Our experience of dining has changed beyond recognition in the past five years. Eating out has become ever more an experience, where location, the story told and in some cases our sensory imagination, play as prominent a role as the food itself.
Set up by Stuart Langley, Disappearing Dining Club aims to bring people together to enjoy great food and drink in some of the most unusual spaces. Former dinner parties have been hosted in lighthouses, salvage yards and abandoned music studios. Having never been to a DDC, I was thrilled to be invited to a collaborative dinner with Jura whiskey at the LASSCO Ropewalk on Maltby Street, an antiques treasure trove that I have spoken about previously.
Distilled on the Isle of Jura, a remote island nestled on the west coast of Scotland with only a handful of inhabitants, Jura, as well as being delicious, is a whiskey with a colourful past. An isle that has inspired artists for decades George Orwell, whilst writing 1984, once described the island as ‘the most un-get-at-able place’. The juxtaposing landscape of the island, one side a jagged, rocky shoulder, the other a calm oasis of sandy bays, has inspired Jura’s collection of single malt whiskeys. Origin and Diurach are sweeter and more rounded in flavour whilst Superstition and Prophecy are smokier and peatier, reflecting the darker, more dramatic side of the island and its past.
As the night progressed and the story of Jura continued, a new whisky and new piece of information proceeding each course, the choice of location couldn’t have been more befitting.
We started the DDC opposite the Ropewalk drinking hot whisky, orange blossom and Jura’s own tea whilst eating smoked fish ceviche inside a workshop. Taken over for the purpose of the evening, the workshop, with its pieces of partly finished projects scattered around, was a great location to start the Jura story. As a space it emphasised the craftsmanship that goes into the production of the whisky, in the process making you fully appreciate what you tasted that evening.
Once inside the LASSCO Ropewalk we were seated at two candle lit tables with pictures of the Isle of Jura dotted around the walls. The atmosphere was perfect: cosy, rich in history (we were sat in the President Eisenhower ‘room’) and a little mysterious.
To start we ate Venison and Allspice Croquettes which given that red deer on the island outnumber people thirty to one, was a playful nod to Jura’s heritage. The meat was unbelievably juicy, rare to achieve that kind of tenderness inside a croquette, and well balance in festive spice. Paired with the smooth 10 year Origin it was a delicious opener.
If the croquettes set the standard for the evening, things only continued to get better. Next was a stunning Smoked Seafood Platter to share. On it were smoked mussels, North Alantic prawns, scallops, beetroot, orange and juniper cured salmon and the most incredible hot smoked salmon from Brick Lane.
The fourth course, after a pleasing sweet/savoury palette cleanser was the short rib. Pulled BBQ Short Rib served with blackbean, sweetcorn and avocado salsa and the most outrageously filthy, deep fried polenta chips. I am always very impressed when someone can make pulled anything look beautiful and DDC pulled it off. The smoky yet treacly, rich meat matched wonderfully with the honeyed, slightly peated flavours of Jura Superstition.
For dessert, a Cherry Clafoutis with Vanilla and Whisky Ice Cream paired with the punchiest Jura Whisky, the Prophecy. Using the whisky to flavour the ice cream and the use of a shared ingredient in the Prophecy and the dessert, cinnamon, emphasised the versatility of the Jura collection.
There was so much to love about the evening, from the location, to the fantastic story telling, down to the company of the people I met themselves. Every detail was well thought out. For example, the simple fact that everything was served sharing style encouraged conversation across the table and literally brought people together through food. DDC- the complete dining experience.
Jura Disappearing Dining Club, LASSCO Ropewalk, 41 Maltby St, London, SE1 3PA 8.5/10
Photographs credit: Marcel Le Bachelet