It’s not often I eat a faultless meal. Not even at 2* level. There always seems to be at least one little something that doesn’t quite work. A flavour combination that jars a little, perhaps. But not here. From canapé to petit fours, they have it pretty much nailed.
The canapé was a delight – as a canapés should be. A soft, very rich, foie gras mousse presented in a lovely crisp tart case. A great introduction.
The amuse – playing to what seems to be a current fashion for crispy eggs – a quail’s egg was in a fried light breadcrumb. A sort of mini Scotch egg without the meat. It was sat on a sweetish chestnut cream
A scallop starter saw some bang-on cooking of the seafood – big, chunky scallops, still just slightly opaque. Alongside, a couple of pumpkin gnocchi and a few pumpkin balls. The sauce was well matched and delicious but the flavours of the advertised mandarin and ginger could have been more prominent to my wife’s mind.
My own starter read a little oddly – a “risotto” of celeriac and new potato. And it ate a little oddly – the vegetables mainly a puree but with tiny nuggets of some texture. What perked this up considerably was a slice of smoked eel buried in the puree and a dark green parsley sauce.
For mains, fallow deer was perfectly rare and perfectly delicious. I’ve rediscovered venison in 2012 after not eating it for some years. It’s a perfect meat for this time of year – absolutely at its finest. And here, it was complemented with the earthy notes of white beetroot and a lovely thin, crisp potato gallette. What might have been a fairly ordinary, if well crafted, plate of Bambi was turned into something special by the sauce. Made from the lees of red wine, there was none of the richness of a normal red wine sauce. Here, it was bordering on a sharp, vinegary flavour which, surprisingly, worked better than I thought it was going to on first taste.
Braised shoulder of milk fed lamb was also a big success. Long cooked and with lots of sweet, meaty flavour. The accompaniments were a couple of Jerusalem artichokes and a scattering of very tiny artichokes, no more than a centimetre or so long. There were also some sunflower seeds offering a bit of crunch. A very simple looking plate of food that pretty much ticked all the boxes.
Pre-dessert provided the best “sit up and take notice” flavour of the evening. A mandarin sorbet was superbly crafted – full of sweet, citrussy flavours – topped with a few shards of crisp meringue
For desserts proper, there was a chocolate pave – a powerful bitter, almost too bitter, chocolate, offset by lovage ice cream. Delicious. And a passion fruit soufflé was a masterclass in the art of soufflé making. A perfect consistency, heavy with the unmistakeable flavour of the fruit. Alongside, a quenelle of Sauternes ice cream cut through the richness.
So, all that remained was a cup of good espresso and the petit fours. One a fruit jelly that was OK (but then I never think jellies work as petit fours). A chocolatey thing. And an Earl Grey biscuit – crisp, lovely and, again, an unmistakeable flavour.
It really had been a great evening.