It’s been far too long since our last meal at Fraiche and, in truth, we’d started to forget just how good it is. There’s been changes since the last visit – the menu is pared down and so is the price. And Menu Black is now on just once a month. Front of house are youngish, very cheery and thoroughly professional. I like the changes and I like the things that havn’t changed – the relaxed formality of the place and, most of all, the clever, clever cooking.
There were spiced pecans to kick off while we sipped our aperitif. Once at the table, pork popcorn, lightly dusted with sumac, was as good a nibble as you might want to come across. Then it was on to the first course – potato foam (OK, it’s a soup) topped with a little grating of Montgomery Cheddar. Absolutely lovely in itself but everything heightened when served with thin crisps – one squid ink, the other poppy seed.
We’re never going to be the biggest fan of foie gras (too many ethical issues at the back of our minds) but here it was served with rhubarb which did an excellent job of cutting through the richness. Bread is always a big feature at Fraiche and it was around this point that the first serving came – four small rolls. Can’t recall them all but there was treacle granary and a goats cheese which were really good. Two sorts of butter – a cow’s milk one, made on the premises, I think and a goats milk one, flavoured with Hawaiian sea salt (not that I could tell the difference between the American one and my favourite Halen Mon).
Fish next – something I’ve always reckoned Marc excels at cooking. A fillet of bass, just cooked through, a little dice of courgette, parsley quinoa. And a tempura courgette flower which was a stroke of genuis. Perfect for my tastes.
Second serving of bread around now – another four rolls with a stand-out olive just taking first place for us, from the tomato one.
Gressingham duck was another perfect bit of cookery. Pink and moist with no hint of the “almost raw” that you can come across when a chef is trying too hard. A little roasted shallot, celeriac, roasted Little Gem and a cocoa crisp. The latter shouldn’t have worked – the cocoa flavour was quite intense – but it did. This is exactly the sort of food I really want to eat.
Next up, a long time Fraiche favourite – the fizzy grapes. This is the third time I’ve had them and they still make me smile.
There was then an unadvertised chocolate cake. Light as the proverbial feather and not too sweet. It’s served with a mini “toothpaste tube” of, I think, apricot puree to squirt over.
Lemongrass panna cotta was a work of genius. Yes, you might say it was just panna cotta. But this was bang-on panna cotta – both in taste and texture. And when it’s topped with a sour cherry mousse, to my mind it becomes a near perfect dessert.
Finally there’s an offer of cheese or a final dessert. We picked dessert but almost regretted it when we saw the cheese trolley offered to the next table. Something like 25 different offerings, mostly French, were explained and they looked in superb condition. We’d picked the “chocolate textures” – mousse, apricot (?) sorbet, some other bits and bobs that I’ve forgotten.
Well, when I say a final dessert, it wasn’t. Last up, a small jam jar filled with a peanut butter custard was sweet and savoury as you’d expect.
To finish, espresso and petit fours. Excellent petit fours. A peanut crisp, a meringue looking like a pink breadstick, a goats cheese and chocolate affair and an intense “After Eight” mint thingy. Really good.
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