Before I went to New York I had the great honour to be invited by my friend Charlie to sample her first stab at a pudding pop up. What stemmed from a Twitter conversation amongst Bristol pudding fans soon snowballs into an idea. It was revealed that there was a distinct lack of classic puddings available to us Bristolians. So Charlie, decided to start her own tribute to great puddings of old, resurrect some classics and introduce some soon to be favourites. What was quickly first established from a poll was that treacle tart was a much longed for and hard to acquire dish so this was one of the first pudding courses to be thrown in to the ring.
Less than 20 tickets were offered up for the first pudding society, hosted at Bristol Spirit in Easton. Run by Espensen Spirit creator Sam, who creates the most wonderful concoctions of flavoured spirits all from fresh fruit, expect to find rhubarb and custard vodka and blueberry gin. Charlie and Sam worked to create a wonderful menu of puddings and matching cocktails. An exciting prospect to those who particularly look straight at the dessert offerings on a restaurant menu or to those who are merely disappointed with the often lack of thought that goes into pudding menus,
To cleanse our palate a home made slice of sourdough toast with beetroot ketchup, goat's cheese and rocket, salty and slightly sharp. What was the most amazing thing was how good the bread was. I've often been under the impression, in fact in a hugely humorous blog post by Charlie herself on failed starter doughs, that sourdough can be quite the beast to master. But master it she has and it was just the ticket to get the tastebuds flowing for the start of our journey into Sugarland.
A British favourite to begin, a constructed Eton mess. Crispy meringues topped with booze soaked fruit and whipped vanilla cream. Just the right amount of booze on the fruit and a fluffy innard to the meringue shell. I have to confess early on that this was probably my favourite pudding of the day. It is hard to get meringue just the right texture and they evoke a deep nostalgia in me. Meringue shells with fruit and cream was often a go to pudding when I was growing up, not that puddings were a very regular thing. Spoons were licked and there was barely a plate left unscraped, but I was in a room of pudding fanatics and they were in their element.
We weren't waiting long when the much talked of treacle tart made an appearance. The staple of the lunch room's dessert arsenal at my school, along with jam roly poly and cornflake tart, and in all honesty it had been about then when I last had it. But banish all visions of pink or mint green custard as the expected accompaniment this individual tart was crowned with a scoop of Brozen's brown bread ice cream. An ice cream flavour first popular in the Victorian era and then in the 90s, it could well be due a renaissance. The tart was sticky and sweet but the pastry was buttery and short enough but not that it was dry and crumbly. A good treacle tart is a wonderfully comforting thing, and this was just that. Which is what a good pud should be, happiness on a plate. We voted for a pause in proceedings whilst we digested the first three courses. As I don't have a big sweet tooth I was glad because I was struggling a touch.
On to the penultimate pud. Chocolate stout cake with salted caramel and whipped mascarpone. Charlie was the first to admit this course had not gone to plan but she improvised with plating differently to accommodate and we were greeted by old fashioned mini pint glasses filled with cake and rich promises. This was my least favourite I think because I found the cake a little too heavy and rich for my tastes but the mascarpone was light and sweet enough to be divine. I made a tactical decision to leave some of this dessert to make sure I had enough space for the finale.
To finish a light last course. A gin and Prosecco jelly with rhubarb curd and fruit compote with shortbread. If anything was fighting for first place with the meringues it was this. Slightly sharp and clean tasting, Charlie should bottle that rhubarb curd and sell it. I guarantee a chorus of: "shut up and take my money" if she did. A perfect end to a pretty successful afternoon of eating.
I realise that as a friend it can be hard to remain impartial. I think what surprised me the most was just how accomplished and organised it was for a first pop up. I don't want people reading this to think I believe Charlie to be incompetent but she is pretty quiet about her skills but I never doubted her passion. And that is what is the best thing about Bristol, it has so many people who are passionate about food but have the goods to back it up, quietly building their rep up and gaining a following on their merits. Two more pudding societies have been and gone since I visited, each one sold out and each time a couple more tickets have been made available as word spreads. If you haven't had a chance to eat your body weight in puddings there are now tickets available for the September - December societies each with different menus so get buying.