It’s quite telling that Preston Pop Up has the name it does.Advertisement
It’s telling because it’s a clear indication that this is the sort of thing that doesn’t happen very much at all in our city.
For anyone unfamiliar, a pop-up restaurant is essentially a space temporarily being used to cook food by a guest chef. You’ll often see it happen as a chef experiments with what sort of food he would like to serve when he gets to the point of opening his own restaurant (though we have no indication if that’s on the cards here).
Here we have Mark O’Rourke, the owner of the popular burger gaff We Don’t Give A Fork, setting up shop at independent Ham & Jam coffee shop through February.
More: Preston Pop Up coming to coffee shop
As you’d expect, it’s quite the departure from what we’re used to. It’s hard not to enter with high expectations though. Mark has essentially turned Preston’s burger options from me dragging visitors all the way to The Ferret to something I wax lyrical about to anyone daft enough to listen. And the menu, changing weekly, looks just as promising.
We book in for 8pm and manage to get seated quickly despite arriving a bit early. The rabbit they ordered for one of the starters has run out, which is a shame, but very much the nature of this sort of thing. It’s also not a problem since I could have eaten here every day of the week, had something different, and no doubt been pleased.
Instead it’s mussels with a bacon and cider sauce for starter. Mussels can be a bit daunting for anyone who doesn’t normally get involved with them but the presence of the bacon lends it a familiarity that make it quite the safe choice. The mussels themselves are great, if as fiddly as always, but the sauce is the star. It’s comfort food at it’s finest and the last of it is chased around the bowl with the homemade bread.
The original plan was for me to return the night after for a second meal, and if that had gone to plan then I’d have ordered this again. And I never repeat-order. My dining partner is equally impressed by her crispy squid and a little bit relieved at the difference between it and calamari.
Main is a salmon dish. Even the most brilliantly cooked salmon in the world can be a little dull and that’s recognised with the stabs of flavour provided by the chorizo. The creamy mash and the peas provide are fine while the tartare sauce ties the lot up nicely but succeeds in making the dish a lot more interesting than it might otherwise have been. All of it is perfectly cooked and presented. The pork three-ways sat opposite me looks delicious and nothing is left, but my dish is more than strong enough to avoid any of the dreaded food-envy.
Dessert is normally the sort of thing I avoid. That’s an unfortunate consequence of being brought up eating in curry houses. But with two courses standing at £22 and three only being £25 it strikes me that I have literally no choice in the matter.
More: Taste test – how We Don’t Give A Fork stands out in city centre
The dark chocolate mousse I order is great, complemented well by gin soaked pear and, something I’ve not seen in a restaurant in a very long time (if ever), served in a wine glass. The dessert ordered by my friend is far lighter than sticky toffee pudding has any right to be and is all the more impressive as a result.
We’e done. And we’re not hurried out. We sat down at 8pm but we’re still there chatting come around 10pm. That’s not down to slow service, the team were great, but more giving the diners time to enjoy it. We do, greatly, and it’s astounding that we’re permitted to sit in a space for two hours, eat thee courses of fantastic food, and have a total bill come to less than £60.
There’s nowhere else I’d have rather eaten in the city centre that night. Mark is doing excellent work with We Don’t Give A Fork but he proved on this night that he has no right limiting himself to that. I’ve no idea what he plans to do next, but I look forward to it.
Our food reviewers pay for themselves and aren’t invited by the venue, if we are we will always say in the review.
This review first appeared on the A Pinch of Salt food blog.
Preston Pop Up continues on February 22, 23 and 24. Book here.