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Duende pops up in Herts

Duende have been popping up their pop-up restaurants around the Chilterns for a while.  Now they’re popping over the border into Herts, and very glad about it I am too.   I went along last week, just to check it out, and I’m now marshalling friends and hoping that there are tickets left for the two March weekends that they’re coming to Hastoe.

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Chef Tim Zekki has some serious clout food-wise.  He’s been running the Lop-Eared Pig and the Temperance pop-up in Chesham and around Bucks, and came to all that from some exciting-sounding ‘secret supper’ events at London delis.  He was also a finalist in Gary Rhodes’ Local Food Heroes.

One look at the menu, which you get emailed a couple of days beforehand, was enough to set my foodie pulse a-racing.  I spent the next two days um-ing and ah-ing over what to have, making up my mind, changing it again, and trying to persuade Mr C to order things I wanted to try too.

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I started with the wild boar terrine (I read a lot of Asterix growing up, so I just couldn’t resist) and then moved onto chicken with a gloriously mushroom-laden sauce.  And I almost couldn’t finish the 85% chocolate torte.  I soldiered on, though, you’ll be relieved to hear.  Mr C’s beef was rich and delicious – well, I had to try it – and his lemon posset came with dark spiced berries.

duende 6

The deal with Duende is that you’re paying a fixed price – £30 – for three courses and a cheeky little amuse bouche to get your taste buds going.  It’s genius, as it avoids all those “did you have a starter?” discussions when the bill comes.   You get to bring your own wine (or beer or whatever), so we took along a bottle of Solaris from Frithsden Vineyard near Berkhamsted, trying to keep the whole local food theme going – and very lovely it was, too.

 duende 1

The whole evening was great, to be honest.  Properly good food, a real buzz in the room – and to get that going in a village hall is quite an achievement – and slick, friendly service.  It was just the two of us at our table, but there were lots of large groups clearly having a fab night out.  It’s the sort of thing I’d love to do again, but on a big table with lots of friends next time.

duende 7

Tickets are going fast for the Hastoe dates next month – the first weekend is almost sold out – so you’ll need to book now if you want to make sure you’re in.  And I’m looking forward to it already.

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The Urban Guide to the Countryside - Hertfordshire