Feasted Chef’s Table: Stoke’s most intimate storytelling dining experience

Ad – gifted experience – all views and opinions are entirely my own

The words ‘fine dining’ and ‘Stoke-on-Trent’ are not some you’d consider would go hand in hand – but Chris Cohen would not only tell you otherwise, but show you. The culinary mastermind has created certainly Staffordshire’s most unique dining experience – if not one of the most intimate and original across the UK. Allow me to introduce you to Feasted.

What is Feasted?

In the heart of a post-industrial Stoke, Feasted Chef’s Table emerges as a beacon of culinary innovation. Nestled in an old potbank, Chris and his team aim to put revolutionary food atop the plates our city is best known for – but not just food – Feasted is a vehicle for storytelling, connection, community, heritage and everything in between.

With space at the table for just 10 people – often strangers – guests have the opportunity to learn about each dish as they’re prepared right in front of you, from the ingredients to the cooking techniques, as well as the meaning and history behind every dish, alongside the talented and passionate people in the kitchen, and of course, each other. 

From The Ground Up

The latest menu from Feasted is called From The Ground Up – a collaboration with British Ceramics Biennial to celebrate the relationship between cookery and crockery. One of the things that stuck with me when Chris explained the menu was that “In a city like Stoke where we make the plates and have done so for centuries, well why have we never really put incredible food on them? How can that be a thing?” 

Available from September 23 to November 3, the thought-provoking tasting menu showcases how clay and food are symbiotic. Chris explained: “Throughout this menu we have explored storytelling. Storytelling is something that is present in all the dishes we create. From the first dish to the height of the last, we have carefully considered the narrative we share to give a compelling experience for our diners. 

“Pottery or ceramics provide a unique plane for flavour and can help an experience be playful and unique. The ceramics we use for each dish is as important as the dish itself. It’s the relationship of both.

We have focused on how things are finished, affecting texture and form, just as if we have worked with clay. It’s an exciting opportunity for a chef to consider the way we engage in the cooking process. It provides different approaches and ultimately leads to more experimentation. Something that really drove the processes that Alex and I explored when creating these dishes”

The tasting menu I’m about to dive into was the lunch version of From The Ground Up – five courses – technically six with the vegetable treat – for £50. Yes, we’re in a cost of living crisis, and that may well seem like a lot of money to a lot of people – and it is – however, it’s about the value you get for that money, and in my opinion, Feasted is 100% worth it. I think it’s worth bearing in mind the price of your average bill dining out as a couple – for Jake and I, it’s been easily over £100 at times – and consider that with Feasted, you’re not just paying for the food. You’re paying for the experience, the atmosphere, the stories – it’s a show as much as it is a ‘meal out’, and I think all things considered, £50 is very reasonable for the three-four hours you’ll spend at Spode.  

Experiencing Feasted Chef’s Table

As I climbed the yellow metal steps to the studio and rang the doorbell, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous. Chris said that this is entirely normal – most people arrive at Feasted a little apprehensive or with a feeling of unease when it’s their first time. But being welcomed inside, I felt as though I was being invited into someone’s humble abode – and that’s what Feasted is – a home for imagination, innovation and ambition. 

Inside the kitchen, there’s a sense that it’s the only place in the world – as though the room has been suspended in space like the Rover. Time stops and from the moment you sit down, it’s an all-encompassing immersive experience as Chris introduces the culinary voyage that is From The Ground Up.

The first course, “From the Ground,” was visually stunning – a delicate potato flatbread adorned with vibrant greens alongside pops of red amaranth and earthy potato. Various preparations of broccoli made for the centrepiece of this dish, from charred to pureed, selected because of its willingness to grow in clay soil. Light, fresh and bursting with the essence of the season, any apprehension I may have walked into the room with simply melted away.

“Industrial Skies” followed, transporting diners to the early days of industry in Stoke-on-Trent. Its deep, rich, smoky flavours paid homage to the heavy skies that blanketed the city, with the coxinha mushroom dumpling mimicking the shape of a bottle kiln with its peaked top. Adding to the theatrical feel, the bowls were placed in front of us before the kitchen team filled their base with the mushroom broth – steam rising from the dish like smoke from a potbank.

Don’t like mushrooms? Neither do I – but this dish has a really meaty flavour created by the king oyster mushroom, enriched by the umami Japanese flavours coming through in the broth. As someone who has always been a self-confessed ‘fussy eater’, this menu initially felt a little daunting, but I felt so encouraged to be curious, and if there’s ever a safe space to try something new, it’s at Feasted.

Arriving next was a ‘vegetable treat’ – a little interlude of mushroom parfait sandwiched between a choux craquelin bun, topped with a mushroom jerky. Much like in pottery, a glaze is pasted onto the choux pastry to achieve the craquelin texture, and it’s that texture that plays a really important role throughout the menu, too. For example, the various different techniques used to deliver mushroom four ways in just two dishes. The parfait was light, the choux bun providing a beautiful contrast of sweet and salty. I must admit I had taken the jerky off and placed it on the side of my plate, but at the last minute decided to give it a try – and I think I’d have been devastated had I not eaten it. Intensely salty but incredibly moreish, they’d make the ultimate bar snack alongside a hoppy IPA.

The main ‘event’ came in the form of “Pigs Might Fly”, inspired by the Spitfire and the phrases ‘a man can’t fly’ and ‘pigs might fly’. So how exactly does one make a pig fly in a foodie setting? Abstractly and playfully in a way only Feasted could pull off – by stuffing a chicken wing with pork, spring onion and peanut. The trio of tasters were placed upon a swirl, a tip of the hat to the movement of the plane’s propellers, painted on with a brush on a turning plate, not dissimilar to a potter’s wheel.

Joining the wing was a pork loin coated in a coffee infused dry rub. The meat was tender and succulent with the crumb really bringing out the flavour of the meat while not being at all overpowering.  The sencha rose sauce was floral and quite delicate, helping to tie in the buttery, crumbly seasonal squash tart. Incredibly complex, this dish boldly goes where few other chefs would dare, proving that Feasted are not afraid to take risks.

Numerology plays a significant role in this next dish, titled “1+7+8+7=23”, with 1787 being a reference to Am I Not A Man And A Brother – the medallion produced by Josiah Wedgwood at his own expense for the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in the same year. The numbers, added up in the equation on the menu, total the number 23 – which is not only a nod to the year we are in, but also the date that marks the start of the BCB and this very menu. Chris really wanted this dessert to be symbolic of challenging any separation in society, which is also prevalent in the Feasted kitchen, because what sets it apart from other fine dining or even Michelin star establishments is the proximity to the action, with the plates being prepared just inches away as the chefs thoughtfully built each and every course. The passion in the room is palpable and really brings with it a deeper appreciation of the menu and what it stands for.  

“1+7+8+7=23” itself is a delightful poached pear cuddled by a puff pastry case, served alongside a subtle but sensational bay leaf ice cream and miso caramel sauce. And to add to the brilliance was a refreshing Spiced Pear and Rum Martini made using the locally distilled Six Towns Spiced Rum and syrup made from poaching the pears for the dessert. 

Finally, it was time to ascend into space for the final dish “Rover on Mars”, symbolising Lucideon’s ceramic components that were sent into space in 2020. The petit four really rounded off this story wonderfully, bringing to a close an evocative and inspiring experience. Served on shards of Rae Downey Ceramics, the plum jelly encased in white chocolate and hibiscus provided pops of flavour as the brandy flavour lingered for a moment after. The bite-sized treat resembled itself a little planet, and represents how earth, and in fact, Stoke-on-Trent could look from space. As an underdeveloped city, Chris is keen to reconjure what the future looks like for Stoke-on-Trent – and how we can all be a part of it.

My first foray with Feasted was nothing short of extraordinary – I mean, Stoke-on-Trent was never intended to be ‘ordinary’, was it? From the very first course to the final petit four, each dish told a story, with the narrative carefully woven into each culinary creation. It wasn’t just a meal – it was art, history, culture and creativity packaged in a gastronomical masterpiece.

I think it’s often easy to look at cities like Manchester and London and their food scene and feel an ache at the things we don’t have in Stoke, but Stoke-on-Trent isn’t trying to be either of those cities. Neither of them boast anything as fantastic as Feasted – because here, in Stoke-on-Trent, we birth trailblazers, and Feasted is certainly blazing a trail, pushing the boundaries of conventional dining with bold and ambitious dishes that are as intellectually stimulating as they are visually stunning. This menu, with its hyper-local, micro-seasonal ingredients, is a testament to the boundless creativity of the team at Feasted and the transformative power of food and art – never have I ever had a meal make me feel quite so emotional in what is a truly unforgettable experience. 

Everything about it really is mesmerising, from the way the potbank setting connects the past with the present, to how the company supports young people with a passion for hospitality in the kitchen. And how ingredients can be moulded and shaped just like clay to create dishes that seamlessly intertwine stories, served upon pots and plates made right here, in our city. Because why shouldn’t we put incredible food on them? 

This was a review of the Feasted Chef’s Table, From The Ground Up, lunch menu, which costs £50pp with a wine pairing available for £28pp. There is a seven course dinner menu also available – please check out the Feasted website for details and to book your exclusive space at the table.

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