Paul Jackson Pollock, born January 28 1912, Cody, Wyoming, died Springs, New York, August 11 1956; Caroline Gameiro Lopes Martins, born February 26 1986, São Paulo, Brazil, currently running a fine dining pop-up in Ancoats, Manchester, named after her birth city.
Bespattered. It is one of my favourite words. Usually the ensuing messy chaos is accidental but in certain hands maybe it transcends random… Take Abstract Expressionism, that jazzy, canvas-bespattering art movement that caused quite a splash when it sprang up in mid-1940s New York. Its mythic master Jackson Pollock said of it: “I think they should look not for, but look passively…it should be enjoyed just as music is enjoyed”.
Maybe the climactic dessert of Caroline Martins’ new 12 course tasting menu at the Sao Paulo Project is in a minor key alongside Pollock’s provocative Mahleresque symphonies in squirted household paint, but it has the advantage of being hugely tasty, too, thanks in no small part to the flavours of her native Brazil that pervade Caroline’s culinary art.
That £58 tasting menu. currently available at her residency at Blossom Street Social in Ancoats (opposite Sugo and the Hip Hop Social), showcases exotic ingredients such as cumaru (tonka beans), jilo (slightly bitter tomato-aubergine cross), papaya seeds, artisanal dende (palm) oil, preserved Brazilian green fig, farofa (cassava crumble) and jambu flower alongside some cleverly sourced local ingredients.
Great to see a newcomer in her repertoire, vegetables from Cinderwood Market Garden, served simply with a parmesan sauce, brazil nut hummus and an olive crumble. Quite a contrast to the stalwart rosemary-scented edible beef fat candle, crafted out of beef rump cap dripping, where another herb, lovage, colours the moat of melted fat to dip your Brazilian cheese rolls into.
Lobster tail moqueca, Caroline’s take on a traditional seafood stew, and dry aged rib-eye feel surprisingly straightforward in contrast but the pre-dessert is the harbinger of wackiness ahead. A lime ice lolly, accompanied by a Brazilian honey liqueur is a kind of cool counterpoint to the candle, offering a chance in essence to construct your own Caipirinha.
Then the fireworks begin. Maybe in her fleeting appearance on BBC’s Great British Menu her sheer ambition perhaps undid her in her low-scoring ‘fish course’ but she is undeterred in playfully pushing back the boundaries. Hence what is literally a ‘signature’ dish with the likes of basil custard and coconut yoghurt scrawled across a huge black base. Dotted with cubes of coconut candy, cassava biscuit, guava candy and banana candy, the centrepiece is a smashed ‘bowl’ of Manchester’s finest artisan chocolate, Dormouse (from specially imported Brazilian beans), containing passion fruit mousse, rose petals, coconut granola, merengue and marshmallow.
Our seen-it-all chihuahua companion, Captain Smidge had kept his equipoise after a surfeit of flash-freezing liquid nitrogen in the build-up. The completed version did look the kind of spread best suited to his natural tongue action; we spooned it all up determinedly.
Six months on since first tasting it, the Sao Paulo food offering has forged ever stronger bonds between British and Brazilian raw materials. Unique? Possibly. It has certainly earned her a nomination for Chef of the Year in the 2022 Manchester Food and Drink Awards.
Of course, there’s nothing new under the sun. That expansive chocolate pud is descended from the presentational adventures of Grant Achatz. Not to be confused with the unpalatable Grant Schapps, Achatz has now held three Michelin star for 12 years at Alinea in Chicago. And yes his approach has led to some ‘serious analysis’.
If you really must, delve into Hungry for Art – ‘a semiotic reading of food signifying art in the episode Grant Achatz (2016) in the documentary Chef’s Table’. The first chapter focuses on the intertextuality between a dish presented in Netflix’s Chef’s Table and the paintings of Jackson Pollock.
Better use of your time? Check out our own next chapter, Ancoats Expressionism According to Caroline Martins’ Great Brazilian Menu.
Caroline Martins’ Sao Paolo Project is at Blossom Street Social, 51 Blossom Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 6AJ.