A dessert-only menu sounds like a sugar-addict’s dream. And when I heard the concept - more common in Europe than the UK - was making its Scottish debut in Glasgow, alarm bells rang. After all, the city surely has the sweetest tooth of the entire nation, not to mention diet-related health issues like obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. Was someone having a laugh?
Pastry chef Helen Vass’s first-ever pop-up, sweetly entitled Dulce, curbed my qualms. Her three-course afternoon menu, with an amuse bouche and macarons to top and tail it, was presented to 30 guests around the kitchen table of the stunning Studio93 in the city's West End.. It contained olive oil, sea salt, mascarpone, sourdough, seasonal fruits and 67.4% cacao by Caillebaut. Sweetness was checked with saltiness; fat content reduced with whipping, rather than double, cream. Helen's mastery of technique was evident. All dishes were her own creations.
A mango sphere, made in front of us and served on a spoon, kicked off proceedings. There followed her signature, pretty-as-a-picture raspberry, marscarpone and pistachio entremet complete with pipette of Chambord (created for the GBBOcreme final), then a chocolate cremeux quenelle paired with an olive oil ice-cream and sourdough toast; and to finish an individual oblong of olive oil cake with white choc cremeux, caramelised muesli, mandarin foam and mandarin granita.
None of us felt bloated or sugared-out; rather, we were exhilarated. And rather proud that the citizens of Glasgow had willingly supported Helen's bold move: at £45 a head it had sold out within days of going online.
The Milngavie-born freelance pastry chef at Number 16 restaurant in Glasgow - who trained at City of Glagow College, worked in Barcelona for seven years, has done stages with some of the most highly respected pastry chefs there and in France, and still pays her own way to attend training courses at high-end pastry schools in Barcelona - tells me she too had reservations about mounting such a venture in Glasgow. Though for a different reason than mine.
She was worried that people wouldn't pay that much, and that there wasn't a market in Glasgow for high-end (Michelin star?) patisserie like hers.
I'm pleased she took the plunge, and thrilled to have been in at the beginning of what I believe will be a massive success both for Helen for Glasgow - and beyond.
* Deep Fried Mars Bar - a wilful slur if ever I heard one. Scots don't eat them; tourists do.