Dear Reader, you’re aware of my love affair with Milkmade, my local joint that rescued me from the jaws of hangovers and jetlag ennui with their delish buttermilk fried chicken and excellent chips? Well, something has changed. Is my love affair with Milkmade over? Who or what is Village Vanguard? Read on to find out…
It’s never easy to say goodbye to something you love. We’ve all been there, heartbroken and alone. On Wednesday 16 November, I said a farewell to my beloved Milkmade and said hello to Village Vanguard. Village Vanguard will continue the tradition of great food and friendly service that Milkmade established in E20 and also provide the local foodie community with more than just fried chicken (although thankfully that remains on the menu). Open Wednesday through Sunday Village Vanguard will provide coffee, luncheonette and matinee and Sunday roasts and brunches on the weekends. The dinner menu will now feature One Night Stands *wink * of Curry Club on Wednesdays, fresh pasta on Thursdays, fish and chips on Fridays and Saturday a T-bone steak dinner for two. There will also be more supper clubs with guest chefs and when I spoke to Gigi (Village Vanguard‘s manager) he believes that Village Vanguard will operate without the constraints that Milkmade had of being tied to a casual diner-style menu.
Do I think it will work? I certainly hope so and I am throwing my weight behind them to succeed. I was invited by Gigi to experience the French Supper Club as my first taste of Village Vanguard. The supper clubs at Village Vanguard showcase the flexibility of the new concept with rotating guest chefs and menus from all around the world. Chef Benoit Gaultier (Le Grand Pan and Le Petit Pan, Paris) was ably heading up the kitchen, assisted by Steve (River Café) and Cody. Village Vanguard brought in a French wine partner for the evening in the form of Thierry who was both charming and rakish in a typically French way. He illuminated us on each wine that was presented during the evening, all unique in their own way and each one equally delicious (let’s face it, it’s a rare day I meet a bottle of wine I don’t like).
To start we were greeted with glasses of Ambulle VDF Negrette, a 2015 vintage from Domaine Le Roc which was a beautiful deep pink colour, and roving platters of meats from Louis Ospital which were unctuous and fatty and salty and all those things that the French do so well with their meats.
The Supper Clubs at Village Vanguard embrace communal seating to encourage conversation and to strengthen social ties in East Village, which makes the success of Village Vanguard even more crucial. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a place where you can meet and make friends over delicious food and a glass (or four) of wine?
Our starter was parsnip soup with chives, hazelnuts and chorizo. My fellow diner Vix was fully prepared to hate the soup, given that she thinks parsnips are the work of Satan himself but lo and behold, she loved it. I was stunned, she was stunned. In her words, ‘it takes a bloody good chef to make me love something I hate’. This basically tells you everything you need to know about the menu that evening. Washing all of this down was some delightful Château Plaisance from Fronton (2014), which was smooth and slightly young tasting, so there was no battle with the layers of flavour in the soup.
Now, the main event, grilled rib of Limousin beef served with triple cooked chips and lightly dressed mesclun salad. The Limousin is a very handsome French breed of cow that makes for fantastic eating. This beef was so delightful, so soft, so buttery and melty that I didn’t know whether to eat it or to use it as a pillow. I erred on the side of sense and shoved it in my face. No regrets. It was heavenly. The triple cooked chips were excellent, crispy outside and fluffy inside and cooked in clean fat, happy days. The wine was a Côtes du Rhône ‘Terre de Mistral’ 2015 which was plump and fruity and harmonized beautifully with the Limousin beef. This is an organic wine produced by a small co-operative of 10 organic producers and is the only type of arrangement like this in the world.
Next was the cheese platter. The French show excellent common sense in serving their cheese course before dessert as it allows you to finish your wine(s) before moving on to sweet dessert wines. The cheese was Ossau Iraty from south western France, which is a firm sheep’s milk cheese which shares similarities in flavour and texture with Spanish Manchego. The portion was just enough to round off the savoury duration of the meal and was paired with black cherry compote.
The finale was the Mont Blanc Façon Grand Pan, which were dainty fingers of meringue with cream and what I can only describe as noodles of chestnut puree. I don’t know what type of kitchen wizardry was used to create this, but it was an exercise in texture and balance. The crunch of the meringue and the smoothness of the cream topped off with layers of the noodly chestnut puree. The dessert was matched with a glass of Jurançon Moelleux Clos Lapeyre (2014/15) a sweet dessert wine which wasn’t a million miles away from a Tokaji, but without the stickiness.
As the evening drew to a close I toddled off with a rounded belly and flushed cheeks, very happy with my first experience of Village Vanguard. I think all my readers should get on over to E20 and check it out, especially if you’re local to East London!
A big thank you goes to Gigi for inviting me down to review Village Vanguard and to Benoit and his team for creating such kitchen wizardry. The cost of the Supper Clubs varies on the night, but the French Supper Club was €50 and €40 for local residents.
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Tiffany from G&J xx