The universe is in a constant state of chaos. So unique are moments of calm and equilibrium that men should be on a constant search for them. A spiritual awakening of the senses, orgasm of the tongue and whatnot, all those things are here.
The pressure was high. Expectations, in my book, have never been good for anything except disappointments (and I have gone through enough men in this short life span to fully appreciate what I just said). Clare Smyth, the only female chef in Britain to hold 3 Michelin Stars (and the first British woman to obtain such a high title), as head chef was stacking everything up higher.
The place was unexpectedly small, and didn’t necessarily look all that great (a similar problem to what I had with the Ledbury). The entrance was nice, and the place was cozy, and we were by far the most fashionable people there.
The bread selection is an important start. It’s what really keep you going and we all know that a good cover sometimes makes you buy the book. There were some normal, boring slices of bread, as well a a pretzel-bread and a onion and bacon muffin (which seems to be rather common). The pretzel-bread was amazing, and we soon had made it clear to the maitre d that we were going to keep the bread coming. Like alcoholics, but with baked stuff.
The amuse bouche (which was on the house) was a white sausage with a vegetable consomme (a clear soup), very fresh and upbeat. It was also free, which is always a bonus.
Starters went as following: roasted quail with soy honey, togarashi, pickled vegetables and herbs; asparagus ‘Polanaise’ with peas, chard lettuce and roast chicken sauce; and globe artichoke ‘a la barigoule’ with smoked pork belly and spring vegetables.
All the starters were done with a high degree of technical skill and tasted very good (tho they kinda went easy on the smoked pork belly on my dish). They also managed to pass the “Launceston Place” test- the onion tasted like onion instead of void. The dishes were well sized – not too large to fill our already bread stuffed stomachs yet not too little to be suitable for pygmies only.
Mains went: roasted fillet of skate with razor clams, lovage, taramasalata, Jersey Royals and beurre noisette; and Roasted rabbit loin with Bayonne ham, salted baked turnips, toasted hazelnuts and pickled mustard seed.
The rabbit was fantastic – the meat was cooked to perfection, moist and soft, covered with the crispy ham. The pickled mustard seed added a great kick to the combination – despite being rather difficult to hunt on the plate as they kept running away. The hazelnuts added a very unexpectedly amazing taste when you would crunch one in your mouth. The combinations were spot on.
As for the skate – one of the best fish I ever ate. I am normally not a fish fan – unless it’s raw and on a pile of cooked rice. Yet this one was amazing: it melted in your mouth and tasted how fish made of dreams and happiness probably taste. Anca nearly had a spasm upon tasting this treat.
Slowly, our experience was coming to an end.
Chocolate bars with toasted milk mousse and tonka bean ice cream and Vanilla parfait with poached Yorkshire rhubarb, lemon balm and olive oil probably went straight to those worked butt-cheeks of ours. The designs were playful yet clean, great taste whilst staying light – which is really what you look for in a dessert. I know some people can munch down those awful Tesco chocolate cakes likes they cured virginity, but heavy desserts are, in my books, failures.
After ordering tea and coffee, more free delights awaited us: rosewater turkish delight garnished with a golden leaf, a tiny chocolate and wonderful strawberry ice cream covered in white chocolate (the spheres covered in mist).
One thing I really want to mention, as I end this review, is how incredibly polite and friendly the service was. By far, the best one I have had at any restaurant. It is usual for the maitre d to make an attempt at entertaining you at any high end restaurant, but here he did a better job than most. Everyone was rather chirp, and they also invited us to see the kitchen where everyone stopped their busy lives and cooking to say “hi”, which felt very homely. And not at all pretentious.