I was invited by Andre, Owner of The Wet Fish Cafe, to attend one of his supperclub nights. Come Monday the restaurant closes and once a month caters for locals, friends and guests (and anyone else who might care to come along) on 2 long communal tables.
I rolled up on a chilly night to the beautiful Hampstead setting, slightly early but welcomed by the waiting team, given a drink and told I could sit anywhere. It was slightly daunting at first, I seemed to be the only solo diner but Andre appeared for a chat and I soon sat down and must say I met some great and friendly folk with whom it was a pleasure to spend the evening.
Seated just to my left was Victoria Curatolo and her sister, from Villa Tonino, a family estate in the Marsala region of Sicily, who provided the wine matches for the meal as well as an introduction to each.
To start things off we had a chilled starter of crab with avocado and a red pepper sauce. This was very delicate, I love crab and the mellow smoothness of the avocado paired with the slight chilli kick to the sauce. All combined together very well and the heat didn't over power the crab meat. (Excuse the dark photos, lighting was very ambient!)
The wine match was the Grillo, 2008, white, with a fairly dry and crisp finish, great alongside the starter. Victoria explained that their estate was primarily producing marsala up until 30 or so years ago when they branched into table wines. The Grillo, one of Sicily's most popular grapes is a perfect match for a fish dish, Andre explained that this time around the supperclub dishes were selected specifically to complement the wine, previous events focused on the food first.
The main course was quite brilliant and everyone was in agreement that it was the best dish on the night. The wine, "Baglio Curatolo," a Nero d'Avola, 2006, was a full bodied red with a smoky note and a hint of spice. It was served alongside beef fillet with pink peppercorn sauce and aligot. The beef was incredibly tender and the accompanying peppercorns were almost sweet in flavour. I loved the aligot, a creamy mashed potato with garlic and cheese.
This was an indulgent dish, full of flavour and soft on the palate, very comforting and once again the wine enhanced the flavours of the dish perfectly. During the evening the atmosphere was relaxed and buzzing, everybody seemed to be enjoying the event and the company of the good people of West Hampstead.
For dessert we were each served a slice of almond tart with raspberries and mascarpone which was warm and creamy with a delicate pastry. Yet again, great with the wine from Victoria, at last we could sample the speciality of Villa Tonino, their Marsala Superiore Riserva.
In the past I have not been a huge fan of Marsala wine(though I am an advocate for its use in cooking) but I was completely blown away by the sweet nutty flavours, the caramel and dried fruit notes mixing dreamily with the pudding. I now love marsala and was glad to receive a much welcome top up! Victoria also brought with her some sesame seed biscuits which it is customary to drink with Marsala in Sicily, they were also a fine coupling and can be dunked like biscotti.
The evening had flown by and my cab arrived at 10:30 sharp, I was sad to be one of the first to leave but not before snapping up a bottle of that Nero d'Avola, one of the nicest reds I've had in a long while.
If a regular evening at The Wet Fish Cafe is anything like this, I'd be more than happy to return very soon.
Check out a video of the evening here!
The Wet Fish Cafe
242 West End Lane
I dined as a guest of The Wet Fish Cafe and received a complimentary meal with tasting glasses of wine from Villa Tonino