3 September 2016

Cuisson's POPdown @Borough Market

After visiting Cuisson's last venture, POPdown at the Vaults, I was delighted when managing director Paul Hannagen got in touch to inform me that they were holding a residency in foodie haven, Borough Market. After having an absolute blast at the last one, there was no way I was missing out.

This time it's a 5-course Pan-Asian tasting menu on offer. I was initially a bit weary, as usually the only raw food I have is encased in rice, seaweed and covered in spicy mayo & soy sauce...

But then I reasoned that if Michelin-level chefs couldn't convert me to raw food, no one could. And if it was anything like before, I was in for a treat.

Cuisson have taken over two floors in a building opposite Southwark Cathedral in the heart of Borough Market - so it's pretty easy to find. We were warmly greeted (one of the staff remembered me from last time, which was bizarre, but I was very flattered) and provided with a drinks menu. We started the night with two pleasingly strong cocktails (Wednesday is the new Thursday, after all) at the downstairs bar, Ikigai. It's since been transformed into a virtual reality drinking experience with Innis and Gunn. Good if you're more inclined towards beer - but the cocktails are still on offer, don't worry. 

At 7pm, we were taken upstairs to the restaurant, which was absolutely flooded with light thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows.

I was a little enamoured with the chilli plant.

Here was the menu...

Chopsticks - no fork, cue panic from cack-handed people everywhere, including myself - and slate table settings, with a simple flower arrangement and candles. And the offer of more wine, or cocktails (or both!). Very nice.

The first course was... gulp, an oyster, sourced from Richard Hayward's Oysters in Borough Market itself. Lots of the ingredients used in the menu are supplied by Borough Market, which is a lovely touch.

I wish I had gulped the oyster, but our neighbour advised us to scoop it up, put it in our mouth then gulp it. As a bit of an oyster novice, I listened. Oh gosh, what a mistake.

Guys, DO NOT PUT A WHOLE OYSTER INTO YOUR MOUTH. Despite it being covered in wasabi roe and soy gel, the taste was overridden by the texture, which nearly made me gag. That's not to say the oysters weren't lovely oysters, but there's a reason they are meant to linger at the back of your throat for a minimal amount of time.

The oyster, looking majestic and juicy.

If you've ever wished your food would resemble a flower, the next course is the course for you. A single piece of succulent salmon, rolled to resemble the centre of the flower, surrounded by the "petals", slivers of scallop. Simply beautiful.

Drizzled with Ponzu - a citrus-type soy sauce.

Dressed with onion flakes and a thin slices of a crunchy vegetable that I cannot recall.

We kind of didn't want to eat it. But we gave in, trying our best to eat it slowly, savouring each piece, but at the same time wanting to devour it.

Beef sashimi followed. Again, I was slightly nervous. The last time I experienced beef sashimi, the beef was too thickly cut and it tasted like uncooked burger. Not great.

But this sashimi was melt-in-your-mouth incredible.

Finished with a sweet chilli and citrus sauce, a touch of lime, herbs, and a sprinkle of nuts. The texture was fantastic, and as with the previous course, it didn't last long.

By this point, we were in a state of foodie euphoria. The anticipation for the main event, Buta Shoga Yaki (pork loin, rice, kimchi and beansprouts) with a side of BBQ cucumber salad, was tangible.

I put myself forward to help "decorate" the salad, which involved me plonking nuts in the middle of each salad dish. It was intense stuff (not), but I was happy to help, and on my foodie high.

My "contribution"

Our mouths inevitably began watering as we watched the chefs putting the final touches on our main...

The kimchi, with a sprinkle of herbs and a litttttle bit of chilli, for a kick
Just how good does that pork loin look?

I can't tell you how good this dish was... but I can certainly try. It was the perfect combination of textures - tender pork loin, crunchy beansprouts, sticky but light rice, and sweet BBQ sauce mingled with cucumber... 

My friend declared the BBQ cucumber salad the best thing she'd tasted all night, which sounds quite ridiculous, because just how good can a cucumber salad be?

Answer: very. It was a game-changer.

We were given everything separately. I eagerly (and probably not very gracefully) loaded everything onto my plate, wanting to mix all aspects of the dish.

It might look as pretty as the other dishes but ooohhh mumma, it was everything. Because of the previous modestly-sized courses, we were easily able to eat the entire thing. Occasionally we'd look up, catch each other's eye as if to say "oh man, isn't this the best?" and let out intermittent "mmmmm"s. It was glorious. 

And what would a meal be without a delicious dessert?

Ours came in the form of cubed mango, with an apple and blackberry granita (crushed ice), topped with a hibiscus flower.

It was the ideal way to end our meal. Easy on the palate - all the flavours complemented one another - and light. I loved the mango, but then I'm crazy about mango. I'd never experienced it with flavoured ice, but it was fantastic.

You can see how juicy the mango was in this photo, just amazing

Yet another triumph from the clever, clever people of Cuisson. I absolutely urge you to get down - or POPdown - and experience it yourself. Just please don't spoon the oyster - stick to what you know.

Cuisson is at 1 Cathedral Street, Borough Market, until early November - get your tickets here.

**I was invited to the press evening of Cuisson's POPdown in exchange for review, but as always, all opinions expressed are my own.

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