Last night I went to Piperade with a group of friends to sample the Basque food on offer. Amongst the group was Helen K. a rep. from the Australian Trade Commission and certified Basquephile and her family, a number who had just returned from an enjoyable French vacation. We shared the communal center table with three lovely French ladies. All present agreed the food was quite close in taste to native Basque renditions.Above all, we agreed that the selection of small appertizer plates and desserts were the high point of the evening.
We ordered five small plates: seared tuna on marinated roasted peppers; prawns in shell served with olive oil, parsley and lemon; tomato salad seasoned with tarragon, balsamic vinegar and olive oil; a platter of Basque cheeses accompanyied by quince paste and cherry preserves; and Serrano ham. Whilst all these were quite tasty the clear winners were the tomato salad and seared tuna ..absolutely delicious.
The main plates were reasonable but not up to the standards of the small plates. The seafood stew and veal casserole were declared only passable whilst the lamb chops with potatoes and grilled snapper were considered well rendered. For myself I can only comment on the lamb dish as it was the only main I personally tasted. Whilst the flavourings and potato side were superior the quality of the lamb was not. One of my chops was lovely and tender and the other as hard as an old canvas bag.Helen K., an expert on Australian lamb, asked the kitchen where the lamb had originated and was stunned to learn that it was allegedly Australian. Helen felt sure the restauranteur had not been sold spring lamb but hogget, which is apparently a sheep over one year in age.My feeling is that if the chef can improve upon the quality of the lamb, this dish would become the restaurant's signature .....It is already pretty good with it's current faults.
The desserts on offer were traditional Basque favorites. Our group shared several plates of orange blossom beignets and Gateau Basque. Both were rendered well but the Gateau Basque was clearly outstanding. With its lovely combination of cake, marzipan and apricot preserves I could have gone on eating slice after slice all night.