I remember coming to the very first BackBench a year ago, and I have been quite fortunate ever since to have attended 11 out of 12 so far and experienced the ever changing menu which is based on seasonal ingredients.
The BackBench runs once a month, over two days, and the lucky five in each seating are able to get a taste of the creative seasonal dishes created by Chef Junya.
Like the very first time, I went solo again, this time for the dinner sitting.
Post-birthday weekend, I ordered a glass of sake, just as a little treat for myself…
| Tokyo Turnip & Plum Flower |
The Tokyo turnip was so thinly sliced, and scattered on top of it were delicate plum flowers. It looked really pretty, I hesitated a bit before putting it into my mouth. The flowers had a subtle smell and taste of honey, combined with the fresh crispness of the turnip.
| Eel Nikogori, Bramley Apple, Wild Horseradish & Wild Chervil Flower |
It was nice to see eel on the menu once again, which has been some of my favourite dishes in previous BackBenchs’. ‘Nikogori’ refers to the gelatin extracted from cooked fish. Boiled in a spiced stock/dashi, the eel is then allowed to cool and set, which then forms the jelly layer. It is usually served cold, and in this dish it was served in a chilled sweet and tangy Bramley apple sauce.
| Brockman’s Turnip & Scottish Kombu Udon |
The udon dish seems to have made an earlier appearance on the menu this time. This time topped with turnip that was roasted to enhance the deep flavours, and fresh Scottish kombu that had been roasted until crispy. The portion size slightly smaller this time, but still as tasty and satisfying.
| Tofu & “Spring” Onions |
The dish consisted of Ramson, a broad-leaved wild garlic, Calçot, a type of scallion or green onion, and another wild onion species which had a cute little bulb on the end. This was served with some dried tofu pieces and a miso dressing.
| Alexander Flower Buds Tempura |
Another interesting take on the tempura dish, this time using Alexander flower buds, served with some salt mixed with crushed up buds. Delicious crisp and light batter with a pleasant texture.
| Nanzenji-tofu with Spider Crab & Pepper Dulse |
Nanzen-ji is a Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan, and close by is apparently the famous Junsei Restaurant that serves Yodofu.
The tofu was soft and silky, and I do love spider crab which was sourced from Cornwall, thanks to Matt Chatfield (aka @cornishgrill). The pepper dulse was harvested and farmed by Scottish seaweed expert Iain McKellar (justseaweed.com).
One of my favourite dishes of the evening.
| Brown Trout, English Wasabi & Ramson Vinegar |
The brown trout, sourced from Northern Ireland, was simply grilled with salt, and served with English wasabi and Ramson vinegar. I do always enjoy the fish courses, and this was also one of my favourites of the evening.
| Nettle Mochi & Azuki |
Having had mochi as some of the savoury courses at the start, this time it was served as a sweet dessert course. Combined with nettle, which gave the mochi a lovely green shade, it was served warm with some sweet azuki bean paste.
Simple and tasty.
| Amazake Sorbet & Rhubarb |
And to finish off, we had the usual amazake sorbet, this time served with honey cured rhubarb and thinly sliced frozen rhubarb. Amazake is a traditional low or non-alcohol Japanese drink made from fermented rice, which has a natural sweetness to it.
A cold and refreshing dessert, served with a hot cup of hojicha tea, brewed using the roasted stems which produces deeper flavours.
One year on, and still one of my favourite seats in London. Thank you to Chef Junya, Ana, and the Koya team. Looking forward to more exciting dishes in the coming months as always.
For my previous BackBench posts, click on the links below:
The Cheekster, signing out x
Ps: My camera had a bit of a ‘breakdown’ halfway, hence the slightly lower quality iPhone photos towards the end… Thankfully it is now ‘alive’!…for now.