March 23, 2013 by talkaboutyork
I am fussy eater. I am allergic to seafood. I hate coriander (devil’s herb). Goats cheese tastes like vomit to me. I don’t do offal and am not a fan of game birds. So I tend to avoid Michelin star food places or anything overly fancy as I find they tend to want to cook the bits that most normal people put in the bin – like sweetbreads with a pheasant eyelid crust. And everything seems to come with a ‘foam’ these days, which let’s face it, just looks like someone has gobbed on your plate.
But I do like Italian food. So when we were invited by friends of ours to join them for an evening at Sara @ St John’s Dining Club, run by Sara Danesin Medio, runner up in Masterchef a few years ago, I was very happy to say yes. This was the first private dining club in York (I believe there are now a few others trying to follow suit). It can take anywhere between six months to a year to get a table – it is that popular.
I’ve never been to a dining club before. It’s odd. You basically go to someone’s house with a bunch of your mates, you take your own wine, you sit at their dining table while they cook for you, serve and clear away. Bloody marvellous actually. It’s like being at a friend’s house but without any of your mates having to leave the table to do any work and you don’t feel obliged to stay and wash up afterwards. The dining club is held in Sara’s house, a lovely Victorian home about three minutes walk from our house, with spectacular views of the Minster on the way there.
My husband and I got there first so had a chance to chat to Sara and her husband David, our lovely host for the evening, about life since Masterchef. ‘Busy’ is the long and short of it. But how fabulous that Sara has managed to change her life so completely – from being an intensive care sister to running her own private dining club, a cookery school and working other chef jobs. She has also apparently applied to take part in the Masterchef Professionals programme. Fingers crossed she gets in. Incidentally, it’s obvious that the dining club is a joint effort. Sara may be the chef but David is very much involved – they make a great team.
Back to the food. I was little nervous about what we might get as you don’t get a choice. I had given them a heads up about my seafood allergy, but I didn’t give my list of other likes and dislikes. I decided to be brave and have whatever they gave me.
I needn’t have worried. It. Was. Amazing!
It started with an amuse bouche of a tiny circle of rye bread, topped with a perfect round fried quail’s egg with truffle oil on top. I really wish I’d taken my camera so that you can see how pretty it was.
The starter was a risotto of porcini and pancetta, perfectly cooked, packed with flavour and topped with a parmesan crisp.
The main course was fillet of red deer served with hickory scented silky mash and winter vegetables. I haven’t had much venison in my life but good grief, this was gorgeous. It was so incredibly soft – like butter to cut into (the trick according to Sara, is to let it rest for 2 hours). The mash was so smooth and smokey and the whole thing came with some kind of jus (they did say but I was too busy stuffing my face to remember) but it involved wine and chocolate. Seriously one of the most delicious plates of food I’ve ever had.
Then we had pudding. This was a butternut squash bavoir topped with fig and marsala caramel served with a hazelnut brittle, a chocolate dipped cape gooseberry and a chocolate shot. OMG. If there hadn’t been other people there, I would have licked the plate. Here’s a pic of it that I pulled off Sara’s blog:
Throughout the evening, Sara would come in and chat to us about the food before heading back into the kitchen. It was really odd to see someone that you’ve seen on the telly in the kitchen cooking for you! All in all it was of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had. I have already sent a request to be added to the waiting list so that we can go again. And I am going to see if I can book myself and three girlfriends into her cookery school for an afternoon so that we can learn how to make such delicious food.
Many thanks to our friends for inviting us. I’d love to tell you what it cost per head, but our generous friends picked up the tab and refused to tell me the price. So I can’t share it with you readers. But whatever it costs, it’s bloody worth it.
Best of luck to Sara for her future. I would love it if she could open a restaurant in York. I’d be there daily.