Leiths Alumni: Devour Eats Nordic Pop-up at Blåbär

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Leiths Alumni: Devour Eats Nordic Pop-up at Blåbär

Stella (front) and her pop-up team with Blåbär owner, Sandra West.

“Street food has a very big influence on the dishes I create. I feel most connected to big flavours and humble plates with simple details – it’s my ethos in a nutshell.” – Stella Grant, chef and founder of food lifestyle brand Devour Eats.

On 24th June 2016, Stella Grant graduated with the Leiths Diploma in Food and Wine. Last Thursday, 20th October 2016, she held an exceptional pop-up event at Blåbär Nordic Living in Putney, delivering a five course tasting menu with a drink pairing for every dish. 

I was thrilled to attend as a representative of Leiths, as there really is nothing more rewarding that experiencing the successes of our alumni first hand. And Stella’s first pop-up event as Devour Eats was just that; a success. 

“My debut popup restaurant at Blåbär Nordic Living was inspired by my love for Nordic cuisine, my time travelling around Sweden and the wonderful charm and beauty of Blåbär itself.” said Stella. 

“When I first walked into Blåbär, seven months ago, my connection with the concept store was instantaneous. Anyone who’s visited the venue will know exactly what I’m talking about. 

“From the coffee and the smell of cinnamon buns, to the friendly staff and delightful lifestyle products; you are transported right into the heart of Scandinavian living.”

Stella’s right, the lifestyle store-cum-café has an incredibly distinctive style, which lent itself perfectly to the menu. 

The collaboration was full of beautifully synchronised details, such as the inclusion of live musical accompaniment from Swedish singer-songwriter Elina, deliciously smoky smells coming from the kitchen and the low-lit cosiness of the rooms. Of course, the real star of the show was the food itself. 

“Devour Eats, put simply, is all about connecting with people through food, something I've been spirited about from a very young age.” 

Stella went on to explain that her obsession with food kicked in at around the age of ten: “I started dragging my family around on our Sunday walks, foraging for mushrooms that I could experiment with when I got home!

"My mum was a talented cook who had boundless energy and creative ideas in the kitchen. She loved to entertain (both family/friends and paying guests) and share her magic around a table. I am so grateful I inherited her passion and learnt so many of her kitchen secrets over the years."  

So, without further ado, let’s talk about this wonderful menu. We were welcomed with a ‘taste of the Baltic’ delivered by the Dalarö Wreck, which has to be one of the most unique cocktails I’ve ever tried. 

Dalarö Wreck
Smoked butter and fish roe
Bröd och smör
Smoked micro radishes in Pick Me

The saltiness initially shocked my taste buds – it really did feel like we were drinking Baltic seawater – but the taste soon evolved into a wonderful, warming savouriness, which left you craving the next mouthful. With that first sip, I could tell we were in for a special epicurean experience.     

“Garnished with samphire, this salty seaweed aperitif, shaken straight-up with umami vodka and ice is, for me, the epitome of travelling the coast of the Baltic Sea; the perfect tonic when you need to warm up your sea-breezed cockles.” said Stella who, when asked, named the drink as one of her personal favourites.  

Next, we indulged in one of Devour Eats’ signature dishes, Bröd och smör (or ‘bread and butter’ to those who need to brush up on their Swedish, myself included). 

This warm rye bread with smoked butter and lumpfish roe is honestly the stuff that my dreams are made of. The saltiness of the roe and the smokiness of the butter merged perfectly to create a bacon-like deliciousness, melted into the bread. 

Probably the most unique dish of the evening was Pick Me, a pot of smoked micro radishes buried in a nut crumb, which looked almost like sand. On dipping the radishes into the crumb, we were delighted to discover an incredibly moreish cream at the bottom of the bowl, packed with herbs (most noticeably tarragon). 

Wide-eyed, we demolished the rest of the portion and could have, honestly, continued eating it for hours. The textures and flavours worked wonderfully together and, accompanied by the salty Dalarö Wreck, it created a playful seaside story in our mouths. 

