As we turn onto Garage St, headed toward Builder St, I think about the countless times we have driven past this part of town without ever thinking about what is in the neighborhood. We note the brewery, peek at the railway tracks, and then turn toward the glowing lights at the entrance to The Kitchen’s Nose to Tail.
It’s a pop-up restaurant that just opened for its first night of an eight-week run. Restaurants like this aren’t (as far as I know!) a common occurrence around here, so when I read about it a couple weeks ago I was eager to try it out. And the timing was serendipitous – the opening night happens to be my husband’s birthday, and he loves the whole animal movement. So I booked us a table and eagerly awaited a meal designed to showcase local, sustainable dishes from all parts of the animal.
We walk in and the host greets us by name — the space holds fewer than ten tables and we’re the last table of the night. We hand over our coats and head to the middle of a cozy space lined with candles and chalk drawings of animals. As we sit, we get a look at the set menu, which comprises shared appetizers, a choice of main, shared sides, a choice of dessert, and a tea/coffee course. We pick out wines (Sangiovese for me, Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend for him) and settle on our mains (monkfish for me, pork for him, and a promise to share at least a taste).
The snacks come out first, crisps and pork scratchings (rinds) in little, unassuming bowls. It is love at first bite as I chomp down on a crunchy, salty piece of pork and feel the strip of fat melt away. (We compare it to the pork belly my husband made for Christmas dinner and later flag someone down to ask just how it’s made.)
The shared appetizers come out next, and my main wish is that the tiny cup of local crab soup is a giant bowl all for myself — only not really, because it’s just enough to savor before moving on to the fried roe, grape chutney, lamb belly, bacon and peas, cauliflower fritter, pork terrine, and brioche. The pork terrine isn’t really my thing, but like all the other bites on the platter it’s perfectly crafted. I even like the cauliflower, although I can appreciate almost anything if it’s fried well. 😉
My monkfish fillet is tasty, with a small cheek alongside it and lentils, spinach, and a dill sauce to round it out. I have a taste of the pork cheek, which is fall-apart tender, but I pass on the offer of blood pudding. (My husband notes that the way they cut it into cubes and cooked it means that each piece has a nice crunch.) The kale and roast celeriac sides are tasty but fade into the background in comparison with our main dishes.
Finally, dessert — we ask for our coffee along with our choice of trifle and chocolate and banoffee tart. The coffee comes in individual moka pots (I give in to the late night caffeine with no regrets), and out comes a small platter of chocolate truffles, as well. I’m comfortably full by the end of the meal, and we enjoy the atmosphere and some conversation with the couple next to us before we end the evening.
We make our way out, pay the bill, and get our final surprise of a card with discounts to the local suppliers the restaurant used for the meal. The entire concept, from incredibly cooked dishes and a warm atmosphere to local, sustainable ingredients is definitely worth it. I’m looking forward to the next restaurant that pops up from The Kitchen!