Another week, another Bunch outing (plus special guests)! Grant, our resident Nudge member, invited a group of us to join him for a feasting experience – whether because he likes our company or just needed 8 people to book it we’re not sure, but we were all excited to be asked! Especially when we read the words ‘gigantic whole suckling pig roast feast’ (and in my case, also the words ‘bottomless sides’…).
The venue was the recently-opened Dickie Fitz (which I found strangely tricky to say, perhaps because it kept reminding me of the drinking game ‘Fuzzy Duck’ in my head). It’s the latest restaurant from the Affinity Group, who despite the bland name don’t sell life insurance but actually own three other gastropub style spots around London. It’s supposedly ‘Austral-Asian’ influenced reflecting the flavours of the Pacific from head chef Matt Robinson who hails from Sydney.
It sits on a corner along Goodge Street and we stumbled in (quite literally for those who were a little more err ‘warmed up’ after pre-dinner drinks) en masse. The airy dining room has quite a minimalist feel, with white walls, marble tables and pale wood panelling around the bar counter at the back, with daffodil yellow seating adding a burst of colour throughout. Our table awaited us, beautifully set complete with individual ribbon-tied menus rolled up at each place setting. Expectations were certainly running high.
The server in charge of us came over to explain how things would run, and said we’d have the opportunity to name our pig before we ate it. He mentioned some impressive names they’d had already – my favourite being The Notorious P.I.G. (amazing right?!) – which set the bar pretty high. Cue the most amusing discussion theme of the night, as early innocent suggestions of Wilbur and Babe quickly descended into ‘Let’s name it after Andrew because he’s late!’ and from there to Smack My Pig Up, Oinky Boinky and predictably debauched variations on the theme of David Cameron. This may or may not have been affected by the tray of cocktails we kicked off with, a bright summery concoction from the barman of vodka, elderflower and orange juice (I think), which was tasty, pretty, though not very strong.
It was about then that Grant came up with the inspired piggy name of, wait for it, Sowrah Jessipig Porker. Take a moment to let that one sink in – Grant proceeded to repeat it to us slowly (‘SOW-rahhh… Jessi-PIG… Porker!’) to make sure we appreciated its brilliance (and let’s face it, it was brilliant). A selection of small sharing plates then appeared, the highlight by far being Truffle ‘Macancini’ (dark roasted balls of truffled mac and cheese in case you didn’t decipher that from the name). I also liked the Lobster & Prawn Gyozas and the Chorizo Nuggets with dark squid ink dip, though I could definitely have eaten more than one of each. The final dish was a bowl of crudités served unusually planted in a bowl of ice with smashed avocado and dip – not much substance to it but some novel presentation and nice to have a lighter component to the starters.
Our server then brought out the whole Iberico suckling pig for us to have a look at before they finished roasting it. He told us a bit about how the pigs are reared, then with a slightly maniacal grin carried it around the table asking if anyone wanted a selfie. Admittedly it was a little odd but hey we did coin the word ‘sowfie’ out of the whole thing (yes that was the level of our punning by this point). The pig had been salted overnight then slow roasted over charcoal for a few hours and they were about to put it back in to crisp up the skin.
When it next appeared, I can’t say the skin looked too different but they’d also carved it up for us. The server had a good chuckle at Grant’s Sowrah Jessipig Porker name (and close runner up Hamlet 2), but Bella snatched victory once the waiter asked for something naughtier (not that we needed any encouragement), by coming up with Pork Her From Behind practically on the spot (yeah apologies if my parents ever read this). It definitely tickled the waiter, who then beckoned over bottles of red wine (one between two) and family-style bottomless sides of a surprisingly delicious cheese polenta, a green bean, sambal and almond mix, and a rocket and parmesan salad (which err I may have eaten most of the parmesan off). They also took care of Bella with another cocktail given she doesn’t like wine.
I have to say I was a bit disappointed with the pig. Perhaps it was just the piece I picked up but there was hardly any meat on it and what was there wasn’t as tender as I’d hoped after the slow-roasting. Others seemed to enjoy it more than I did though, with Andrew digging into a trotter and Tom going to work expertly on the pig’s head to get to the cheeks, while Vicky got flashbacks of eating a pig’s eyeball at Shotgun and tried her best not to feel too ill. Elsewhere at the table, Rob and Anoop were prompted into an interesting discussion about animal welfare, the dangers of lengthening food supply chains and the virtues of vegetarianism whilst somewhat ironically taking repeat helpings of the pork. Meanwhile I tried my first taste of strangely squishy and very rich pig’s brain courtesy of Tom’s butchery skills, and he and Grant shared the rest.
We did an impressive job of finishing it all between us, then it was on to an antipodean dish of Lamingtons for dessert, which are squares of sponge cake coated in chocolate sauce and rolled in desiccated coconut. Sounds seriously moreish, right? Wrong. They were a bit of a let-down, bland tasting and a little dry, and this comes from someone who always looks forward to dessert as a happy ending. Luckily there was one last treat in store and they partly redeemed themselves with a round of Tim Tam Martinis. I hadn’t known what a Tim Tam was but it seems to be a smaller version of a Penguin bar; when I said this to the table I was aghast to find no one else knew what I was talking about (did Penguins not reach the US? Does no one else remember the jokes on the wrappers that added such entertainment to my childhood?!). Once I’d gotten over the shock I followed Andrew’s superb technique of using the Tim Tam as a straw, as did everyone else (except Anoop and Tom who were avoiding the espresso in the martinis just before bedtime).
Overall I think I’d gotten myself overexcited at the experience description and sadly the reality didn’t quite live up to it in terms of how much I enjoyed the food. There were a few elements it had mentioned which we didn’t get in the end, and I’d been keen to try things like chicken salted fries and oysters kilpatrick which it seems they’ve swapped out from the feasting menu. As mentioned I think others probably appreciated the suckling pig more than I did, but it can’t have been that stellar when the dish people raved about most afterwards was the polenta of all things (which I actually really wanted the recipe for). It was a bit too much novelty at the expense of flavour I think, meaning £45 a head didn’t turn out to be quite as amazing value as I’d hoped. That said, the excellent company, slightly eccentric service and of course SOW-rah Jessipig Porker meant we all had a great evening. The setting was also charming enough that I’d come back to try the a la carte menu and hope for better flavours from the main course next time; mmm I’d probably still start with that macancini though…
48 Newman St, London W1T 1QQ