Well worth fasting for this! 40 days and 40 nights – the very tempting Lee Skeet supper club at Milkwood, Cardiff

I was sort of very early and then very late to the party in terms of Lee Skeet and his cooking.

In terms of being early, I went to one of his early pop ups in Cardiff back in 2017 at Brewdogs  (very good it was too) and also bought one of his seafood kits (also enjoyed that, bar from trying to open the bastard oysters) during one of the many lockdown (please God no more).

Since then there has been his wildly successful Bones Supper Club, which set him at the top table (if not at the very top of that table) in terms of Cardiff cooking. Much to my chagrin, I (for a myriad of reasons) never got down to the Bones Supper Club.

When I got the advanced email for his 40 Day and 40 nights residency at Milkwood, I was on holiday and foolishly thought no rush, will sort it out when get back home. Little did I know they would be sold out before my return.

J was quicker off the mark and had booked in for late November. Luckily for me her original dining companion (on seeing the menus on social media) didn’t fancy it because it was all a bit too fish orientated and she doesn’t eat seafood (George, you are a bloody weirdo), so I was invited to step into the breach. Needing no encouragement, I duly did.  

The food

You can add various supplemental dishes to your menu including oysters, lobster tail and otoro blue fin tuna sashimi.

Whilst tempted by the oysters J and I decided that 12 was just a tad too many for the two of us (would have gone for a 6 option if had been available) and neither of us had had otoro (from the front belly of the tuna – blue fin here) before.

As a result we decide on that and what a good decision that was.

I know this is deemed by many to be a tired cliche, but this stuff really did just melt in the mouth due to a really high fat content. Super tender it had a beautiful butteriness and a lovely rich meaty flavour that was complimented by a good soy and pickled ginger. Absolutely stellar, food of the Gods, stuff this.

Next up were two beautiful looking canapes (my poor photo skills not doing them any justice at all)

The one on the left was a blob of smoked mackerel pate sat on a crisp rye cracker and topped (to cut the richness) with a thin slice of granny smith apple. Lovely balance to this, with the oily richness of the mackerel, the nuttiness of the rye and a zippy acidity of the apple.

The second one was equally as good with an aerated wafer (tapioca I believe) forming the base for sweet white crab meat and avocado.

The next dish divided opinion. I loved it, whilst J was not so keen.

A bone marrow custard, topped with jelly doesn’t perhaps get that many people excited, but I love the intense beefiness you get from marrow. Crispy croutons added a nice and needed textural contrast, whilst the pickled shemiji mushrooms added a further umami hit and took (with the pickling) the edge off the richness of the dish. J couldn’t get over the texture, which was akin to that of a creme caramel/flan topped with a meaty jelly (she is jellyphobic🤷‍♂️) so lucky me had two portions.

The menu moved on to fish, which is what many (rightly in my view) regard as Lee Skeet’s (a Cornishman) forte.

A beautifully crisp skinned piece of spankingly fresh mackerel (one of my favourite fish) was adorned with roasted hazelnuts and surrounded by sweet grapes (with attention to detail shown by the white ones being peeled) and had a mustard glaze that added a nice piquancy.

The mackerel sat on a refreshing cucumber puree laced with cider vinegar that acted, along with the grapes, as a nice counterpoint to the innate oily richness of the mackerel. Cracking dish this.

Next up was another seafood sensation, with a plump scallop, cooked on point with a just past translucent interior and a caramalised crust to the exterior.

It sat in a silky smooth squash puree (pumpkin/ butternut?) and a rich chicken jus. Pumpkin seeds provided texture and a nuttiness that complimented the caramelisation on the scallop. Slices of king oyster mushroom and a liberal scattering of mushroom powder added a further meaty element to this high end surf and turf dish.

A piece of pearly white cod was probably my favourite dish of the night, with the fish cooked on the money and coming with really interesting accompaniments.

Two types (two toned too) of smoked fish eggs (couldn’t tell you what they were, herring and lumpfish maybe?) added a briney hit to an indulgently buttery beef sauce. Really intense flavour to the sauce, but it in no way overpowered the fish. Chard added a nice earthiness to the proceedings. Needed a deft touch to pull off this dish, but we were in more than safe hands.

