A review of the new Salt & Earth pop-up

The menu recommends two or three dishes per person.

I sampled all nine on the list – not because I’m a glutton.
Still less because the dishes are of meagre size.
But simply because this was an intriguing voyage of discovery.

Salt & Earth is a pop-up currently at Kanteen, the attractive new cafe that’s opened at the Custard Factory in Digbeth.
It’s run by Niki Astley, who won many fans for his pioneering and imaginative food at the Jewellery Quarter establishment Two Cats, which has closed.
Salt & Earth will offer eclectic dishes with Latin American and Far Eastern influences at residencies across the city.
And, on the evidence of my experience, we’re in for a treat.

A huge, bold corn on the cob came bathed in smoked better and sprinkled with well-aged parmesan so that the sweetness of the vegetable was enhanced by the BBQ hints of the butter and the salty, umami snap of the cheese.
This was food on which to chomp.

A bowl of heritage tomatoes came in a refreshing and fragrant broth with chia seeds and coriander.
The carbs were very classy – waxy purple potatoes in a rich mayonnaise given depth and interest by miso.

A traditional Peruvian dish of sea bass cerviche was highly refined riff, with well-balanced sharpness and lovely textures, especially from toasted corn.

Octopus came nicely tender and complemented by onion, ponzo and good quality olive oil.
A Japanese influence was apparent in the ultra-crisp crumb coating on succulent deep-fried chicken wings, but the tangy thousand island dressing was unmistakably from the Americas.

This was finger food that I struggled to stop eating despite knowing there were many ore dishes to sample.
Sudado de res is a traditional Latin American stew but here was elevated to new heights – the meat still rare and sitting on a bright orange, earthy, sweet puree made from mirepoix vegetables.
Thin slices of lotus root were crisp against the tender beef.

A coconut mochi with shiso, kiwi and strawberry was a delicate dessert with poise that wouldn’t have been out of place as a pre-dessert in a high-end restaurant.

Dulce de leche, chocolate cake, chilli and coffee was a wonderful array of luxurious flavours and textures that was utterly indulgent.
Throughout, Niki’s cooking displayed imagination, cleverly matched flavours and textures and great technique.
Presentation was carefully crafted but unfussy.
Salt & Earth continues at Kanteen on October 6 and 7 and October 12, 13 and 14 from 6.30-9.30pm.

The full menu

Corn on the cob, smoked butter & well-aged parmesan (£4).
Tomato, chia seed and coriander (£5)
Purple potatoes & miso mayonnaise (£4)
Seabass ceviche (£7)
Octopus, onion, ponzu & olive oil (£8)
Deep-fried chicken thigh & thousand island madness (£6.50)
Sudado de res (Latin American beef stew) (£8)
Coconut mochi, shiso, kiwi & strawberry (£6.50)
Dulce de leche, chocolate cake, chilli & coffee (£5.50).

More details

Fifty per cent of tables will be reserved, with the rest available for walk-ins.
Alcoholic and soft drinks are available.

Contact saltandearthbrum@gmail.com.
You can also follow them on Twitter @saltandearth and on Instagram at saltandearth.
Further residencies at other are planned in the near future.

I’m working as a freelance consultant with Salt & Earth.