Oooh I love a good pop-up, especially the intrigue that surrounds it, The Noise of Strangers is one venture that’s been waiting in the wings for a long time. I first saw them on Twitter last year then the trail seemed to go cold – who were they, where had they gone, had it died a death, what was the deal??? Was it a game they were playing?
Suddenly The Noise of Strangers started to reach out and interact with followers, so at the earliest opportunity I signed myself and mate Lucy Reynolds up, fellow pop-up lover to join in the fun.
Whoever these guys were, they’d slowly enticed us into their web, drip feeding us with vague, sneaky peaks of the venue. Leading us on a bit of a wild goose chase, all good fun to be had. The location was finally released a couple of days before the event and it was in one of the empty buildings of what was Clarence Dock, now Leeds Dock. In the past the only thing that attracted me to visit was really The Royal Armouries or the fantastic restaurant The Bird which was housed at Alea Casino. Since The Bird closed I haven’t really give it a passing thought, until now.
Final instructions were emailed to us and told us to venture down to Leeds Dock, near a popular pizza restaurant close to the Royal Armouries. We found a huge expanse and in the middle were two long tables with seating in the form of long benches. All set up and looking good so far. So when we were offered a glass of Prosecco with Elderflower, the only thing to reply back was ‘oh yes please, thank you very much!’
The Prosecco didn’t last long so we dove straight into sampling the False Bay Sauvignon Blanc they had to compliment our meal, reasonably priced as these events go at £13.50 I found it a nice, easy drinking white that was certainly hitting all the right notes and getting us in the mood for a yummy five-courser.
Our pre-dinner drinks gave us chance to re-familiarise ourselves with the menu and it was just a list of the primary ingredients; this partly lended itself to the intrigue where they just provide the barest of details, bringing out the need to ask questions and find out more.
We were invited to sit down for dinner at 7pm and sat next to a slate platter of butter, where one was rolled in Parmesan and one was reformed with a sweet caramel flavour. With some yummy bread rolls our experience started well.
When the first course was brought the initial thing that impressed me was how beautiful everything looked, aesthetically lots of attention to detail had obviously been paid to the ingredients and dish as a whole. This first course was a lovely opener with flavours of the sea from the razor clam and salty samphire, extremely delicious crab underneath and the pickled cucumber and radish helped to cut through the richness in the dish. Everything was so delicate I did just sit there staring at it, but soon, within a few mouthfuls it was gone.
For our second course three main components were listed – smoked duck, Pain d’épice and apple. I’ve only eaten smoked duck one, as part of the Kirkstall Bridge Inn‘s platters, a revelation it was too with real punchiness from the smoke, but still retaining it’s sweetness. This dish was a much more delicate affair, with very thinly sliced duck hidden underneath a crisp Pain d’épice, apple, chicory and edible flowers. I didn’t really know what to expect by the Pain d’épice and after a little research found it is a spiced bread, traditionally made with rye. I found it a little overwhelming for the dish, it’s sweetness took over a little more than I would have liked and masked the delicate flavour from the duck. All the other ingredients were lovely, but if the duck is the main ingredient then I feel it should have been more evident.
Our third course was also beautifully presented, cubes of cured salmon, beetroot in different forms – meringue, golden, regular, purée, powder, a deep fried breaded goat cheese which just oozed out. Lots of contrasting flavours from beetroot which was earthy and vibrant, salty cheese and undeniable flavour of salmon. A really tasty dish, the walnut added a little but I found it was a bit lost amongst everything else.
Course no: 4 – Lamb is an obvious meat of choice at this time of year, on offer was a rolled shoulder of lamb which was delicately lamby in flavour. It must have been cooked forever as it was so melt in the mouth, virtually no pressure was needed to chew. A generous swipe of pea purée, a couple of olives which provided an umami hit, but thankfully weren’t too powerful and a sprinkling of feta cheese for added saltiness. The gravy/jus whatever you want to call it was glossy and smooth and did what a great sauce should do and brought the whole dish together. The only thing I found a little odd was the plating up, we had a large dinner plate, with the food placed on one side of the plate, what about the other side!
After a little break the desserts were brought over in delicate little glass bowls, what came was the perfect combination of strawberries in either fresh, jelly and freeze-dried forms, balsamic, black pepper sugar and whipped cream. It was deliciously light with lots of flavour; sweet, sour and peppery heat – a yummy palate cleanser!
I’d half forgotten that North Star were providing the coffee for the event, but as always was fantastic to see them showing off their hard work! With a couple of Chemex flasks ready for their Rwandan coffee that we would have as the climax to our experience.
Coffee was served black and they’d brought a lovely Rwandan Gashonga to try out. The Chemex had done a lovely job keeping the coffee clear, syrupy and with a distinct taste of fruit from cherry, blackcurrant and damson. Kept black and with no bitterness whatsoever, so hopefully even people with the craving for adding sugar to their coffee wouldn’t get the urge. In my haste to drink it I completely forgot to take a photo first, sorry. Finally the macarons were a perfect companion to our coffees, light, unctuous and gooey in the centre. Yummy.
The evening had been a collaboration of many; including Joe Hepworth of Hepworth’s Deli, North Star Micro Roasters and Leeds Pop-Ups and Latitude Wine, apologies if I’ve forgotten anyone. On all accounts I’d had a really lovely evening, not just because of the food, but when it comes to events like this, it’s people who really love food and the experience as a whole who come, so we were lucky to sit next to two other diners who seemed to enjoy the evening as much as us.
Our five course dinner was £35 each, not including wine.
Did you attend the event, what did you reckon? Do you love a good pop-up too?
The Noise of Strangers