Finding a pop-up supper club can be quite difficult, being as they tend to make use of abandoned lock-ups, derelict warehouses and the like. Annex East’s artist inhabitants stumbled upon an old Stratford disused garage on the east side of the Olympic Park and approached Jimmy Garcia to open a restaurant for the duration of their Olympic Games’ residency, having worked with him in his previous carnation as an Alpine club and restaurant entrepreneur. Jimmy’s current Paralympic run sees him take charge of the wooden mezzanine again, in which he has installed a makeshift kitchen and bar, along with tables and tiny wooden chairs (which are knocked over at regular intervals) to seat around 25-35 covers per night.
While the opening ceremony of the Paralympics plays on a projector screen, complete with a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Jimmy is cooking up a storm in the kitchen, delivering the British five-course tasting menu in a couple of food-filled hours. First up is the canapés: quail’s egg and baby asparagus spears are the pick of the trio. The prawn and mango salad on cucumber slice is fresh and delicately balanced. Thankfully, Leifman’s Fruit Beer is on hand to combat the dryness of the otherwise tasty blue cheese and pine nuts on granary toast.
Salmon three ways is quickly served next; a course possibly too large for some appetites; not however for a greedy growing (outwards) boy like me. The gravlax resembles smoked salmon, but rather than cooking by smoke, the Scandinavian method cures through burying the fish in salt, sugar and dill and the resulting flavour is like eating raw fish fresh from the catch. The confit salmon provides similarly delicate textures, while the crispy skin offers a contrasting crunch. The side of beetroot salad provides a peppery balance. My partner in culinary crime opts for the lighter option of tomato, honey and chilli soup with garlic croutons. Clean fruity tomato pulp with some heat from the chilli is the order of the day here, which in truth would be a little lacking in seasoning without the smoky paprika provided by the drizzled chorizo oil.
The hours of athletic precession up on the projector screen was little distraction for the fish course, and it wasn’t going to interfere with the main course, of which griddled meat smells waft to my kitchen-side placing. While I was tempted by the interesting sounding mushroom brioche and butter pudding with whisky jus, the Barbary duck breast was too good to pass up. Cooked to medium-rare perfection, the fatty bird juices run into the orange and tea jus to mouth wateringly create a gravy to cut through the powerful gamey meat, while the bed of sautéed Savoy cabbage ain’t bad either. The sides of new potatoes and glazed carrots are served separately, and unfortunately there isn’t quite enough sauce to mop up with the dry spuds. The sweet potato puree gets lost on the plate somewhat, clashing with the sides and not offering enough power on the palate for the duck.
A pudding of iced white chocolate parfait is divine – rich and sweet – served with a tasty crisp hazelnut tuile to scoop up the creamy goodness. The accompanying caramelised cherries were too bitter for my taste, needing a touch more sugar. Petit fours finished the menu – perfectly airy light meringue with dried blueberries, served with strawberries in whipped cream. We all attempt to run out to watch fireworks after a brief interlude to let the huge feeding digest, but the delay means we emerge into the cool night only to see the resulting smoke. Chatting to the amiable Jimmy and slightly sizzled guests we decide to wait for the main fireworks spectacle with glasses of red wine on the streets of industrial Stratford, and our wait is not in vain, as the sparks fly around midnight. Seems a fitting way to mark a fine British food event.