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J'AIME SEPTEMBER 2019

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F O O D & D R I N K

F O O D & D R I N K Welsh wonders GREAT BRITISH MENU CHAMPION ELLIS BARRIE, OF THE MARRAM GRASS IN ANGLESEY, SERVED UP A DELECTABLE MENU OF WELSH WONDERS AT THE LATEST SAUCE SUPPER CLUB, AS AMY NORBURY DISCOVERED ELLIS BARRIE, HEAD CHEF OF THE MARRAM GRASS IN ANGLESEY, WAS THE STAR OF A RECENT SAUCE SUPPER CLUB EVENING When it comes to fine dining offerings in Lichfield, pop-up wonders Sauce Supper Club have earned an enviable reputation for putting together events to whet every foodie’s appetite, bringing them back for more and more. Attracting star culinary names from near and far to the cathedral city, diners have been lucky enough to be able to sample exciting tasting menus from local leading lights including Midlands Michelin stars Glynn Purnell, Brad Carter, Adam Stokes, Rob Palmer and Luke Tipping, as well as Alex Claridge of Brum hotspot The Wilderness and a host of MasterChef finalists including Brummie wonders Louisa Ellis and Leo Kattou, and current incumbent Laurence Henry alongside fellow finalists Oli Martin, Matthew Ryle and Dean Banks. And if that isn’t enough to get your tastebuds tingling, there have been visits from renowned chefs from further afield including two Michelin-starred Tom Kerridge, Gareth Ward of Wales’ first ever five rosette restaurant Ynyshir, Simon Hulstone of Torquay’s The Elephant - home of the best value Michelin-starred lunch in the UK, and a whole host of exciting, up-and-coming talent. The supper club’s latest outing saw genial - or should that be genius? - Liverpudlian (and honorary Welshman) Ellis Barrie popping up at The Barn in Lichfield with a delectable culinary celebration of the best of Wales. Proprietor of the Marram Grass in Anglesey - widely regarded as one of the finest eateries in Wales - Ellis’s passion for food started at an early age, beginning his culinary journey by attending junior cooking courses at a local community college in Liverpool. In 2005, aged just 15, he started at the city’s 2 AA Rosette Radisson Blue Filini under Chris Marshall, whom he followed to Panoramic 34 also in Liverpool. After a stint in Australia, Ellis joined his family as they relocated to run a caravan park in Anglesey. Alongside brother Liam, he quickly transformed an old chicken shed on the Anglesey coast into one of the most talked about restaurants in Wales, and in 2013 the Marram Grass won Best Bistro/Brasserie of the Year at the Anglesey Tourism Awards, attracting the attention of the Good Food Guide in the process. Ellis himself picked up an Acorn award from The Caterer as one of the most promising figures under 30 in hospitality. With his culinary career on an upward trajectory, it was his appearance on TV favourite Great British 30

Menu which propelled Ellis, and the Marram Grass, to stardom. The self-taught chef was named the North West champion on the hit BBC show for the past two years running, impressing the judges with his creativity and ebullience and beating the eight other finalists to cook the fish course for the final banquet at the second time of asking. Ellis’s Supper Club menu got off to a flying start with a mouthwatering morsel - a Menai oyster with dill, pork fat and a smoked Solaris vinaigrette. The treat was beautifully presented and created a wonderful mouthful, with the rich, crispy pork fat and dill freshness adding depth and textural contrast to the smoothness and intense sea flavours of the oyster. Fans of The Great British Menu may remember Ellis’s Wyau Ynys Mon starter, which won rave reviews from the judges - and the version served up to Supper Club guests won rave reviews from us too. Served up in a delicate eggshell, the Anglesey poached egg was unctuous, combined with a lavish potato and leek mousse and a cheddar and charcoal crumb; it was an innovative dish which certainly impressed. Unsurprisingly given Anglesey’s coastal location, Ellis’s menu had a prominent featuring of seafood; up next was a rather wonderful take on a risotto. Using celeriac in place of rice and laced with a generous smattering of brown Anglesey crab, this was a firm favourite, with plenty of bite coming from the celeriac and sea vegetables and sea buckthorn balancing the sweet crabmeat. Home-reared pork is a mainstay of the Marram Grass menu; the Barrie brothers quickly expanded from growing their own veg to keeping pigs in order to offer the best pork around, breeding their stock to have plenty of fat, which aids the cooking process and adds flavour. And the Supper Club menu also made the most of their porky produce, from the fat accompanying the oyster and the pork fat butter which we slathered liberally on slices of treacle bread, to the main event. A simply beautiful piece of aged pork with the most delicious layer of gently rendered fat, accompanied by a sweet carrot puree and a luscious sauce dubbed ‘Anglesey XO’ - a flavour bomb of dried seafood and ham - it was just sublime. Onto the menu’s sweet treats and the ‘cheese’ course of Anglesey sheeps’ cheese, burnt pastry and a celery sorbet was a nicely refreshing pre-dessert. And a pud combining three of my favourite things - coffee, chocolate and cherries - was a glorious end to proceedings. After a wonderful feast, we were lucky enough to grab a few words with the man himself. Nicknamed ‘the laughing chef ’ on The Great British Menu, Ellis was as affable in person as he appears on screen, happy to chat despite being in the middle of a rather busy service in a strange kitchen. Although, he explains, he’s used to hectic - as well as running the kitchen show at the Marram Grass (brother Liam, meanwhile, is the business brains), he’s dad to not-quite-two-year-old Albert, as well as being busy setting up the Barrie brothers’ second restaurant back in their home city of Liverpool - which is certainly set to be one to look out for. Exciting chefs, enticing menus and a convivial evening with like-minded foodies are hallmarks of Sauce Supper Clubs offerings, and once again they delivered in spades. Who’s next for the bright lights of Lichfield? Watch this space. 31

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