Photography by Matt Austin
As a region of foodies, we love a good pop-up evening. From small plates and grazing platters to full-on communal feasts, something about these one-off events seems to have captured our collective imaginations. Take The Strawberry Tree for example – Ed and Giselle are a duo on a mission to bring the flavours of Granada, Morocco and Gibraltar to the county of Dorset. So far these evenings have proven to be a roaring success. So, we caught up with Ed to find out what to expect from an evening with The Strawberry Tree…
How The Strawberry Tree all began..
“Giselle and I met in 2017 while working together at a café in Dorchester” Ed tells us, “We quickly discovered a shared passion for the power of food to connect and bring people together. We all have our own food stories – how the meals and foods of our childhoods have shaped us, the memories they trigger, the way that food and drink lies at the heart of our histories and cultures – the people it connects us to… we love this.”
The pair wanted to create a project that encompassed some of these aspects, so in 2018 they set up The Strawberry Tree as a way of sharing their own food stories and connecting with other peoples’.
“Our name comes from “El Madroño” – a tree with a long cultural history in Spain. It permeates Spanish culture in many ways and is even the symbol of Madrid. As we both have strong family ties to Spain and Spanish food and drink, it is a good metaphor for our project. We currently run popup events, tastings, foodie weekends, cookery days and more.”
Family Roots in Food
Giselle is originally from Gibraltar but has spent much of her life living and cooking in Andalusia in southern Spain. Many of our recipes are inspired by her amazing family history. Originally Sephardic Jews from Granada, her family were pushed out of their homes in the 1400s and forced to leave the country by the Spanish Catholic kings. They ended up in Morocco and then later Gibraltar by the 1600s. Coming from a family with a long line of chefs, you can imagine the beautiful recipes and stories that she has inherited, filled with a rich history and the aromatic flavours of the Atlas Mountains and southern Spain.
Meanwhile, Ed’s love of Spanish food and drink partly comes from his Spanish mother-in-law. He lived in Spain for around 15 years, where he first came across “sobremesa” – a Spanish word that refers to the convivial after-dinner chit-chat that happens when you get people around a table.
“It’s curious that we don’t have an equivalent word in English,” Ed observed, “I wanted to combine “sobremesa” with a food project in the UK and that’s what ultimately led to the creation of The Strawberry Tree”.
What to expect from an evening with The Strawberry Tree
“Our popup events often involve Spanish tapas and “pintxos” in some format, although we also run popup tastings and supper club evenings too”.
During pop-up evenings, The Strawberry Tree try to capture the informality of eating out in Spain and the relaxed and casual atmosphere of Spanish bars.
“Our food is not meant to take centre-stage, but to act as the lubricant for getting friends together, good chat and “sobremesa””.
They also try to weave their travel adventures and experiences into all of their menus. For example, the current winter tapas menu has dishes like chickpea “fabada” with smoked chorizo & morcilla; Slow roasted aniseed & garlic pork belly; Whole roast hake head with salsa verde; or Roast leeks with romesco sauce & flaked almonds…
An age of Pop-up dining
When asked why he thinks the West Country is particularly fond of pop-up dining experiences, Ed explains that many of us enjoy tapping into other cultures and ideas.
“You get a chance to enjoy a unique night out or a one-off meal that may not be repeated again. Blink and you miss it! It’s a great antidote to chain restaurants and the globalisation of our high streets – and people are often searching for something different and more personal.
For us, popup events allow us to be more creative and take risks that might not be possible if we had a “bricks and mortar” business, so we can try out new ideas and experiences. We also get to meet people on a more personal level. It gives us flexibility to run different types of events, from “pintxos” bars through to supper clubs. And of course our overheads are lower as we don’t have fixed premises, so we can offer really good value for our guests. Everyone wins!”