By Saiba Haque, Food Editor
The Croft Magazine// Busker's Banquet was definitely one of the most unique and amazing experience that I have encountered here in Bristol. It truly demonstrates the best that Bristol has to offer in terms of both the culinary and music scenes. The evening starts with a two course meal by an amazing and experienced Chef and is followed by two musical acts for the night. This event is certainly for all the Music and Food enthusiasts out there! This article in in collaboration with the Music section of the Epigram.
Before I joined other people at the long banquet table, I had the opportunity to have a candid conversation with the Chef for the evening, Dan Ashford. We conversed harmoniously even as he was busy preparing all the food for the evening. I asked him a bit about the menu for the night and what his inspiration was behind it. Chef Dan's main focus for the night was to create a no-nonsense menu which utilises "the best the season and local produce has to offer" and provides the diners with food that is "substance over just style"; If you ask me, he's already won in my eyes! Nevertheless, there's so much that went into this particular menu, that I would like to dive into some thoughts.
Although the menu for Busker's Banquet is meant to be two-course, Chef Dan added an Amuse Bouche for the start of the feast. This consisted of a Crostini of sorts, with a generous spread of seasonal "Bramble Jelly" and topped with melted Dorset Red Cheese, Lambs Lettuce and beetroot pearls. A perfect start to an enriching feast. The sweet and tart flavour of the Bramble jelly paired very well with the sharpness and saltiness of the cheese.
The main course was truly delectable and indulgent, but also very well balanced in terms of flavour profile. The meal was plated like a beautiful walk in an autumnal forest. The star of the main being the Smoked Pork Loin, which was so tender that it would fall apart. According to Chef Dan, the meat was brined in whey (like the medieval times) and apple tannins. After brining the meat was cooked in a smoker "American Style" to achieve the best rendering of all the fat and an optimally tender cook. The results: a fantastic and indulgent star for the main. The additional elements of the dish was certainly up to par with the main. the crushed potatoes, roasted beets and spinach added sustenance. The thin crisps of sweet potato and the perfectly crispy and salty pork rind added satisfying crunches. But most importantly, the creme fraiche (for the potatoes), the verde, and the pickled caper-berries added freshness and vibrantness to the dish; the acidity of these elements provided a balance to the richness of the pork. All of these elements of flavour, texture and substance made the dish balanced and harmonious and also very full-filling. I would certainly go as far to say that this is one of the best dishes I've ever tasted.
Staying true to his "substance over just style" mentality, nothing went to waste! In fact, the Chef Dan brought all the leftover Crispy Pork Rind swirls and offered it to the diners as someting extra to nibble on. All the ingredients that were used for the whole menu were fresh and well utilised with a "no-waste" idea in mind. Chef Dan also adjusted a vegetarian version of the Main, as shown in the Menu, for Diners with special requirements.
The dessert was a perfect end to the feast. Cidered creme brulee is certainly a twist on the classic french dessert. Chef Dan illuminates by sharing that he made the normal mixture for creme brulee and added some apple cider to the mix, before cooking the dish as he normally would. the result being that the dessert had a lovely mellow undertone of apple cider throughout the dish. The Shortbread and leftover Bramble Jelly were great pairings to go with the creme brulee both in terms of flavour and textures.
After the feast was done, Chef Dan gave a speech for the table where the diners had their culinary questions answered. Upon which, the Musical Artists for the night got ready with their instruments and the diners were graced with live music from Frittilliaries and Hesta Banks. The review for the musical acts for the evening at busker's banquet is available here.
Chef Dan Ashford truly persists to be an inspiration to the Culinary world. He acknowledges that the reputation of toxicity and exploitation in the food and hospitality industry definitely has truth to it. The Industry is struggling and he believes that the future generation of culinary pursuers can most definitely implement changes to make it better!
"The reality is that no one wants to do it beacuse of the toxicity, which is ehy the industry is struggling...I am so lucky to be able to pursue cooking in a good environment in what I do now with all the other chef's in the kitchen. It's up to us to change things and make it better!"
All in all, I had one of my best Bristol experiences at Busker's Banquet and I would definitely highly recommend this experience! the communal seating and dining creates a great atmosphere where you can make new friends and bond with food and music lovers alike. I would certainly go through this experience again.
The review for the musical acts for the evening at busker's banquet is available here. updates on future Busker's Banquet events, follow the Buskers Banquet Instagram page.
To read the last (more introductory) article on Busker's Banquest by Music Editor Oscar Ross, click here.
Featured image by Saiba Haque
Will you be checking out Busker's Banquet in Bristol.