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Tuesday 20 March 2012

Hip Pip and his Pop-up Dish!

Birthday nights out can get pretty run of the mill, the same pubs and bars as every weekend, but with added pressure that you are celebrating someone's birthday and therefore it must be super duper fun, which usually means they end up falling a bit short.  Last Friday my uni friends and I all got ourselves to Angel to celebrate Fran's birthday, but this time to do something a bit different! I was actually in a very fragile state, having suffered the world's worst hangover with only 3 hours sleep, the thought of a sip of wine made me want to cry! After hugs all round, present giving, squealing at the size of Fran's new engagement ring (double celebration eeek!) and a few gulps of Hendricks, I felt good to go and ready for the night's adventures!

We made a stop off at Sainsbury's local as our destination is BYO.  A few bottles of celebratory Prosecco and Oyster Bay heavier, we set off along Upper Street on the look out for a Citroen sign... We located the sign and spied a little alley just past it (next to Antonio's Restaurant), tottering on our heels, we headed down the alley and at the end of the uneven cobbled walkway was a bright red Citroen Garage.  But we weren't there to get our 2CV's serviced, tucked away down this alley is a hidden gem.  The only clue that you are stumbling upon something quite special is the amazing aroma wafting out of the red metal door and a blackboard welcoming you to Pips Dish.

The man behind this pop-up sensation is Philip Dundas, a BBC producer turned chef and author (he penned Cooking Without Recipes which is on our Amazon wishlist).  A conversation with a friend who lived in Islington sparked the idea.  The friend pointed out that there aren't any good restaurants on Upper Street; you either have chains or non-descript venues trying to provide every cuisine possible and therefore not doing a good job at anything.  So Philip decided to change that and went on the hunt for a venue. Pips Dish opened in November 2011, serving up a fresh, healthy menu which constantly changes based on seasonal ingredients and basically, whatever's good in the farm shop that day.

As you walk through the glossy red door you're greeted with the Farm Shop in a big barn-like space.  Philip has teamed up with Farm Direct to sell their produce to the public from the shop which is stacked with big crates of fresh fruit and veg, jars of chutneys and relishes and I definitely saw the evidence of cheeses and hams tucked away. The other half of the barn has been converted into Pip's kitchen and the cosy dining area. The Kitchen is tucked in a corner opposite the seating area and is jam packed with big steel pans, utensils, glass jars and fresh herbs pots.  It was lovely to be able to sit, relax and chat whilst watching the culinary creations for the evening being whipped up before your eyes. If you weren't hungry before you arrived, that soon changes, the smell of the feast cooking away is incredible! 

You can immediately tell how much care, effort and love has gone into every detail. Many hours were apparently spent wiping, cleaning and scrubbing every wall and surface to try and get rid of the copious amounts of oil and grease they were originally welcomed with.  Well, those hours definitely paid off and now the shabby-chic interior fits the barn down to a tee - exposed brick walls with peeling white paint, candles glowing everywhere, big vases of daffodils, hay bales as benches, red and white check table feels like you are a rustic barn in France, miles away from London's Upper Street! 

Pip makes the experience really personal and although the barn seats around 30 people, you feel as if he is cooking a meal specifically for you.  To get the night started he introduced himself, the barn and how the night works, adding little stories in about the pop-up creation.  Throughout the night he frequently came over to check we were enjoying everything or to explain the next creation he'd be serving up and even to make sure that the one vegetarian of the group was happy (she definitely was).

The atmosphere was really chilled out and easy to relax in, lots of laughing and chatter and the food was amazing. The dishes Pip rustled up were essentially homely recipes but with an unusual twist - the flavours were incredible and the combinations quirky yet really tasty. 

The menu for our evening was kept secret (Pip told Fran on the phone that he would decide on the day depending on what he had in the shop and what was looking good - brilliant!). Here memory is a little hazy...

Sour Dough Canapes of Guinea Fowl & Pork with Sage & Pink Pepper

Ham Hock Terrine with Pickled Slaw and Romesco Mayo

Daube of Beef, Turmeric Rice, Stir Fry Sesame Red Kale, Carrots & Sprouts

Baked Cheesecake with Stewed Plums


It was the best birthday night out I have been to in a long time - great food, lots of fun and perfect for catching up and celebrating! You pay £25 for 3 courses and then bring your own alcohol - much better than dough balls and an American Hot at Pizza Express! Without a shadow of a doubt I will heading back to test out some more of Pip's creations, and next time I am taking Middle Mouse as I have a sneaky suspicion she will LOVE just as much as me. 

Pips Dish
133B Upper Street
N1 1QP
07503 293 438

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