As term ends (at last!) and summer makes its approach, we can all take a well-deserved break from the daily grind of revision and exams. Holidays abroad, lazing around in the sun, ice cream in the park - what could be better? On your list of indolent summer indulgence should definitely be Whisk Dessert Bar, a pop-up restaurant in Angel which serves up a three-course meal consisting only of desserts. That’s right, dessert for the appetiser, dessert for the main course, and dessert for… dessert. It’s the dream for anyone with a sweet tooth!
The brainchild of entrepreneur Randon Burns and top patisserie chef Simon Jenkins, this is actually Whisk’s second summer running – their pop-up in Bethnal Green last year was so successful they just had to make a comeback. Their new location in Angel is spacious and very chic – dark wood and mirrors, black-and-white tiles and leather seats. It gives off the air of an elegant diner. With Nat King Cole and sensual jazz playing while you eat, it’s an excellent place for a date. We had what, in my opinion, was the best seat in the house - right next to the full-length window on one end of the room, where we could watch the evening melt into dusk over Islington High Street.
The food itself is fantastic. Simon Jenkins, the main man in the kitchen, is an award-winning pastry chef most recently named the Craft Guild of Chefs’ Pastry Chef of the Year in 2018. The three-course menu he has created is full of innovative flavour pairings and intriguing twists on old classics. You get a fixed starter and dessert, but get to pick from one of six desserts for your main course. For a little extra, you can sample one of the teas or dessert wines specially picked to complement each main course.
Things got off to an exciting start with the amuse-bouche, which was strawberry jelly, vanilla yoghurt mousse and lime foam. The lime foam dissolved into nothingness on the tongue, leaving just a hint of lime to accompany the strawberry and vanilla mousse.
Parsnip ice cream and horseradish zest? Not something I’d ever think of putting in dessert, but there it is on the menu as part of an orange-chocolate confection. Something to try the next time I’m back! I had a beautifully light vanilla parfait with fresh berries, aged balsamic vinegar and basil (though it could have used a little more basil flavour), while my dining companion had a very yummy deconstructed rhubarb crumble. The warm roasted rhubarb, sinfully rich custard cream, cold verbena ice-cream and crunchy deep-fried ginger topping were a texture and flavour explosion in a spoonful!
Two items on the menu are signature dishes from last summer – desserts with a savoury twist. Avocado-white chocolate mousse with torched sweetcorn and a chai chilli dressing, or the raved-about celery sorbet with crumbled blue cheese and fresh honeycomb. I very nearly went for the blue cheese myself, but was prevented from doing so by my long-standing hatred of celery. Fortunately, Randon brought out one of the new dishes-in-testing for us to have a sneak preview. Whisk’s menu will change over the course of the summer to incorporate seasonal produce; what we sampled was a watermelon sorbet with feta cheese, a remix of the classic watermelon-feta salad. Actually my favourite item of the evening. The light and cold watermelon sorbet fills your mouth while the more solid crumbles of feta cheese do little taste explosions of saltiness on your tongue. Throw some pomegranate seeds into the mix and you’ve got a winner for summer.
We finished off with some little petits fours: a perfect, tiny lemon madeleine, silky milk chocolate truffle and strawberry patê de fruits.
Plating is very pretty; each dessert comes on a different style of plate designed to fit it. Even the tea is served in delicate glass cups and saucers from JING, with a tiny hourglass tea timer for the perfect brewing time. With the relaxed ambience and exquisite desserts, it’s a Michelin star fine-dining experience without the exorbitant prices. One for the summer list!