Restaurant review

Gastronomy by Jon, Dareshack: “Our own private dining experience”

An “exciting small plate menu” is a risky game, often only appealing to those willing to spend money on meager portions and may find themselves running to the nearest takeaway to grab a bite. bag of crisps.

But it seems that Gastronomy by Jon managed to redeem the controversial “small plate” through innovative pairings, abstract textures and layers of flavor.

Jon Cholakian and his team have taken over At Dareshack kitchen on Wine Street three nights a week for the next six months.

Dareshack is an interesting choice of location, and one that will work in favor of the leader or not. Having recently grown into a trendy café, bar, kitchen and studio, Dareshack’s new concept is creative catering.

This is Jon’s first pop-up restaurant, after a career in private catering, including cooking for comedian Russel Howard.

The austere interior has been redeemed by our candlelit table and natural plant drapes

After passing through the laid-back bar, we’re taken to the restaurant out back, a surprisingly intimate dining space in what could be a dark, austere industrial interior. Small candlelit tables with a simple layout give all guests a wide view of Jon at work.

Well, they would if there was. Despite our reservation for what is usually the peak of service, at 8pm there was another couple in the restaurant on a Friday night and they were about to finish their desserts.

We cautiously took our seats, reassured by an energetic waitress that the soft launch had been a huge success and the restaurant had been full for two nights in a row. After ordering cocktails through an online app that made us feel like we were back in the days of covetousness, we selected a range of options from the seven-course menu.

Our seats are located in a prime position to see Jon and his team at work

The menu looked divine, with a gourmet feel weaving through each plate with a welcome subtlety that didn’t seem pretentious or require a hasty search for Heston Blumenthal’s dictionary of gourmet cooking.

First to arrive were the king oyster mushrooms, roasted cauliflower mash, parsnip crisps, pineapple sage and herb oil (£8). It is difficult to fully represent this dish due to its brown color scheme. Brown fried parsnip chips, brown oyster mushrooms and brown cauliflower mash underneath. Nonetheless, it was delicately presented, and its earthy warmth was celebrated by clever curation.

The mash added a savory touch to the dish complemented by the smoke from the roasted cauliflower. It was a welcome addition to the less flavorful side dishes, which could have been seasoned better. The herb oil added little, and instead sat quite heavily on the plate, dripping onto the parsnip chips and forming a well underneath.

The second plate to arrive was the burrata, snow peas, salsa verde, smoked beet powder and wood sorrel (£9.50), again, beautifully arranged. The smoked beet powder and wood sorrel leaf gave this dish a real kick, and its explosion from the top of the burrata sang like a Pollock painting on its canvas. The sugar buttons had a fresh bite which complimented the burrata. The salsa verde was fresh, plentiful and flavorful, a really well made dish.

A riot of bright purple used the burrata blank canvas

Green beans, fried duck egg, beurre blanc with orange, orange zest, candied garlic and coriander (£8) were next to arrive: a disappointing plate at first sight. We were thrilled with the orange beurre blanc – the lighter, tangier sister to Hollandaise sauce. Although citrusy refreshing, it added little flavor to the dish, which was more like a budget midweek dinner without a fridge. We couldn’t help but think it was made last minute as a vegetarian offering.

The candied garlic and orange beurre blanc did little to elevate this dish to more than a classic midweek dinner.

The squid came last, fried with romesco sauce, sourdough croutons, extra virgin olive oil and coriander (£12). The fish was firm and slightly rubbery, and received all the notes from my fellow pescatarian. Although its texture is closer to an ‘nduja paste, the romesco sauce was beautifully rich and salty and we devoured every bite of it. The sourdough croutons added another layer of texture to the dish, but their crunch would have been more inviting if the sauce had been, well, tastier.

A dangerously Moorish romesco style pastry was hidden at the bottom of this dish

For dessert we ordered the ‘Moelleux Chocolat’ (£8), known for its cupid status. And the boy had it delivered. A true piece de resistance, this luxurious take on a classic chocolate lava cake was beautifully rich on the outside and brimming with decadence on the inside.

It was hot, but not boiling, and the perfect size for sharing. A proud centerpiece, it needed no frills additions, and the whipped cream quenelle hid shyly under a caramel tuile. A delicious way to end a tasty trip.

“The whipped cream dumpling shyly hid under a caramel tuile, feeling sorry for herself”

Ending on a sweet high, we were won over. We had basically had the pleasure of our own private dining experience, having also been able to chat with the chef himself after practically licking our dessert plate clean. The wonderful array of layers and textures made each dish feel like a celebration of the flavors within it.

Ultimately, it was a shame it couldn’t be shared by more, and one can only hope that a viral TikToker can bring this otherwise lonely pop-up restaurant to life on a Friday night.

Dareshack, Wine Street, BS1 2BD,

All photos: Mia Vines Booth

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