Food from Asia, India, America, Iran, canapes with butlers in the buff and heartwarming comfort food are all on the menu (including the butlers) – at one of Steve James's pop-ups
Just about to rustle up a gourmet feast last Saturday when an invitation to a Steve James pop-up pinged into my inbox. I put my tin opener down, put my stretchy slacks on and headed straight over to Eastfield Farm in Tintinhill, near Yeovil for an evening of Comfort Food, one in a series of pop-up restaurants that the Somerset private chef is running over the next few months.
A private chef who’ll come and knock up a gourmet dinner your own home (or wherever else you are), Steve’s won a clutch of awards including the LUXLife magazine Travel and Tourism Award for Personal Chef of the Year – South West England and the Culinary Excellence Award for Fine Dining Cuisine 2019.
With just two tables of eight in the farmhouse dining room, it’s cosy. Rather like going to a private dinner party, except that talented, self-effacing professional chef Steve is beavering away in the kitchen and a very nice woman is tending to your every need out front.
There was an interesting mix at our table: Swedish, French, Kenyan, English; couples, friends, a woman on her own; ages from early 20s to *cough* quite a bit older. But we had two things in common: a love of good food and the desire for a good night out. There was definitely a bit of a party vibe going on – one guest had arrived blindfolded so had no idea where he was – and the chat flowed.
Described as an evening of Comfort Food, everything was heartwarming, delicious, (very) filling and served up like giant tasting menu, with more and more sharing plates coming out of the kitchen and onto the tables – a feast.
First up were bowls of whispy parsnip crisps and mini Yorkshire puds with roast beef and gentle horseradish.
Still the canapes… a platter of sweet potato and carrot croquettes with a tasty, tangy tahini sauce.
Starters were dishes of buffalo cauliflower ‘wings’ with blue cheese sauce and an apple, celeriac and mustard slaw, and sticky whisky (yes) glazed beef ribs, cooked so long and slow that the meat fell away from the bone when it was picked up from the plate.
Steve will cook vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes (just tell him when you book) but this evening was meat, meat and more meat (and very good it was too). Mains were balsamic and onion braised lamb neck and this pink peppercorn and rosemary roasted pork belly. Succulent, sweet, moreish.
To go with: a gratin of rich and gooey butternut squash and sage (classic combo), plus a big bowl of braised red cabbage.
Absolutely no more room left in the tum. But then a pile of these delicious chewy doughnuts topped with white chocolate and fresh raspberries appeared.
…and this mahoosive pineapple, rum and vanilla tart tatin with crème fraiche sorbet. It was delicious but just couldn’t manage more than a mouthfull. Let’s out final notch on the belt …
By the end of the evening, cockles had been warmed; we were (more than) replete.
No arguing about how to split the bill; the pop-ups are a fixed price. You bring your own wine or preferred tipple, hard or soft, and there’s no corkage. And even though it might feel like a dinner party, you don’t feel guilty when you slope away without offering to do the washing up.
Future pop-up evenings include Canapes with Butler in the Buff (Fri 29 March); Asian Fusion evening (Sat 13 April); American evening (Sat 27 April); Indian evening (Fri 24 May); Spanish evening (Fri 21 June); and A taste of Persia (Fri 28 June) and many more. For the full list and menus, see here.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: anyone looking for something new, the pop-ups are one-offs with a different type of grub each time. Go with partner or friend, book an entire table or rock up on your todd – you might meet some interesting people.
Not for: loved up couples, unsociable types or those who don’t like sharing. This is communal scoffing.
The damage: Canapes plus three courses £48 per person. Bring your own wine (no corkage).
Steve James, Eastfield Farm, Tintinhull, Somerset BA22 8QW. stevejamesltd.com