Kitchen Guerilla // Hamburg & Istanbul
“In food we trust” is the credo of the Kitchen Guerilla, a Turkish-German collective of food enthusiasts, originally founded in Hamburg with a spin-off in Istanbul since 2011. And as one would expect from true guerilleros, they are not bound to a specific place but temporarily install their mobile kitchen unit wherever they find an extraordinary location. A pop-up restaurant in other words.
Last Friday, they popped up in Cologne. For just one night, a spacious, flooded with light photo studio in a historic industrial building was turned into a restaurant for more than 40 people. The evening was part two of the Hendrick’s Kitchen Guerilla Tour, not named after the chef but making reference to Hendrick’s Gin, a premium spirit produced by a family-owned distillery in Scotland. It comes in dark blue, old pharmacy-style bottles and is adored by connoisseurs for being mildly scented with an infusion of rose petals and cucumber, giving it its distinct flavor.
I must say I was a bit worried about eventually wasting my time with a blunt marketing spectacle, some sort of equivalent to selling electric blankets to pensioners alongside a cheap bus trip with free coffee and Black Forrest cake. I had visions of company representatives taking a microphone between courses to celebrate their brand and hammer it into my brain once and forever. But I was also too curious about meeting the Kitchen Guerilla to let go this chance, concentrating my hopes on that they would stay loyal to their manifesto that opens with: “We are in search of the culinary culture which is not yet destroyed by the system of profit”.
The Kitchen Guerilla didn’t let me down. And if the system of profit was present that night, it didn’t show its ugly face. The whole evening was great fun, as were the ginspired food and no less the corresponding cocktails, both gincredibly tasty. Before I had even entered the dining area, I found myself with a glass of gin tonic in my hands. The traditional piece of lime or lemon in it was replaced by a slice of cucumber, the latest thing in cocktail culture and definitely a very welcome variation, mildly fresh without the usual sour. So yes, it was in some way a ginfiltrated promotional dinner. But nothing made me feel like attending a type of ‘Maggi Cooking Studio’ event or Tupperware party. Instead, the culinary team on-site around Olaf Deharde and Michael Hermes did go for a perfectly unobtrusive and credible way of putting the product in the limelight. The idea was to build a bridge to Scotland, and at the same time to play with the different flavour components of the gin: Juniper of course, coriander, orange and as already said, rose and cucumber.
The outcome was innovative, top quality and absolutely standing for itself. We started with a Scottish wild salmon and avocado tartar with fresh coriander and chilli, and on the liquid side a glass of rose lemonade mixed with gin and lime juice, simply but beautifully garnished with orange zest and a red rose petal. The main course was highland cattle roast beef, marinated with juniper honey and oven-cooked for 5 hours at 80°C. Perfectly pink inside, it came with small potatoes caramelized with rose honey, a ‘ginfected’ cucumber salad and a Scottish White Pepper Negroni, made of gin, suze, white port, cucumber, and surprise: White pepper. The dessert was a worth dying for lemon and almond parfait with rose petal syrup, paired with ‘The Duchess of Rose’, gin mixed with candy Earl Grey syrup and rosewater, covered with a thin layer of floating cream. I bet the guys had a whole load of fun creating that ginspired menu, exploring different combinations of flavours and in between taking a sip every now and then.
I definitely enjoyed every mouthful and every minute, I enjoyed the easy-going and cordial atmosphere, the culinary creativity and the company of my co-diners. I had come for a not-commonplace event, and I left to become Kitchen Guerilla fan N° 11.302 on Facebook. More information there or on the Kitchen Guerilla website.