[AD – PR invite] I was gifted this experience in exchange for a review. However, all opinions are entirely my own.
I was kindly invited to Aqua Garden’s very first pop-up dining event which was held at S17 Coffee Shop and Bistro in the Bradway area of Sheffield. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. Aqua Garden were loosely on my radar, so I was very intrigued… but would a fine dining tasting menu work in a coffee shop environment?
What is Aqua Garden?
Aqua Garden specialise in growing premium quality herbs and edible flowers. They are Chesterfield based and family run. Heading the company is Oli, a chef with over ten years’ experience.
The Aqua Garden Kitchen pop-up events are designed to showcase what they grow.
Aqua Garden Kitchen is a monthly dining experience which can be enjoyed in their pop up venue or as a ‘dine at home’ box in the comfort of your own home. The monthly menus have been carefully designed to showcase the quality of Aqua Garden’s produce. Each dish features a different herb, expertly selected to perfectly pair with the flavours while adding colour and vibrancy.
I absolutely love the concept of having the flexibility and choice of being able to fine dine both in and out. Lots of us have loved the treat of high end dining boxes during lockdown. Whilst I would always choose to eat out it’s not always possible. As a knackered parent who can’t always arrange a babysitter easily, but always wants a foodie weekend, I can definitely see the appeal of dine in boxes. It’s also refreshing to see the dine at home box sensibly priced at a significant discount. It was £40pp to dine out and £25pp to dine in.
It might sound a bit odd to get excited about bread (especially given the gastronomic delights that were to follow), but the bread course was insanely good. A rustic dark rye roll was served with Henderson’s Relish butter and thyme salt. Sheffield readers will be familiar with the local table sauce, but for those unfamiliar it was once described by Matt Helders from the Artic Monkeys as “like Worcestershire sauce but one million times better”. Anyway, I digress… I am still thinking of that heavenly bread-y combination. It was almost toffee-like in taste. Incredible!
Next up were two canapés. A smoked beef cheek bon bon served with moreish black garlic mayonnaise which delighted the taste buds. And a crispy fennel seed cracker topped with mackerel tartare and coal oil. My husband pretty much fell about laughing when I read the last ingredient out to him. I’m still a bit mystified about what it actually was but, whatever it was, it was utterly delicious.
The starter was beetroot and Locksley gin cured salmon served with urban garden leaves, horseradish crème fraiche served with the lightest, crispiest seaweed and sesame crackers. The combination of flavours and textures was delightful! I’m not usually a massive fan of smoked salmon but I really enjoyed this dish. It was exceptionally well presented.
The main course was Moss Valley porchetta stuffed with the most delicious mix of hazelnuts, garlic and rosemary. The hazelnuts provided a most satisfying crunch. This was served with pork fat confit potatoes, nasturtium salsa verde and spring green vegetables. Although both the potatoes and vegetables were nice, I didn’t feel they were particularly necessary for a tasting menu of multiple courses. I’m blaming them for feeling a bit stuffed at the end of the evening. But maybe the average person has a better ability to stop eating once they are full than me.
Dessert was a classic lemon tart – beautifully zingy with a perfectly flaky pastry. This was exquisitely paired with raspberry and borage pâte de fruits, a most delicious lemon curd, a really flavoursome raspberry sorbet and red vein sorrel. My photograph doesn’t do justice to the beauty of this plate of food. It was exceptional. The combination of flavours was delectable and as good as any of the fine dining restaurants I’ve eaten in over the years. I also liked how the colours of this dish mimicked the starter dish. It felt like a final flourish of skill.
Coffee was served with a satisfyingly chunky square of white chocolate and lemon balm fudge.
Why I loved the Aqua Garden Kitchen pop-up
Overall, I thought the menu was unquestionably good. Every single course was well thought out and beautifully plated. The flavours popped! I love the ethos of showcasing the versatility of the herbs by cleverly coupling with the highest quality, locally sourced ingredients. Service was friendly, prompt and professional. We also loved the ability to BYO booze! There was a lovely atmosphere and I would definitely return as a paying customer.
The next Aqua Garden Kitchen event will be on Saturday 17th July at the historic Barlow Woodseats Hall. The format will be slightly different, with three different choices of starters, main courses and dessert, including a vegetarian option at each. Head to the Aqua Garden Kitchen website for the full menu and for booking details, but highlights include herb crusted lamb fillet with black garlic, thyme rosti and spinach puree and Sheffield’s Bullion chocolate and cardamom tart. The July event is just £35pp – so excellent value for a five course meal. And of course there’s the dine at home box too.