The eponymous French and Grace, just casually mixing up some flavours in some cute garden somewhere.You literally couldn’t get more current.
There has never been a better time to be a binge eater in Britain. On practically every street corner is a boutique baker selling designer doughnuts, or organic artisan hawking their high class hamburgers. “I’m just queuing for the latest must-have marshmallow,” people merrily tweet, congratulating themselves on snaffling out the latest fashionable foodie secret, the post-recessionary equivalent of a Mulberry bag.
As a result of our newfound culinary obsession, overeating has become a national sport. It’s ok to indulge in 133% of your recommended daily allowance of calories if it comes in the form of the Mac and Cheese from Spuntino (yes, it really is that bad for you). It’s fine to eat an entire loaf in one sitting if you bought it from St John and Instagrammed the process at least seven times, including a graphic aerial shot of the butter and jam you got to go with it from Melrose and Morgan.
There’s definitely a new air of snobbery and one-upmanship. “Oh, you mean you’ve not tried Heston’s meat fruit/Bea of Bloomsbury’s Eggs Benedict/that random thing I saw in ES magazine and haven’t tried myself but read enough about to try and blag my way through?” is usually accompanied with a stare as withering as a week old vine tomato from Whole Foods. Extra points are awarded for the effort it takes to track something down - tiny companies selling small amounts of produce in undesirable parts of the country are particularly well-respected.
French and Grace are profiteers of this new dawn of discovery, when foraging means a trek to Brixton Village to feast on their wares. The pair are getting write ups everywhere from ES (of course) to Saturday Times Mag, who are all lauding them for their skills at combining flavours to create something truly amazing, and for turning their tiny supper club (so now!) into a tiny cafe in South London (even more now!). I’m trying to get them do an exclusive feature for a publication I work for, but they’re loathe to tie themselves down for, as they told me when I popped into their gaff for dinner and the chance to try and persuade them into it, “there’s a lot of buzz about us at the moment.” It’s true, there is.
And quite simply it’s because their recipes work. “You don’t look very stressed,” my friend Rachel said when she arrived, clutching an aging sausage dog called Nellie who looked at me with disdain. And unusually for me, I wasn’t – the dessert had taken seconds to make that afternoon, the main not much longer, and the starter could be whipped up in moments once everyone had turned up and been given some booze.
Their version of Cucumber and Carrot Salad with Sesame and Chilli
Of course, that doesn’t mean my boyfriend got off totally without being hissed at. “Peeling these carrots is making me want to die,” I whispered violently at him whilst making the starter. The guests were drinking Sipsmith’s Summer Cups (ten foodie points to me for that one) and talking about how strangers in the street will try and pet the sausage dog but Nellie will just bite their hands, and I had just peeled four carrots to ribbons, with two more to go, as well as two cucumbers. “What are we having?” asked Kat, another guest, stepping into the kitchen. I just about managed to stop myself from replying: “A meltdown.”
And mine. If I had a Magimix peeler I would deffo make it again
But it tasted incredible. “Delicately balanced,” said Rachel’s boyfriend Jim thoughtfully, helping himself to a bit more of the dressing. The mint and coriander, mixed with the sesame oil and soy sauce, gave the vegetables a bit of bite, a slightly acidic edge. It was divine.
Their Creamy Chicken, Leeks and Tarragon with Crunchy New Potatoes
The Creamy Chicken, Leeks and Tarragon with Crunchy New Potatoes was less successful – but only structurally. “The potatoes are nice, but not very crunchy,” commented Kat’s boyfriend James. “And the casserole’s liquid is very thin,” said Rachel.
And mine. Halve the liquid amounts, or serve with a straw
“You should have just fricasseed that shit right up,” added Jim as we licked our plates clean – depressingly literally in the case of my boyfriend. With a litre of chicken stock, large glass of wine and 150ml of double cream there was enough left in the pot to make a pleasingly hearty soup the next day – but not the thick bubbly gloop depicted in the book.
Their Mascarpone Cheesecake with Nutmeg and Maple Syrup Caramel. Doesn’t the thought of those flavours make your mouth water?
Dessert was equally structurally unsound – there was no way the specified 75g of butter could have held that much biscuit base together – but again the flavours were bang on. Maple syrup sauce over a vaguely tangy filling? The precursor to double strength vodka lemonades (made with Truffle Vodka, obvy) doesn’t get much better than this.
Yeah, well, it all goes down the same way
As the conversation turned to skullfucking (don’t ask) and the nude pics of Lorraine Kelly that litter the internet (don’t Google them, I beg you) the sheen of rustic sophistication lent by the recipes crumbled faster than the cheesecake’s base, but we finished the evening feeling smug that we’d eaten the creations of two of the new stars of the foodie world. And let’s face it, other than the enchanting sensation of devouring delicious dinners, that smugness is what the new foodie obsession is really all about.
Cost of ingredients: £27.63 (not including items already in store cupboard)
Starter * * * * *
Main * * * * A bit of flour would have thickened it up a treat
Dessert * * * * Just a touch more butter and the base would have been perfect
Kitchen and Co by French and Grace (£16.99, Kyle Books). Original photography by Laura Edwards