Spaghetti Wednesday at Young & Foodish

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Last night I took a voyage to carbohydrate heaven at a really fun pop-up restaurant night organised by Daniel Young of Young & Foodish. Called ‘Spaghetti Wednesday’, it took the shape of a gourmet spaghetti night, where you paid for your ticket in advance, turned up and let a couple of top chefs spoil you with an amazing meal and two types of boozes. SUCH a good idea.

Daniel Young corrals top chefs from posh restaurants all over the world, then challenges them to come and do a one-off cook-up of comfort food classics in a new location – in this instance, a greasy spoon caff called Andrew’s on the Gray’s Inn Road in London. Some Young & Foodish nights feature burgers, other nights have gourmet sandwiches or roasts, and this was the spag night. I love the fact that the cafe would normally have been closed for the evening – but last night it was JUMPING!

Look at all the punters having fun, and they’re not even drunk yet!

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Young had convinced top Italian chefs Max and Frederico Sali to abandon their Pimlico restaurant Tinello for the night. They looked like they were having loads of mischief manning the kitchen of the greasy spoon, surrounded by lots of microwaves and fryers, peeping out from behind the canned drink display. They made their own interpretation of antipasti, spaghetti and desert, Tuscan-style. I can’t say I could usually afford to eat at Tinello, so the next best thing was coming to Spaghetti Wednesday and having these chefs cook their hearts out for me, at a fraction of the price of their usual menu. Not only was the food sensational, but also really good value – you’re never short of wine, and if you want seconds (and in our case THIRDS) of anything, the staff come running! Oh, and Giorgio Locatelli was lending a hand behind the counter, too. Many of the ladies in the room were no doubt thinking ‘Phwoaaarrr’, but trying not to show it.

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It was a really friendly night – having been a little worried that we’d be surrounded by arch, poe-faced trendy 20-something food snobs, we were super relieved to see a mix of all ages and backgrounds, with lots of laughter echoing around the place. We shared our formica table with the very gregarious Fiona and Shaun (as well as a full complement of sauce bottles left from the cafe’s daytime service) and we chatted about our love of being greedy. Quite simply the best kind of dinner companions. Super-exuberant host Daniel wandered from table to table making sure everyone was having fun, wearing a fabulous bright red shirt, and the booming-voiced Max and Frederico (both so tall, VERY Italian!) also popped out to chat with everybody, spilling the beans on where they sourced their amazing Italian produce and having a laugh and a joke. They even brought out an enormous n’duja sausauge for us to prod – ha!

So: to the food. It was delicious – OBVIOUSLY.

Nothing would normally entice me to eat liver. Except that this chicken liver crostini was perfectly delicious accompanied with the chianti that ran on tap:

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Chin chin, a jolly nice Chianti ahoy:

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From bottom left, clockwise: fried courgettes (heavenly, crispy, light little threads of joy), lardo (cured fat) and gnocco frito (little fried pastry parcels):

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You see those clever Tinello boys actually got me to eat TWO things I normally hate – liver, then FAT. Urrrrrgh! The lardo is cured with salt and herbs for many months, then it takes on a smooth buttery texture, and doesn’t taste at all ‘icky’ or gross – it was quite simply my favourite starter of the night. Much like eating pastry with unsalted butter. Mmmmm. I’ll say it again – clever Tinello boys.

Now this, the daddy of the night – Tinello’s interpretation of ‘spaghetti’ – paccheri with n’duja & burrata (cow’s milk mozzarella), simply AMAZING, I had three plates of this:

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Behold: the mighty n’duja sausage that was used to make the sauce for the pasta – a beautifully soft sausage that spreads like butter, filled with chilli seeds, herbs and pork. A bit like spicy pork nutella (now there’s a thought).

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The ole’ classic for pudding: tiramisu. Creamy, light, and not too sweet, with a lovely crunchy topping of cocoa and crushed biscuits:

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I actually could have filled my glass right to the top with pudding, but had to pretend to be civilised:

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And finally…cantuccini biscuits  presented in a lovely big sack (which I saw as a challenge, but could only manage a very weedy five of them):

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Just dreamy with a glass of vin santo (which nearly blew my head off and made the tube journey home quite a challenging event).

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Obviously nobody felt the need to add vinegar, ketchup or sugar to anything, but it was fun having the caff’s sauce bottles and sugar shakers on the tables:

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If you want a really fun and different type of foodie night out, have an open mind, don’t mind eating with strangers or being denied the option to choose what you eat (which I found a blessing and very relaxing), do try and get tickets to a Young & Foodish event. It really did razz up my Wednesday – more please!

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