What I am about to do could cause bad side effects. I could end up with a dodgy stomach and might even feel a bit sick. What I am about to consume is not addictive, but once I take a hit I could be left craving more.
I am of course at the Albie, a restaurant in the Hoxton hotel in Southwark, South London, where I am about to taste every course on their new and limited-edition mushroom menu prepared by chef Ixta Belfrage and no, I don't really expect the food to be bad...
Their marketing spin is that we don't get enough vitamin D in the winter and mushrooms are full of it. The other bit of spin that makes it sound less like I'm about to be hooked to an IV drip or given a cocktail of pills at the restaurant, is that Belfrage co-authored one of Yotam Ottolenghi's books - FLAVOR - so she knows her stuff.
So here I am, in a room with high ceilings and enough exposed brick to delight any millennial, ready to do 'shrooms.
First up are portobello mushroom tacos with chipotle crema, pickled onions & salsa fresca. They are delicious. The taco is soft and airy, they are filled with the perfect amount of shredded shroom to pack it densely without causing ruptures in the carby container, and a kick of spice finishes every mouthful off nicely.
The tacos are just a gateway mushroom though, and next up are tempura chestnut mushrooms with shimeji, coconut and scotch bonnet dipping sauce. Batter can be greasy and stodgy and let's face it - tempura is just an excuse to guzzle something deep-fried while paying lip service to our five-a-days. But this is different. The coating is light and fluffy and every hint of shroom underneath feels like a joy not a punishment. The sauce is sweet and livens them up. I could put them away all day.
By now, I am positively intoxicated on the vegetable but that is all just microdosing compared to the main event - paccheri pasta with mushroom ragu with white mushrooms, dried porcini and sauteed girolles. Seeing it written on the menu, I feel a bit bored, how good could it be?
But when it arrives I'm anything but. The pasta has the perfect bite, it's al dente but not chewy and it has that unmistakable taste only the freshest pasta can provide, leaving me feeling wistful next time I stir pesto into bland dried spears at home. The sauce is creamy, salty, mushroomy (of course). It's great.
Mushroom ragu pastaKate Plummer
Three plates of 'shrooms down and I'm spaced-out and full. There's been no bad side effects and I've had a lot of fun(gus). I'm ready to call it a night but I know I'll be back.
So if you want to take 'shrooms too, we know the perfect dealer - the menu was created by Ixta Belfrage in collaboration with UK and Irish Mushrooms for more information, click here.
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