Social fine dining – Eleven98 Hackney

Venturing into London’s Hackney heading to a social dining experience run by Aidan Brooks called Eleven98 Hackney I was unsure what I was going to be served on the night and with me being very fussy I was a bit concerned.  Also I was going alone as I was invited down personally by Aidan. Going alone was a bit daunting to say the least but when I arrived at Eleven98 Hackney and sat down I soon started to mingle with the other guests, even though those around me were all couples. 

Firstly though let me tell you more about Eleven98 Hackney and Aidan.

Eleven98 Hackney

Eleven98 Hackney is a self-funded immersive social fine dining concept which is owned by Aidan Brooks.  It is a way for him to showcase the incredible produce which is either foraged, grown or sourced within the London Borough of Hackney.

A little story from Aidan

“My mum has always been a militant recycler. As a kid, on many an occasion I’d find myself with one arm submerged in egg shells and other culinary gloop, after being ordered to dig whatever plastic container I’d tossed in there out of the food waste bin and into the appropriate recycling box. I guess lessons like that stick with you, and they’re probably the reason why I’ve grown into a similarly ardent recycler as an adult. Sustainability and environmental mindfulness have become something that’s incredibly important to me, and they play a big part in the way I live my life. So when I started planning to set up my own business, I knew that ethos would undoubtedly be reflected in the way I’d go about things.”

Throughout the year he holds many pop up dining experiences and is also available for private hire events where he can create personalised dining experiences for any occasion you may be celebrating. Aidan can offer various menu sizes, from signature six course tasting menu, a simpler four or five course dinner or an extravagant nine course degustation.

A portion of all proceeds from Eleven98 Hackney events goes towards these three charities Hackney Foodbank, St Joseph’s Hospice, ecoACTIVE as well as other various good causes dear to Aidan.

Who is Aidan Brooks?

Aidan Brooks
Photo credit: Eleven98

Born and raised in Hackney, Aidan Brooks graduated with a Professional Chef Diploma in 2007 and promptly relocated to Barcelona to train at Comerç 24, which won a Michelin star that autumn and where he became a Chef de Partie. Aidan broadened his experience in Spain at Michelin-starred Lasarte in Barcelona and at Ferrero in Valencia, where he became Chef Tournant and Pastry Chef and learnt to forage.

In 2010 Aidan returned to London to help set up and open Viajante, which earnt the East End’s first ever Michelin star. In 2011 Aidan took a break to study cheese at La Fromagerie, becoming Co-Manager of the Highbury branch. Returning to the kitchen in 2013, Aidan was appointed Sous Chef at Soho’s Ducksoup and subsequently helped plan and launch Eelbrook in Fulham as Sous Chef.

In 2015 Aidan was appointed Head Chef at Vanilla Black in the City of London, widely regarded as one of Britain’s finest vegetarian restaurants, where he introduced new seasonal menus, re-organised the kitchen and established an award-winning tasting menu.

Aidan’s love of his home town combined with his strong ethical views on sustainability, seasonality and support for small local enterprises led to him launching his passion project, Eleven98, in 2018.

Aidan and mother nature

Aidan asked himself “How can I make sure, to the best of my ability, that I’m doing right by mother nature?” Well the answer was simple – let’s think about what we consume, how much of it we consume, where it came from and how it got here.

Simply taking a moment to contemplate these questions, we can all start to think about how we can make the right decisions when it comes to minimizing the impact we have on our planet.

This is why all of Aidan’s dishes are prepared by using only foraged, grown or locally sourced produce. 

Within Hackney Aidan has completely overhauled and renovated a local growing space and cultivated various edible flora in worm-enriched soil.

He forages the hedgerows, towpaths and marshlands of Hackney which provide a bounty of wild foods for all his menus. Some things are freshly harvested on the day or even preserved for harsher times of year.

Chef Aidan also grows his own food in his Hackney garden.

For any other food he shops locally and invests in the community.  Meat and fish are sourced exclusively from small, reputable independent purveyors around the borough, and dry-store ingredients are carefully procured from many of Hackney’s organic, wholefood shops.

Any food waste produced at Eleven98 is donated to Aidan’s mum’s next-door neighbour José, for her wormery as her creepy-crawlies convert it to compost, which then goes straight back into his vegetable garden.

Aidan likes to say “We take from the earth, we give back to the earth.”

A culinary adventure

Upon arriving at Hackney Coffee Company (503 Hackney Road) which Eleven98 Hackney social dining experience was taking place I was warmly welcomed in by one of the waiters for the night.  As I was first to arrive it gave me a great opportunity to get some photos of the venue before people started to turn up.

