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The Loft

The world's top chefs work and sleep in one space for week-long residencies

Dazed doesn't normally do restaurant reviews, but it's not entirely clear that Nuno Mendes and Clarise Faria’s kitchen experiment, Loft Project, counts as a restaurant. After starting out as a supper club with Mendes as chef, they're now inviting the world’s top chefs for week-long residencies at their loft space on Kingsland Road, where the cooks actually sleep in the mezzanine living area above the kitchen after presenting their food to 16 people around one communal table. Maybe that’s why there isn't too much garlic on the menu this evening. The walls are used as exhibition space, and tonight they are showing Atlanta Rascher's photographic interpretation of the myth of Atlanta: hazy, mid-sprint self-portraits taken in Greece.
The first canapes, succulent chicken oysters in pine salt, are passed around by the chef, a Scot named Isaac McHale. “What's a chicken oyster?” someone asks. I am halted by a flashback to Hannibal Lecter mentioning that the oyster is his favourite part of the body to eat. They’re found somewhere underneath your angel's wings, I think. I’m not sure where that equates to if you’re a chicken. They are delicious. An added social element is provided by McHale coming out before each course to introduce the food, followed by the sommelier, who pours a new wine with each plate. McHale tells us that the tagliatelle celeriac, served with walnut mayonnaise and apples, goes ideally with bread, but he doesn't want us to get too full before the fifth course. He ingeniously employs a sous chef to circle the table grating a little burnt bread – his description – on to the plates.
The ingredients used here are more caressed into ripeness than grown, and the grilled leeks "Calçotada", McHale tells us, are kept white and tender by mollycoddling cultivators, who build up the soil around their necks as they grow. Before the largest of the 11 courses is served, the kind of smoke that you only smell in the countryside comes at us like someone had just torched a farm. He explains that we were about to eat venison baked in hay. It's so tender, it could have been Bambi. The evening is unique in that it’s the only time I’ve seen guests give the chef a hug at the end of the meal, they are that grateful. Look out for his new restaurant, which should be opening in Borough Market around October.
Special thanks to Gemma Bell