A Bit Smarter Eating Out

Eat Off The Menu with The Waterway, Maida Vale

May 16, 2017

People seem to love to tell me their secrets. Is it something about my face or maybe I have one of those personas which compels people to tell me everything? I have absolutely no idea. What I do know is that having everyone unfurl their deepest, darkest, silliest, or most embarrassing secrets can be a bit of a burden. I’m a bit of a blabbermouth and prone to spilling the beans, usually only to a certain someone but still, spilt all the same. I’m not sure if the team at Eat Off The Menu knew this but I suspect they hoped I wouldn’t keep their secret, they actually wanted me to tell you all about it.

Eat Off The Menu are sort of in the business of secrets, but instead of trying to keep them under wraps, they are all about sharing them with as many people as possible. Their concept revolves around discovering secret dishes from restaurants all over London; these might be something near and dear to the chef or something completely new and experimental they’ve cooked up. Either way, the thing they all have in common is that they are not on the restaurant’s main menu, and the only way to try them is through Eat Off The Menu. Has that got your attention? It certainly got mine.

The first ‘off the menu’ secret dish I discovered was at The Waterway, a smart but relaxed neighbourhood bistro in Maida Vale. I got the sense that the restaurant itself is actually a well-kept secret among the locals; I could hardly blame them because the location is a trump card and I can only imagine how glorious the terrace must be on a sunny day! The Waterway serves a range of Mediterranean-inspired dishes, so that gave us a couple of hints about the secret dish, but before all was revealed we had to suffer through a couple of other ‘on the menu’ dishes first.

Cornish crab cakes and goats cheese fritters; one with a light, airy centre, the other rich and gooey, but both encased in a crisp, golden crumb were the first horrendously delicious things to be forced upon us. I think even those who frown upon fried goods would be hard pressed to turn these down. A seasonal treat of grilled asparagus dressed in a drizzle of balsamic vinegar was next, followed by slices of confit duck breast served with a zingy mustard apple and walnut salad. Didn’t I tell you earlier that this secret-keeping business was a burden?

I was clearly also among scallop fans as a plate of lightly seared, juicy morsels were almost greeted with applause; it did help that they looked and smelled fantastic! But for me, they were no competition for the chargrilled squid with sweet chilli, balsamic vinegar and salad. If I told you that I fell head over heels for the tender squid pieces smothered in the tangy sauce, that would be an understatement; in fact, I was so enamoured with it, I tried recreating it at home myself. It wasn’t bad, but The Waterway certainly have no culinary competition from me just yet.

But enough dilly dallying, we were here for one dish and one dish only… The Waterway’s secret dish which was sumac-crusted lamb cutlets with ratatouille, cavolo nero and romanesco sauce. Like the rest of the table, I was a big fan; my lamb was blushing and tender, though if I was to be really picky, and I usually am, it could have done with a bit more fat-rendering. Looking down the line, I think I got unlucky, but not even a glutton like me likes lamb fat. The ratatouille and vibrant sauces went remarkably well with the lamb, and almost stole the limelight with their vivacious flavours.

A little bit refined, a little bit comforting, this dish also perplexed me a little with its mix of cuisines and influences. As we all know, sometimes fusion ends up as confusion, but somehow this combination of French, Spanish, Mediterranean flavours came together seamlessly. We found out that this creation holds a special place in Chef Rasheed’s heart as it represents all the cuisines and flavours which have inspired his culinary journey, and span right back to his childhood and family occasions. Then it all made more sense; I’m a firm believer that great dishes draw inspiration from great memories, and this was a fantastic example of that. It also shouldn’t be kept a secret so I’m telling you now, get yourself down to The Waterway and try it for yourself!

Once I got to the bottom of that secret dish, literally and figuratively, I found myself wanting to find out more… I know I said the business of secrets is a burden, but it’s also addictive… Eat Off The Menu has now tempted me to find out about A Little Secret in Harrow and even delve further to Discover Moldova! I love eating from the menu but there’s something exciting about eating off it too and getting access to some quirky or much-loved dishes which the chefs have saved for a select few!

Have you ever discovered secret dishes from restaurants?

Thanks to Eat Off The Menu and The Waterway for letting me in on this delicious little secret, but as always, all opinions are mine and mine alone!

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