We don’t claim to be the greatest chefs here at H&L HQ but we do love to throw a decadent (and slightly raucous) dinner party for our friends from time to time. Preparing a feast for a dinner party is made much easier and way more fun if you do it as a couple. So we were thrilled when we were invited to take a lesson at the Underground Cookery School to improve our rather average cooking skills.
Making our way to Old Street, we were ready to learn and excited at the idea of impressing our future dinner party guests. The Underground Cookery School aims to bring a new dimension to the experience of fine dining and that it does. We were welcomed into its state of the art kitchens and handed a much needed glass of Prosecco to steady the nerves. A few canapés later and after mingling with the group of roughly 12 people, we were told that we would be cooking a three course meal under the guidance of a professional chef. We were in safe hands but all we could focus on was the prospect of sitting down and eating our creations at the end. Designed for groups of 10 up to 60, the Underground Cookery School offers packages for corporate bookings, hen parties, stag do’s and birthday parties alike, promising a unique, sociable experience cooking and eating 3 AA Rosette quality dishes.
Having recently undergone a refurbishment, the venue offers a truly stylish event space fully kitted out with advanced kitchen equipment. With a variety of packages on offer, guests will be guided by a host of experienced chefs’ on-hand to share their culinary expertise. New head chef, Martyn Reynolds, who joined after working with Michael Wignall at Michael’s Nook in The Lake District and with William Drabble at Seven Park Place, shares incomparable knowledge of the industry and a genuine love of food. One of our worries before starting was that it may be quite stuffy and intense but in actual fact, the Underground Cookery School aims to encourage a fun and informal atmosphere, with free flowing quality wines and music creating a relaxed and lively mood.
With a number of our friends being vegetarian we decided to trial the veggie option whilst one of us attempted to make the carnivorous creation. It is worth mentioning that dietry requirements are not a problem as long as you inform the staff in advance. Having said that, the starter was suitable for veggies and non-veggies alike- pea tortellini. We had a crash course in fresh pasta making and each had a go at rolling the dough through a pesky pasta making machine. Several attempts later and we eventually had something that remotely resembled a sheet of pasta. With this we punched out circles whilst the chefs squeezed a dollop of delicious pre-prepared ricotta and pea filling into the middle of each. The folding of the tortellini is an origami nightmare and no matter how many times we tried they never looked as good as the chefs; but it’s all in the taste anyway right?
The main course is where Hero & Leander were split. Whilst one of us was learning the art of chicken butchery whilst the other was learning the art of artichoke butchery- not easy to say! The carnivores learnt how to prepare a roast chicken breast with a sweetcorn bbq infused jus- a worthy dinner party creation. The veggie option was just as delicious, if not even more so. Having dismantled the artichoke (who knew that you could eat so little of it?!) we stuffed it with a delicious goats cheese filling and moved on to preparing a veggie version of a scotch quails egg- coated in a tasty chickpea crumb rather than sausage meat. We also prepared stuffed onion skins; a vegetarian feast if we say so ourselves.
Dessert is always a tricky one for us. It is always the dish where we end up losing our creative streak and stick to something simple like a meringue or an apple crumble- sometimes store bought. However much we love a crumble we always wish that we could create something a little more refined for our guests. This is where the Underground Cookery School step in. We learnt how to make an apple cheesecake. Simple we hear you say? Wrong! This apple cheesecake has been deconstructed and consists of apple jelly tubes filled with cheesecake filling, with carameled apple slices and apple caviar. This has to be a winner at our next dinner party.
After preparing each course and teasing our noses with the delicious scents coming out of the kitchen, we were finally ready to sit down and enjoy. And enjoy we did. The staff were a pleasure to be around and have endless tips of the trade to share. Three courses later and stomachs filled to capacity we said our goodbyes. Rolling down the road towards the tube we were already planning our next party. Who’s coming?
Price: £135 per head for groups under 20. Underground Cookery School can be booked online at http://undergroundcookeryschool.com/booking/ or by calling 020 7251 6298