So what is the strangest location you have ever dined in? I never stray too far from the traditional restaurant setting. Walk in, check reservation, get seated, order, eat, you know the drill (except when the sun is shining in those 10 days a year in London, then a good food market does the trick).
Restaurants are my safe havens, the place I always retreat to when I need to relax and enjoy a pleasant evening in the company of friends, or on my own, mood depending. When in pursuit of relaxation a bit of shopping also works wonders. Now, you can imagine how excited I felt as I headed down Brick Lane, en route to Back in 5 Minutes, a restaurant located behind a curtain in the back of a clothes shop.
Back in 5 minutes is the restaurant and private room of the Disappearing Dining Club, Stuart Langley’s project, whose concept is to “bring like minded people together to enjoy food and drink in unusual spaces”. Since their launch in October 2010, with Dinner Dance – a one table pop up restaurant for 10 people in a former Chinese take-away – the DDC has thrown dinner parties in lighthouses, launderettes, abandoned music venues, inside antiques shops, in churches, salvage yards, under railway arches, rooftops, to name just a few. Together with head chef Frederik Bolin, who writes all the menus and cooks all the food, Stuart opened Back in 5 minutes in 2012 to serve “simple, seasonal and unfussy food”. With 15 years of experience of running bars, restaurants and members club under his belt, Stuart is a bit of a pop-up pioneer, and he regularly teaches courses on launching food start-ups, for The Guardian.
The unusual location certainly is a great selling point; my companion and I felt a child-like tingle of anticipation as we went through the curtains, down the steps and into the dining room. Once in, I was immediately transported to my grandparent’s living room circa 1975 – or how I imagined it would have looked like since I was not alive in 1975, obviously. The furniture, (display and liquor cabinets) objects (flasks, bottles, many clocks), paintings and crockery create an effortlessly vintage ambience. It’s a small room, accommodating just over 20 diners at most, with communal tables, so if you don’t like strangers sitting within elbow distance, this is not the place for you. I have to add though, once the conversation (read wine) is flowing, you cease to notice the strangers around you.
As soon as you are seated, a complimentary glass of fizz and an amuse-bouche are served. The menu is uncomplicated with three options of starters, three of mains and two of dessert or a cheese platter. I opted for black bream a la grecque – made with orange instead of the traditional lime juice and I’m sure I could also detect the smoky flavour of harissa in the mix; my companion went for potted pork and pickles on toasted sourdough. They were nice, but were also both cold starters, which was a surprise. I’m not the cold starter type you see, so I kind of wish it had said on the menu that they were served cold, in which case I would have probably opted for the soup. It was however, quite amusing to see my companion negotiating her toasted sourdough, which had an almost crostini-like ‘toastiness’ that made crumbs go everywhere at first bite.
I’m almost sure there was a vegetarian option for main, but if I’m totally honest, I stopped paying attention once I read braised lamb shoulder with snail risotto. It was lip smacking. Melt in the mouth lamb with a generous serving of a risotto that was packed full of flavour, served with lashings of gremolata, a lively, herby, lemony, garlicky garnish that brought the whole dish together beautifully. Companion went for Brick Lane smoked salmon with crushed potatoes, also delicious. The wine list is small, also uncomplicated and very reasonably priced. That previously mentioned generous portion, unfortunately meant I was too full for dessert, but, thankfully, companion wasn’t and I got to try hers, boozy winter fruits with Swedish custard and ginger biscuits, it was, well, fruity and boozy and a lovely way to wrap it all up. Ah, coffee. There was no coffee. I must always end my meals with coffee. Give me my coffee! It didn’t matter, really. Instead of coffee, I got my kick out of a quick browse in the clothes shop on my way out. It was a perfect, relaxing Friday night evening.
Back in 5 minutes
Hidden Dining on Brick Lane
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