Chef starts pop-up restaurant for two in deli with cheese in every course

Charlie Hodson has launched Table for Two.

Table for Two will run on Thursday evenings at Hodson and Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen in Aylsham. - Credit: Various

A chef and cheesemonger is turning his delicatessen into a pop-up restaurant for two once a week, with a six-course menu which makes cheese the star of the show.

Table for Two at Hodson and Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen, which is based on Aylsham's Red Lion Street, takes diners on a celebration of British produce, with cheese weaved into every course.

On Thursday evenings, owner and chef Charlie Hodson turns the delicatessen into Norfolk's newest pop-up restaurant, with the single table for two creating an intimate experience for food-lovers.

Hodson & Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen at Aylsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Hodson & Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen at Aylsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

The idea was inspired by chef's tables, which see diners book a table near, or in, a restaurant's kitchen, to speak to the chef and have a front-row view of their food being prepared.

Mr Hodson opened the business last October, as chefs across the country got to grips with their new normal and diversified their businesses.

"The Table for Two idea came from how we used to do chef's tables in our kitchens," he said.

Fruit Pig white pudding and buffalo cheddar tart

The Fruit Pig white pudding and buffalo cheddar tart, on the menu at Table for Two at Hodson and Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen. - Credit: Submitted

"People could have a table right in the kitchen engine, being served by and talking to the chef. They gave that really personal touch before we started to have open plan kitchens." 

Each of the courses are paired with wines or spirits, chosen by Tanja Wright, of North Norfolk-based TFW Fine Wines, and the menu, which includes the deli's own blend coffee, costs £120 for two.

Chef Charlie Hodson stands outside his delicatessen and cheese room in Aylsham.

Charlie Hodson at his new venture, Hodson & Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen at Aylsham. - Credit: Denise Bradley

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Mr Hodson said he hoped, with a menu packed with local names, it would also be a tribute to the traders and colleagues who had supported him along the way.

While the menu is changeable, this week's included pan-fried Staithe Smokehouse scallops, from Brancaster, served with Norfolk asparagus and St Cera cheese-filled croquettes, from Fen Farm in Bungay.

Hodson and Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen

The Staithe Smokehouse scallops and St Cera croquettes dish from Table for Two at Hodson and Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen. - Credit: Submitted

Cheese features in every course - the menu also includes a buffalo cheddar and Fruit Pig white pudding tart, chorizo gnocchi with creamy goats cheese and a sticky toffee pudding with Parmesan-rolled ice cream.

Mr Hodson, who said without John Killett of the Cheese Truckle it would not have been possible, is front and centre on the evenings - devising the menu, cooking, serving and washing up.

"It reminds me of how it all started," he said, "and hopefully how far we've come."

One of the dishes available at Hodson and Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen

The chorizo and goats cheese gnocchi, with in-house sundried tomatoes, on the menu at Table for Two at Hodson and Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen. - Credit: Submitted

What are the pairings?

The first course, scallops and St Cera croquettes, was paired with Norfolk's Wild Knight vodka, to balance out the smokiness of the scallops.

Next up, served with the beautifully sweet and salty white pudding and cheddar tart, was an unoaked Qvinto white rioja, which complemented the peppery notes of the pudding. Its acidity balanced out the buttery notes of the cheese.

A white Bordeaux, a Chateau Bonnet, gave a freshness and fruitiness which cut through the unctuous oiliness of the next course, the chorizo and goats cheese.

A Le Sentier Pinot Noir, from the Languedoc in France, was paired with the curried pork belly, which was served with piccalilli, vindaloo sauce and Wells Alpine risotto, in a twist on a deconstructed curry.

Curried pork belly on offer at Hodson and Co CheeseRoom in Aylsham

The curried pork belly, with piccalilli, vindaloo sauce and Wells Alpine risotto, served at the Table for Two at Hodson and Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen. - Credit: Submitted

A Wild Knight Nelsons Gold caramelised sugar beet vodka gave butterscotch and caramel notes to the cheese course, and the oozy, savouriness of St Jude cheese.

And paired with the sticky toffee pudding was Alcyone from Uruguay, a silky smooth red pudding wine.

Sticky toffee pudding available at Hodson and Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen.

The sticky toffee pudding and parmesan-rolled ice cream at Hodson and Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen. - Credit: Submitted

Some of the cheeses at Hodson & Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen at Aylsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLE

Some of the cheeses at Hodson & Co Cheese Room with Delicatessen at Aylsham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Chef's tables - a history

The concept of a chef’s table originated when chefs would entertain their family and friends in the kitchen as they worked.

The relatives would be sat at a table tucked away in a corner or squeezed in by the pass.

Over time, restaurateurs realised there was demand for the front-row view, and granted regular customers the opportunity to see what went on behind the scenes.

It evolved from a VIP perk into something which could be booked by members of the public.

Diners seated at chef’s tables are able to talk to head chefs and are sometimes offered exclusive menus prepared in front of them.

Over the years, the traditional chef’s table has changed - while some restaurants still offer those sought-after spots within, or next to, the kitchen, others have opened up group private dining spaces which have views into the kitchen. 

Some have created spots along a kitchen counter top, while many restaurants now have open kitchens in the main restaurant. 

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