As a child, I used to always love spending time in my mother’s garden – surrounded by a myriad of colours with bees, butterflies and birds happily going about their work. Whilst most of the flowers would be regularly changed, one in particular, hibiscus, was a permanent resident all through my child and even adulthood. So when, many years ago, I found a restaurant named after one of my favourite flowers, I was naturally excited – even though it was miles away from London, in a little town called Ludlow. Nevertheless, I’d regularly check the website for their menus and lick my lips at the sounds of the various dishes – funky, seemingly light, incorporating Asian flavours – just my cup of tea! I wasn’t going to Ludlow though.
But then! Hibiscus decided to plant itself in the soils of London and carried with it the accolades it had accumulated in a sleepy village in Shropshire. A good friend of mine, however, didn’t think much of it when he went shortly after it’s opening – saying it was a rather disappointing meal with not a lot of creativity in the ingredients and the such. Bummer!
Nevertheless, I found myself picking up the phone a few years later and making that all important call for dinner. With the choice of a small and limited a la carte, or a spring tasting or a surprise 8 course menu, it’s easy to guess which one we went for!
Polenta and black olive croquettes, parmesan and cheddar gougeres
Hibiscus and apple soda
A shot of hibiscus infusion with an apple foam. Delicate, light & delicious!
Slow cooked hens egg, pea puree, coconut, morteau sausage emulsion
I seem to always run into eggs and peas wherever I go. This, though, was the nicest I’ve encountered. The foam was a little bit too lightly flavoured for me – the whole dish was very subtly flavoured, so the foam would have added a nice smoky, meaty kick had it been stronger.
Matching wine Sauvignon blanc/Chardonnay “Version Nature” Domaine La Coste, Provence, France, 2008 9/10
Ravioli of lime and spring onion, broad beans, mint puree
Phenomenal! Sensational! What a fantastic surprise. Yum! I’d go back just to eat a big portion of this!
Matching wine: Grenache gris/Grenache blanc “Cool Moon” Domaine Les Enfants Sauvages, Roussillon, France, 2009 9/10
Belly of plantation pork, glazed eel, mustard and artichoke puree, beetroot
Boring. Dry pork belly, but nice crackling. Couldn’t taste any artichoke in the puree as the mustard was quite sharp. The eel was lovely though, glazed with miso. A forgettable dish.
Matching wine: “Il Cavaliere” Diplomate d’Empire, Cuvée Collection, Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Corsica, France, 2008
Foie gras ice cream, brioche emulsion, gooseberries, cardamom
Wow. The lightest foie gras dish I’ve eaten. A funky play on the old pate and toast. Brilliantly put together and the gooseberries were out of this world.
Matching wine: Grüner Veltliner/Pinot blanc “Timotheus” Gut Oggau, Burgenland, Austria, 2009 8/10
Label anglais chicken, liquorice, banana, lime, onion fondue
Individual flavours were fantastic especially the banana and lime compote, but when put together, the liquorice overpowered them – too much of it on the plate.
Matching wine: Château le Puy, Bordeaux, France, 2006 8.5/10
Shropshire rose veal, aubergine and peanut butter caviar, baby gem, white miso
Gorgeous bit of meat. Absolutely delicious. Caviar tasted just of peanut, caramelised baby gem was nice, but didn’t really need anything with the meat.
Matching wine: País “Huaso”, Clos Ouvert, Maule Valley, Chile, 2008 8/10
Strawberries, celeriac jelly, szcheuan pepper foam
Rather a nice idea, but the strawberries weren’t very flavoursome and neither was the celeriac jelly. The foam, however, was yummy. Was a nice little pre-dessert though. Light!
Fine chocolate tart of pea and Moroccan mint cream, whey and coconut ice cream
This was a first. Peas in a dessert. At first I wasn’t sure but then it was great. Well matched flavours – bitter chocolate, sweet peas with mint and a hint of savouriness and a light clean ice cream to cut through the intensity. Absolutely fantastic!
Matching wine: Jurançon, Domaine de Souch, South-West France, 2005 9/10
Olive oil parfait, angelic and pineapple sorbet
Completely unnecessary. Did cleanse the palate though. Not much olive oily flavour in the parfait and the angelica was quite strong.
Matching wine: Muscat de Rivesaltes, Domaine Les Enfants Sauvages, Roussillon, France, 2009 9/10
Smoked fudge, lemon verbena, salted caramel, bitter chocolate truffles
Smoked fudge – terrible! lemon verbena – yummy! salted caramel – decent. bitter chocolate – okay.
All in all. Fantastic meal – perfectly sized portions, extremely light, some amazing combinations and dishes! Only wish we’d had a fish course somewhere in there – a tiny piece of eel on a pork dish isn’t enough to pass off as sufficient fish. Very meat-centric menu.
Overall Experience: 9
Recommend you to go? 8