As you can see the venue is beautiful with its brick wall, and plants all around, making this a great fit and in keeping with Aidan’s theme for a chef who loves using ingredients which have been foraged and grown.

I then went back to the bar area to enjoy my welcome cocktail ‘Cherry Oh Baby’. It was made out of Our/London Vodka, foraged cherry blossom cordial and sour cherry with a drop of almond essence.  It was quite an unusual flavour and one which I learnt Aidan had thought of.  It tasted a bit like drinking loads of finely blended glazed cherries, that you can buy from the supermarket. 

Apart from the welcome cocktail there were no drinks available to buy on site due to licencing, so I assume guests are allowed to bring their own drink along to this evening.

After a while Aidan came out and greeted us all.


It was now time to head to the dining area for our culinary adventure. I chose a seat at the end of the long table.

Once everyone had arrived and seated it was now time to indulge on a six course gastronomic tasting adventure. 

Gastronomic tasting extravaganza

Looking over the menu (made out of environmentally friendly P.E.F.C. Certified paper) I was pleasantly surprised by what was going to be served up tonight. Although I was a little worried that I might not like some of the dishes, as I am not one for pickled food and the dessert that included carrots really intrigued me.

First up was ‘cucumbers preserved from the summer, labneh & pickled dandelion greens’.

The pickled cucumbers tasted amazing. The cucumber was soft and the whole pickled process had given a much sweeter and sharper taste. The pickling really enhanced the cucumbers.   

Next ‘cured salmon fennel & whipped crème fraiche’.

This was a lovely piece of cured salmon.  It looked so fresh and literally melted in the mouth.  The fennel & whipped crème fraiche gave it that extra creamy texture.

Onto ‘ricotta, Hoxton leeks & other alliums’.

I am a lover of ricotta and leeks and this dish did not disappoint. With it’s creaminess from the ricotta, followed on by the sharp taste of the soft leeks. 

For the meat course I had ‘rump & breast of lamb, pearl barley, sorrel pesto & lamb consommé’.

The lamb was cooked to perfection (pink) and the nutty pesto consommé which accompanied the lamb was a great alternative to mint sauce.  The lamb cut like butter and literally melted in the mouth. The whole dish had lots of flavour from the barley, consommé and the two different ways of the cooked lamb.

Followed on by the first dessert of the evening ‘Stoke Newington rhubarb, Tonka & buttermilk cream’.

This dessert was interesting to say the least with the Tonka beans which had been combined with buttermilk to make a creamy yoghurt along with pickled rhubarb. The texture was unusual and so was the flavour.    

Then ‘carrots & almonds’.

Unusual to have carrots as a dessert unless you’re eating carrot cake, but this combination of pickled carrots along with almond cake was an interesting one.  The carrots were poached in a freeze-dried carrot syrup. They were still crunchy, yet tasted sweet. I was not a lover of this dessert, but it was interesting.

Before grabbing my bag to go, we were presented with some ‘truffles’ which we had to taste to guess what they were made out of.


I guessed it correctly and they were made out of mushrooms which was very interesting. Not sure if was to my taste though as even though, I love mushrooms and I love chocolate, combining the two for me may have been a bit too far. 

All in all, apart from the desserts dishes disappointing me slightly I loved the whole evening.

I especially loved how Aidan interacted throughout the evening giving insightful details behind each dish as its presented, explaining where things were grown or sourced, be it from his garden or a local grocer. This makes the whole experience way more than just a meal.

My favourite dish of the night was rump and breast of lamb cooked two ways as the meat was cooked to perfection and the pesto consommé was a great alternative to mint sauce. 

Verdict

I have attended many dining experiences, but this has to be one of the most incredible ones I have ever attended. Not only did the whole place look stunning and fit in with Aidan’s beliefs of mother nature, but his passion for local produce and creativity made for some very special dishes, which were all beautifully presented and the food tasted exceptional.

The great beauty about any social dining / supper club event is that it does not matter if you are attending by yourself as with these type of events you can easily mingle with other guests and enjoy a gastronomic journey of food and laughter together.

If you are looking for a chef who is a great believer in helping our planet and serves up stunning yet tasty food, then I highly recommend Eleven98 Hackney by Aidan Brooks.

To me this is a Michelin star pop up dining experience within the heart of Hackney.

Book your culinary journey with Eleven98 Hackney

To find out more about Aidan click here.

To book a seat at one of Eleven98 Hackney social dining pop ups click here.

Thank you to Aidan who invited me down on a complimentary basis to taste the fruits of nature foraged, grown and sourced locally within Hackney by him. All views are my own honest opinion.

Click on link below to read blogs from other community members who attended other nights. All their views are of their own honest opinions.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: