I have to confess, this wasn’t my choice of place to eat and I was tagging along as I thought I should try it, rather than because I was expecting anything wonderful. However, I was blown away.
We had the set lunch - £55 for three courses – and there was nothing about any of the dishes that I or my dining companions could fault. Couple this with charming service and we are already contemplating a return trip with the one friend who was unexpectedly unable to join us.
very good gruyere gougeres to start while we chose our food followed by a pea mouse and smoked ricotta amuse bouche – this was such a pretty dish, served in a little glass bowl with the incredibly light mousse layered over the ricotta and topped with teeny baby vegetables.
To start, two of us had the lobster, asparagus and herb tortellini with broad beans, tomato and lobster consommé which had a wonderful depth of flavour. Generous portions – three very plump tortellini. However, the other starter at our table was actually the portion-size -winner – delicate tartlet of confit salmon, shaved fennel, radishes, grilled piquillo pepper, quail’s egg, rocket and basil. Apparently this is clare smyth’s take on a salad nicoise/pan bagnat from when she was in Monaco and used to eat these on the beach. Here the tart is a filo case that holds everything else together.
My main was the miso glazed cod with black quinoa, squid, grilled Shiitake mushrooms and lapsang souchong broth – every mouthful made me pause and reflect on how much I enjoyed the flavours. However, I do remain uncharmed by quinoa! Again, generous portions. The other dishes were mutton, which had a lovely lightness and both smoked aubergine (and the prettiest baby aubergine “crisps” as a garnish) and a hint of curry spice to add a touch of the exotic; plus a lovely rabbit dish with pickled mustard and hazelnuts.
Finally, roasted pineapple with coriander financiers, coconut sorbet and vanilla cream. The richness of the pineapple was wonderful and I loved the use of coriander shoots as part of the garnish, as well as the flavour from coriander seeds in the financier. The other pudding was a banana, peanut butter and chocolate concoction which I didn’t try.
Petit fours included a dish of strawberry ice cream bon bons, dipped in white chocolate and served atop dry ice, which we were very lucky to be bought a second portion!
Lovely, and very affordable Bergerac sec to drink, with charming advice and conversation from head sommelier Jan Konetzki.
Comparing this with le Gavroche, which has a similarly priced lunch menu, except they throw in ½ a bottle of wine and coffee (I visited with the same group of friends c18 months ago and posted a review at the time, if anyone wants to look back), I think there is no question that you should spend your money on Clare Smyth’s cooking - the complexity and deliciousness of the dishes totally reflect the quality of the 3* kitchen and it was a real treat.
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