REVIEW: Caiger & Co's Winter Residency at The Cuckoo

Written by: Sophie Taylor

Heads up, foodies: The Cuckoo pub on Hemmingford Road have an exceptional new kitchen residency. They’re called Caiger & Co. and they are local, seasonal and truly, truly scrumptious.

Alix Caiger, Chef / Owner at Caiger & Co. set up her bespoke catering company after graduating from university. Having gained a reputation for excellent cooking and dinner parties whilst at university, Alix took her passion for cooking and food straight to train at Leith’s School of Food and Wine, which has created some of London’s finest caterers and chefs. Just dusting off his apron from his stint at London’s first Naked restaurant, head chef Jono Hope is in the kitchen with a menu of mythical proportions.

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Locally sourced seasonal dishes will be served form Thursday to Saturday evenings until the 17th December. There’s also a charity dish that donates profits from each ordered to the #CookforSyria campaign.

Having spent the day sampling craft beers and independent vinyl at the Spitalfields Label Market, we were hungry hungry hippos and craving some top quality food that only a pub-based supper residency could satiate. We’d salivated over Caiger & Co’s menus and had wanted to swing by The Cuckoo for a while, so it was time to take them up on their generous invite.

To begin, we devoured the Caiger & Co. seaweed bread; a lot less salty than you’d imagine with a dense base worthy enough for the variety of spreads we ravaged upon it. Firstly we delicately sampled the smoked eel butter before laying it on with a trowel it was so moreish and nowhere near as strong as expected. On to the homemade smoked chilli conserve whose sweetness went weirdly well with the eel butter. The black olive tapenade was the winner of the bread spread heats however, bursting with umami delights and wonderful textures.

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For starters we ordered the Moroccan chickpea smash tortilla (with avocado, labneh and sesame seeds) and the smoked mozzarella on toast (with loquat jam, pickled quince and crushed almonds). Reluctantly swapping halfway through we were not disappointed. The Moroccan and Greek flavours of the chickpea smash tortilla enjoyed a fiesta of a big fat marriage in our mouths, a dish we’re definitely maybe going to attempt recreating for brunch one day. As for the smoked mozzarella on toast, who knew that simply smoking that pasty Italian buffalo juice would create such a taste sensation. Particularly when paired with loquat jam and tangy pickled quince on crispy bread. A real motley crew of textures that play together nicely like the tasty get along gang.

Our sides consisted of Caiger’s sweet potato fries with onion salt and Parmesan as well as  seasonal greens, lemon oil and crispy garlic. The house red was smooth and fruity and flowing. By this point we were really starting to get in to the Cuckoo spirit, singing along with Aretha Franklin and the other lively happy guests filling every seat available. 

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Our mains were so good we couldn’t bear to swap this time: an extra healthy portion of fish pie with parmesan crumbs graced the table first, piping hot and bursting with creamy sauce and king prawns. I plumped for the beetroot pancakes, equally full to the brim with chestnuts, spinach and goats cheese. 

From the Caiger & Co. filth sundae bar we created our own dessert of almond and stem ginger ice cream, date and treacle cake with chocolate sauce. Enough said probably? That’s what my belly said anyway, rotund and replete with my own greediness. #worthit 

What we wished we’d also tried: the #cookforsyria dish of duck, blackberry and sautéed potatoes. Slavour. 

What we would have again: If not all of the above, then we’d have to choose the Moroccan chickpea tortilla. Perhaps ordering it thrice for starter, main and dessert.

What we love most about The Cuckoo: Their generous flavours, generous portions and generous charity support. Love love love.

Afterwards we danced slowly up the road to enjoy a night of shape pulling at The Garage, buoyed by culinary satisfaction, sugar and red wine.

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Aptly named gastro hub, Cuckoo is often playing host to the creme de la creme of food residencies. Next time they’ll be invaded by Mirey’s Restaurant, a myriad of French plates by Gerald Mirey and Ko Ito. Classically trained French chef, Gerald has been cooking delicious French food influenced by the British traditions and ingredients for two decades. Having moved to the UK almost a decade ago, Ko has developed a penchant for French and British cuisine. Ko was able to harness his new found interest by setting up and running several supper clubs which has allowed him to explore and share the experience. Namely with Gerald.

The combination of the two makes the partnership a very promising culinary experience. The food is simple and authentic, prepared with the duo’s due love and attention. Mirey’s serves French food at its best, using the local ingredients, with the influences from around the world.

During January and February 2017, they will be serving delicious Bistro French food 4 days per week (Thursday-Sunday) with additional brunch on Saturday, and Sunday roast on Sundays.

The Cuckoo 115 Hemingford Road, Islington, N1 1BZ

Kitchen photos by Mike Barry.

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