Set in a Leeds forest, I experienced my first outdoor dining experience. Yes, I’ve had many BBQs before but none of them count after experiencing food cooked over outdoor grills like on this occasion. In terms of food event experiences in general, together with the Don Papa Rum event, Find the Forest is one of the best I’ve ever had.
The location for the evening wasn’t revealed until a day in advance. If I wasn’t sure what event I had signed up to, I wouldn’t have trusted the taxi driver to drop me off where he did. To my surprise, in the middle of an industrial area, I found myself in the most stunning of woodland areas. The welcome drink (elderflower cordial and gin prosecco) was served at the side of the pond, overlooking nothing but trees and other greenery of all different types. A tranquil area with only the sound of birds and subtle murmur from other guests enjoying the cocktail and surroundings. A lovely start getting us all relaxed but also excited for what more to come.
The main venue for the evening, a stunning outdoor area underneath leafy trees. It was fully decorated with fairy lights, fire pits and a wooden long table beautifully set out for us. Nothing to shelter us should it rain but with no clouds in sight, it’s the best seating area you could imagine. Greeted by Beth Webber from Forest Found, we were encouraged to take a seat and enjoy a 5-course meal cooked over outdoor grills by Josh Whitehead from Harewood Food & Drink Experience. All dishes have a forest and charcoal theme and feel, using only local produce from the Harewood Estate.
Find the Forest Dining Experience
The menu sounded amazing, despite me not knowing exactly what everything on it was prior to being served. I like a bit of surprise and knowing it all would have an element of charcoal and smokey flavours I knew I’d enjoy it. One by one, the following dishes were served hot from the grill.
To start, we had grilled early season peas and broccoli sprouts with grilled lemon and charcoal mayonnaise. Two really nice and fresh snacks. The charcoal mayonnaise has a smokey taste and works really well with the lemon juice.
First bit of meat of the evening – wild sea trout. Grilled on Cedar with Douglas fir and served with green nam jim and roscoff onion. The pink onions being a clear favourite across the table. I’m not too bothered about onions normally but these have lots of flavour. Being grilled they also bring more to the table than normally. The nam jim is my favourite. I love coriander and spicey food so a clear highlight for me. The sauce is a mix of coriander, chilli and lime. The main ingredient of the dish, the trout, was cooked to perfection. Slightly pink in the middle, salty from being cured in sea water and melts directly as soon as it touches the tongue.
For the main, we had more meat. This time lamb legs. I couldn’t tell you the names of them even if I remembered what Josh calls them but their legs, so good looking on the grill. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, I do apologise but meat is too tasty for me to give it up. Bumbu spiced and pinkishly cooked over cinnamon it melted even before reaching my mouth! Served together with sambal, burnt cucumbers, Hispi cabbage (covered in nam prick pao butter and kefir lime) and lettuce fermented with garlic and rice.
I could have done without the cucumbers. I do like that they look like tree trunks but I didn’t at all like the taste. Almost like pickled cucumber but nowhere near. The lettuce is indeed fermented with garlic and oh so tasty. I love that the rice look like maggots to go with the outdoor and forest theme.
Of course we saved the dessert till last. Perhaps not as sweet as one would think as the cream accompanying the chocolate brownie had been grilled together with charcoal to give it a smokey taste. Some said like licking an ashtray but that’s whiskey taste to me. This cream has a subtle smokey taste, almost towards liquorice which I love. Sadly I wasn’t able to take a decent photo of the dessert as by this time it had gone dark outside.
Finishing off the evening, we all gathered around the fire pits getting our heat back whilst grilling marshmallows. It was such a lovely evening and great experience. I hope that Forest Found will set up ‘Find the Forest’ again for Leeds Indie Food next year!
Have you had an outdoor dining experience like this before? Would you go to this one if they do it again next year?