Autumn in Stockholm
Autumn in Stockholm: Swedish meatball, potato puree, cucumber pickle and lingonberries

The whole menu had noticeably been designed with a story in mind. 

"It was important to me to capture elements of Swedish outdoor life, from courses such as Pick Me, which transport you to a vegetable patch picking a basketful of radishes on a hazy Friday morning; to Autumn in Stockholm - Meatballs with potato puree, pickled cucumber and sugared lingonberries," said Stella.

"Autumn in Stockholm reminds me of sitting outside in a Stockholm square, enjoying the crisp fall air with the sun on my face, people watching with a bottle of porter in my hand."

This dish was undoubtedly my favourite food and drink pairing. I'm a big fan of stouts and porters anyway, but this particular combination really ticked the boxes for me.

Everything was balanced; the rich creaminess of the potato puree and the saltiness of the meatball were complemented perfectly by the richness of the porter, but it wasn't too heavy. The sharp cucumber pickle and sweet tartness of the lingonberries were used as an effective counterpoint for the rest of the dish.  

Game + Bramble: Venison with blackberry and beetroot
A Refreshing Dip: Lettuce and dill soup with creme fraiche

Other highlights from the menu were the melt in the mouth venison, beautifully plated in Game + Bramble; and the incredible freshness of the chilled lettuce and dill soup, aptly named A Refreshing Dip

A special mention must go to From the Fire. This dish, Flamed mackerel with horseradish buttermilk and oyster leaves, was a work of art. The vivid colours and unique plating made it look too good to eat! But somehow, thankfully, we pushed through and enjoyed flavours that thoroughly matched our expectations. With presentation like this, it's clear to see why Stella was awarded the joint best portfolio prize on graduation day.   

From the Fire: Flamed mackerel
e  Stella won the prize for joint best portfolio on graduation day

Even though I'm not a huge dessert fan - give me a cheeseboard any day - the sorrel granita and spruce frozen cream in Sweet Evergreen were truly delicious and distinctive. And the liquorice chocolates (I never thought I'd say this about something with 'liquorice' in its title) were unbelievably good washed down with a sip of crisp Swedish whiskey.  

I gave Stella the tricky task of naming her favourite course: "It is so hard to choose! I became so close to each one through the recipe testing process, but, if I had to choose one, I think it would have to be the cured flamed mackerel. It's my favourite fish and the dish had so many different colours, flavours and textures."

On leaving, we were given these beautiful little bags (above) which housed adorable jars of our very own Lingonberry preserve. Such a lovely way of eking out our Nordic experience.

It was truly wonderful to see Stella in her element, thriving with the support of the Blåbär staff, her friends and family; and fellow Leiths alumna, Alison Young. 

"Leiths prepared me for my debut popup in so may ways, I don't think I quite realised just how much of an impact my training had, had until the run up to the big day and the actual service on the night itself." said Stella. 

"The training instils in you the importance of organisation, time efficiency, confidence and precision with your method and execution - not to mention being meticulously clean and tidy. Mise en place, mise en place, mise en place!

"My year at cookery school was a huge investment, in fact it will probably be the biggest investment of my career; but it was thoroughly worth it and it has opened so many doors for me."

The Leiths team and I are so excited to see where those doors will lead her next!

Devour Eats is now officially a popup restaurant in London with new dates to be released for its return to Blabar in December. Until then, and afterwards, you will find Stella catering private and corporate events for those all important occasions, from canapés and tasting menus to big flavoured barbecues and mouth watering street food menus. She is also trying her hand at private cooking classes and freelance food styling.

Stella will be hosting a #cookforsyria supper club in November; venue and date to be released this weekend. 

EDIT: The #CookforSyria supper club will take place in Notting Hill at The Red Lemon Pub
Date: Wednesday 23rd November 
Time: 19.30

Devour Eats: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Blåbär: Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Lily Grouse

Author: Lily Grouse

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