The solo meat course was a perfectly cooked tranche of duck breast, with the meat blushing pink,  the skin crispy and the fat underneath rendered down properly.

The accompaniments were again pitch perfect. I am a big fan of cooked baby gem,  with the caramelisation adding a big extra flavour dimension, and fruit with duck is a tried and trusted formula (although blueberries and duck is a new one on me).

The earthy sharpness of the blueberries operated nicely in tempering the fatty richness of the duck and the seaweed based sauce (despite me being a touch unsure as to its presence) also worked very well.

We finished off the formal proceeding with another joyous dish. Pretty as a picture, it tasting as good as it looked

An intense dehydrated raspberry powder coated biscuit  covered a hot chocolate mousse and sharp lime posset, which operated to provide pleasing contrasts of both hot and cold and sweet and sharp.

A brucie bonus was a petit four in homage to the previous Bones Supper Club.

Nice chocolate encasing salted caramel made for a rather fine end to the meal, although I was rather sloshed (see below) by this stage (much to J’s amusement as it is usually the other way around) as can’t seem to handle fizz in my old age.

The booze

It all looked like a pretty good offering in terms of booze,

with wines all available by the glass and bottle and a very reasonable flight of  6 glasses to pair with each course for £35.

A pretty interesting  selection, which I have no doubt would have worked very well paired with the food we had.

We had, however, enquired about corkage and they were happy to allow us to bring our own bottles at (what we thought

was) £15 per bottle.

With the menu quite eclectic, including seafood and meat flavours sitting together we didn’t stick to a particular pairing and drank what suited each course best.

An rather interesting cava, born of a collaboration between cava experts Colet and sherry maestros Equipo Navazos, worked rather well as an aperitif and with the canapes.

Made using the Xarel -lo grape it has the rather unique feature of sherry (amontillado or palo cortado – not sure which one in this particular vintage) being added as the liquor d’expedition/dosage. This gave the wine a really bone dry, but quite full bodied, nature. Very refreshing and just a really interesting wine, with a brioche/ toasty nose and a touch floral followed by ripe fruit, biscuit, hazelnuts and even drop of liquorice on the palate.

The second wine we bought was a old (2002) Chablis Premier Cru Montmains from Domaine Louis Michel et Fils.

Still (contrary to perceived wisdom) well within its drinking window (for how much longer who knows, but it was the last bottle of the case) this had a lovely lemoney zippiness. It had also developed some honeyed and more honeydew melon and tropical fruit notes. Lovely with the white fish and the scallops, as well as having enough oomph to cope with the mackerel.

Because we could, but probably shouldn’t have, we brought a third bottle in the form of a Sierra de Gredos high altitude garnacha from Spanish wunderkind Daniel Landi.

Las Uvas de la Ira (which translate to the grapes of wrath) has a lovely almost pinot  noir quality to it, with a fresh elegant nose bursting with red fruit (raspberries and strawberries). On the palate there were cherries, refreshing acidity and pepper spice.

It worked a treat with the otoro (all the wines we bought did), the marrow custard and the duck.

We were told on booking that corkage was £15 and assumed it was per bottle. When the bill for extras came it only £15 for corkage in total, which we said can’t be right and should be £45 as we brought 3 bottles. Despite protestations that is was still not enough we eventually settled on £30, which I think was a total bargain.

The verdict

Fabulous meal, with Mr Skeet not putting a foot wrong. When you factor in that he is working in a kitchen with minimal equipment (I could probably fry an egg and that is it with what he has to work with) and you are talking miracle working. Easily best meal I have had this year.

£70 a head is not cheap and we added the Otoro at £12 a head and the £15 for corkage making it just shy of £100 per head sans a well deserved tip (service was excellent).  Even at the price it represented one of the best value meal I have had this year. Truly epic.

Whilst (unsurprisingly) 40 days and 40 nights is fully booked up, keep an eye on @leeskeet13 on Instagram and @leeskeet on Twitter as he puts up details when there are cancellation. If you see one my advice is book immediately

As I understand it 40 days and 40 nights may not be repeated as he is looking for his own place to set up a restaurant. Pray he does find somewhere Cardiff, as this guy’s cooking is the absolute business!

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