On a designated Wednesday night once a month, a secretive group of gastronomes comes together at undisclosed destinations across Manchester city centre to cook for each other and score each other against strict criteria.
It was with great honour that I was asked to judge the annual WNC competition last week, where the three highest scoring members presented me with a course each; the menu kept under wraps up until I was seated at table and the dishes placed in front of me.
With trepidation I sat down to eat, marking each dish on taste, texture, presentation and overall composition. I can’t say I relished the job surrounded by those who do this regularly. I was a tough job, but someone has to do it!
To start I was presented with dainty pancetta parcels on a bed of bitter leaves and balsamic syrup; one filled with a Parmesan, egg and asparagus mixture; the other with goats cheese and caramelised onions. Each filling was light and soft, almost souffle like – a great texture contrast with the crispy pancetta on the outside. The Parmesan parcel was richly flavoured, but not overpowering thanks to the lightness of the egg mixture. My only criticism would be the caramelised onions were lost under the goats cheese. However the dish was a well thought through bringing together of contrasting flavours and textures.
Starter – cheese and pancetta parcels
Mains followed a little while later – I was banned from the kitchen and the whole enterprise was shrouded in secrecy: a little hard when the bathroom was accessed through the kitchen!
What was served next was an homage to a wonderful cut of meat, especially ordered for the evening from Manchester Market. A succulent fillet, cooked to pink perfection, wrapped in crispy pastry – that classic dish of beef wellington. Whereas starters had been dainty I was now treated to a large slice, accompanied by al dente veg and garlic and chive mash (of which the garlic was slightly burnt unfortunately). This was a filling and satisfying dish, that smelt and tasted gorgeous.
WNC beef wellington
Though I was struggling to find room the pudding that followed was such a delight upon all senses that I was instantly hungry and had to slow myself to appreciate what I was desperatly hurrying into my mouth!
Pudding was a trio of summer berries; comprising a mini strawberry cheesecake, homemade raspberry ripple ice cream and warm berry compote – all garnished with the cook’s homegrown strawberries; small, sweet and succulent.
Berry compote was multi-layered in flavour, a delish shot of soothing sugeriness. The cheesecake, which was slightly unset, allowed the fruit flavour to shine through and wasn’t masked by an overpowering sweetness that can be found in many cheesecakes. By far the most amazing part of the dish was the homemade ice-cream. This was a cream based, rather than a custard based ice-cream, with a very sharp berry ripple, cutting the sweet fatty sugar like a lightening dash across the tongue.
WNC Trio of berry puddings
Supper clubs are springing up across the city and it is amazing the level of care, quality and attention to detail present in all of them. As Wednesday Night Supper Club is only made up of amateur cooks, I was surprised by the high level of cooking skill on display and found it hard to distinguish between the many merits of each dish. However, I’m a girl after Greg Wallace’s heart, and in the end my vote fell on pudding – every aspect of the dish was well thought through, well presented and well executed.
After such an enjoyable evening of great company and great food, I’d like to point you in the direction of the Wednesday Night Supper Club; but I fear that disclosing this sensitive information may result in my imminent downfall. You’ll just have to hope that one day their invite drops on to your doormat…