower mousse, cucumber and gingerbread. I probably should’ve checked the ingredients for this one, but playing on the safe side I indulged in a few mouthfuls of this deliciously perfumed and fluffy mousse before donating it to a fellow diner, again gratefully received and grudgingly donated! Though I feel the best was saved for last as we were presented with a beetroot marshmallow. I LOVE marshmallow, and this was a fine example of why homemade marshmallow is infinitely better than ones that have been knocking around vacuum-pack for months. Delightfully fluffy with a fantastic flavour it rounded off what was a fantastic dining experience.
The service was simple, understated and though we were introduced to the dishes, there was none of the overly fussy waiting that comes with fine dining. Described and delivered, 5+ courses meant that unlike some fine dining experiences that require a sandwich in the taxi home, we left sated. And I should mention the pricetag, a steal of an evening at £30, which comparably beats most established fine dining experiences.
At its core Two Cats Roaming Kitchen is everything good food should be, an experience that offers minimal fuss and lets the food speak for itself. Well worth going. Check their Facebook page or Twitter for details on upcoming events.