hooray! yesterday marked the occasion of the rambling restaurant: round two, and i’m happy to say that the evening felt like a great success for two major reasons. first off all, it didn’t rain. that’s always helpful for a rooftop dinner in london with no backup plan. secondly and most importantly, no one fell off the roof and ended up badly injured or dead. VICTORY!
happily, everything seemed to work out perfectly even beyond the absence of inclement weather and hospital visits. the fabulous moroccan menu was planned and executed to perfection by chef foodrambler and michelle, while i concentrated my efforts on transforming an empty bethnal green rooftop into a exotic and colorful yet also comfortable and functional moroccan themed dining space. i attacked a pile of assorted cushions, rugs, and blankets, raided michelle’s flat for decorative items, and took a last-minute trip to the columbia road flower market for a end-of-market deal on a stunning bouquet of english peonies. despite a few moments of panic that there wouldn’t be enough seats or spoons or rugs before guests arrived, all turned out beautifully just in time to welcome our first diners.
it’s amazing what colorful cloths over well-loved coffee tables and patterned pillows and wovern rugs on a barren rooftop can do to transform a space into a warm and luxurious place to lounge. our guests had a full view of east london’s wildly varied architectural styles, with huge rectangular modern monstrosities looming over quaint brick townhouses and their cute circular chimneys and the sky overhead created a gorgeous shifting panorama of depth and color as the evening went on. but most importantly…such good food!
we greeted everyone with a rosewater and sparkling wine cocktail, then began with a first course of three dips, chunks of grilled lamb, and made-on-the-spot flatbread. michelle and chef foodrambler had the novel idea of using a barbecue grill with small pans and sat by the roof entrance rolling out dough and watching them puff up into warm and tasty vehicles-for-transporting-dip-to-mouth. to fill your handful of bread, the chefs had concocted three beautifully colored and deliciously savory dips of hummous with olive oil, pea and cumin, and carrot with caraway and feta. in addition, michelle’s brother lau had set up the barbecue beforehand and grilled lamb with harissa spices. each table got their own set of dips and lamb and we passed around flatbread until everyone had eaten their fill.
mmmmmmm. bowls of awesome.
and a beautiful plate of spiced lamb with the disembodied head of chef lau up on the right.
it made me so happy to see all three tables full of happily chatting and avidly eating diners. everyone came in pairs and ended up at tables of four to six, so they had to eat their meal with strangers. but everyone got along famously and i overheard nonstop chatter and discussions about everything from florida real estate to chinese mothers: it’s the magic of breaking [flat]bread with your neighbors! here’s one table of new friends enjoying their food, wine, and talk:
and a photo of three separate arrivals of two having formed into one happy table of six:
i loved setting down plates and clearing the table and listening to everyone chat excitedly to someone who was a complete stranger just minutes before. it felt leisurely and relaxing and really special, being transported to this brightly colored world of soft cushions and shiny objects and pretty things. i know i sound like a first grader, or maybe a magpie, but it’s fun to create a totally different and unexpected environment to share important things like food and human interaction.
speaking of food, the inventive misses foodrambler and michelle created a delicious flaky chicken pastilla over a marinated and grilled red pepper with a tomato, pepper, and parsley tabbouleh topped with candied eggplant and a yogurt and cumin sauce. the plate was a riot of shockingly red vegetables against bright green leaves and the creamy white sauce, and the resulting combinations of sweet and spicy, smooth and crunchy, hot and cold, made for a joyfully satisfying mouthful. the chefs were a bit surprised too – sometimes multiple people make things and don’t exactly taste how they will all go together when on one plate…and then they turn out to be AWESOME. the last-minute miracles that happen at secret suppers! (although not our secret supper obviously…we’re always impeccably prepared).
dessert was certainly well thought-out: a chocolate-orange blossom mousse cake with a garnish of orange and candied rose petal, accompanied by homemade pomegranate sorbet and orange blossom ice cream. the ice creams were just the right amount of cool and refreshing for a warm summer evening, the icy pomegranate melding ideally with the creamy orange blossom.
the magical evening ended with coffee, cookies, candles and, of course, copious amounts of wine. we joined our diners to the soundtrack of sufjan stevens to end the night under a spectacular london sky. we couldn’t have asked for better weather or a lovelier evening. and of course, no broken bones makes it all truly spectacular. thanks everyone for coming!