Last week, I headed to The Anchor in Aspley Guise for a Mediterranean Supper Club. Now, if you've read Sophie etc for a while, you will remember that I actually reviewed The Anchor when it first opened back in October 2016. I feel a little bit guilty as I haven't actually been back since, but always recommend it to people. They've gone through a few changes since my first visit, including introducing a new manager and also a new chef - Milton Keynes' Chef of the Year, Shane Clarke, who was hosting the evening.
The Anchor is part of Unique Hospitality group who look after a number of amazing independent pubs in the area like 185 Watling Street in Towcester, The Wheatsheaf in Bow Brickhill and The Knife & Cleaver in Houghton Conquest. I've dined in a few locations before and the atmosphere is always lovely and the food is always great!
When I arrived at The Anchor, the insanely hot weather we had been having was just breaking in the form of torrential rainstorms, so, unfortunately, we weren't able to dine outside in the garden as planned! However, the lovely team had created the most gorgeous set up in the private dining room upstairs which looked like something out of a Midsummer Night's Dream. Freshly cut herbs, fairly lights and jugs of Sangria adorned a deep blue tablecloth.
Fellow foodie friend Jo was also attending and came up the stairs with a humongous "I am ready to eat" grin on her face. These supper clubs are small exclusive dining events which showcase some fabulous food and make use of seasonal ingredients. It gave me and Jo the chance to have a proper catch-up, putting the world to rights as well as taking photos of our dinner to our heart's content. Some of the other guests also started quizzing us about our blogs and asking us the hows and whats of it all which provided some entertaining conversation for the evening!
This particular supper club was inspired by the flavours of the Mediterranean so I was expecting warm spices, great meats and unapologetically scrummy Spanish inspired dishes from Chef Shane, who had only been at The Anchor a few weeks but is most definitely making his mark.
Our starter actually consisted of three tapas dishes, which was a nice surprise and gave us a chance to try a range of dishes without getting too full! They also looked very cute arranged on our plate and were beautifully presented. The first thing I sank my teeth into were the Morcilla Sausage Meatballs with piquillo peppers and parsley. These were gloriously tender with a real kick that tickled the back of your throat a bit.
Next up were the Serrano ham croquettes served with a romesco sauce and friend almonds. These were mine and Jo's favourite of the three tapas dishes. There was a great balance of crispiness with the saltiness of the ham and the soft potato which was lifted nicely by the heat from the romesco sauce.
For me, gambas is a very special dish. It's one of those dishes that when I eat it, I am instantly taken back to Gran Canaria were huge prawns were served in garlic and chilli. I basically ate them every night of that holiday! The prawns in our trio of tapas were beautifully barbequed so had a nice salty flavour and were nice and tender, but I needed more garlic as it didn't quite come through enough.
I expected to have two more courses that came out separately, but our next course also consisted of a few parts. We were served a little board that had a bowl of squid, octopus and cuttlefish paella topped with a chorizo aioli and saffron yoghurt. This was a bowl of yum. I absolutely love paella so this was a real treat. The rice was tender and every few forkfuls we got a bite of seafood - though I wanted more! This brought me out in a bit of a sweat as it had a bit of a secret kick to it - not to mention it was still about 28 degrees outside!
The other half of the course was a Huevos Rancheros inspired dish - so a baked egg in a chilli sauce with a black bean salsa and guacamole. This was served in a very cute little skillet! The egg was gooey and went so nicely with the cool guac and spicy salsa. We also had some crispy homemade tortillas which were a dream. I don't know if tortillas can be al dente, but that's the only way I can describe them because they had a beautiful crisp outside with a little bit of bite in the middle that was still slightly soft.
Dessert had to include one thing and one thing only - CHURROS. Now, my experiences with churros haven't always been the best and I don't think I have ever eaten a churro where I've been like 'hot damn, this is perfect.' But these were perfect. The whole table was crying for more; one was not enough!! (Though Jo and I were defeated - the chocolate tipped us over the edge) The outside of the churro was crisp, light and smothered in cinnamon sugar. The inside was gooey and everything it should be. This very indulgent pastry came with hot chocolate sauce.
The second part of our dessert was a blood orange creme Catalana, a typical desert dish from Catalonia. It was a bit like a creme brulee as it had a crisp sugar shell on top of a set custard. I really love blood orange as a flavour, but it didn't really come through in this dessert which was a bit of a shame. However, it was very tasty and smooth - albeit a rich course to finish on!
Overall it was a really lovely evening at The Anchor, and I am definitely going to make an effort to go back there again soon. Shane is a great chef and if this standard of food was anything to go by, their everyday menu is going to be fabulous.
To view menus and book a table visit theanchoraspleyguise.com - you can also book out their private dining room for special events and occasions!
*This meal was complimentary but all opinions are my own.