There’s something exciting about starving yourself before a meal. The anticipation, the yearning, the agony! Almost enough to make one lose their appetite. It’s even more exciting when the restaurant you’re going to has just risen to 2 Michelin stars, been on everyone’s lips and more importantly, has been bloody hard to get a table! Naturally, when you do get through to the bookings line and make your request, and they utter those magic words, ‘Yes, that’s fine!’, you do a little shout of triumph and tell everyone about your feat.
Having worked in a restaurant that is also part of the same group of restaurants as The Ledbury (Chez Bruce, La Trompette, The Square, The Glasshouse), I’d known about Brett’s food for a few years and even known chefs who’d gone there to work. I was looking forward to dinner!
We took the waiter quite by surprise as even before he’d put the menus down, I told him what we’d be eating: Tasting menu with wines! After the initial surprise, he looked quite pleased and disappeared to put our order through.
Things started off on a good note with a lovely British sparkling wine and a miniature loaf of warm sliced bread appearing on the table, followed thereafter by:
Chicken skewers with lime and pine needles
Tasty chicken, but the flavour of pine needles was quite lost.
As for our amuse bouche, we were given
Quail egg wrapped in kataifi, pea puree
Lovely light dish, the only thing that made me wonder was how many quail eggs the chef preparing them would have lost whilst peeling as they were just so very soft and runny!
As I can’t have shellfish, I was looking forward to something as exciting and creative as M’s Ceviche of Hand Dived Scallops with Seaweed and Herb Oil, Kohlrabi and Frozen Horseradish
How very wrong I was proven to be
Gulls egg with spring vegetable salad, truffle
Matching wine: 2010 Alvarinho, Terra d’Alter, Portugal 8/10
ANOTHER egg, with pretty much EXACTLY the same garnish as the amuse bouche. Boring. Boring BORING! You’d think with all the exciting vegetarian options on their tasting menu, they’d have the sense not to serve up egg and vegetables two dishes in succession? Obviously Brett wasn’t working tonight!
Next was a dish I had been looking forward to tasting
Flame Grilled Mackerel with Cucumber, Celtic Mustard and Shiso
Matching wine: 2009 Gruner Veltliner, Hefeabzug, Nikolaihof, Austria 9/10
Beautifully cooked mackerel (yes, that means slightly under!), lovely little raw mackerel and cucumber roll. Tasty – not sensational, but very tasty!
With the mackerel being a hit, it was time for the slump:
Crisp frog leg, peas, mousserons
2009 Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes. Cuvee Lais, France 8/10
Peas! Again! Third course with peas. I love peas, but there’s also other nice vegetables and at this level, repetition shows lack of imagination. The frog leg tasted as though it had been fried in salt – not pleasant in any way, neither was the rest of the dish. Dull flavours and we were just bored of peas.
Roast monkfish, fennel, elderflower, mousserons
Matching wine: 2007 Vine de table de France, Le Grand Blanc, Provence, France 9/10
Mousserons. yet again! Surely they could think of other summer mushrooms to put on there rather than repeating it on two dishes consecutively. The rest of the dish was lovely though. The elderflower sauce was one of the highlights of the whole meal.
Pork jowl, star anise (top) Pork jowl, carrot puree, sherry vinegar (bottom)
Matching wine: 2007 Blaufrankisch, Reserve, Moric, Burgenland, Austria 8/10
We realised that the plate they brought out first to show us our pork dish was the same plate they showed everyone in the restaurant. Nice, but quite pointless as it wasn’t the best looking of things to parade around. Excessively rich and fatty, especially, at this point of the meal. No inclination to finish this course.
Rib of ruby beef, crisp potato, onion and ash puree, bone marrow
Matching wine: 2005 Mencia Crianza, Tilenus, Bodegas Estefania, Spain 8/10
I love bone marrow, but at this point of the meal, this was a dish that was, again, far too rich and fatty to eat. The onion and ash puree was more style than substance and once again, we didn’t get beyond two spoonfuls.
Gariguette strawberries, ewes yoghurt, meringue
Ah. Finally, a nice light tasty course. Delicious strawberries, their sweetness held in check by the ewes yoghurt and the floral bitterness of olive oil.
Our cheerful waiter then posed the deadly question: “Would you like some cheese?”
We promptly decided against it but did ask if we could see the cheese board, and play a game of guess the cheese with the table next to us, who had shared our views about the tasting menu all along and when they were leaving, suggested a great Tuscan restaurant in Florence I should go to: Il Cibreo.
Chocolate pave, burnt milk foam, lovage ice cream
Matching wine: 15 year old Blandys Malmsey Maderia, Portugal 8/10
One and only good thing about this? The lovage ice cream. Sensational, if a little melted when it arrived. Chocolate was lovely, but too rich and heavy, AGAIN!, and the burnt milk foam – why was it even there? very pointless.
At this point I think the service staff lost interest in us as we’d had our digestifs, sat around talking, and then having asked for the bill, had to remind them that we hadn’t gotten our petit fours, which then promptly arrive with our bill. So, we had to ask for them to be packed.
Great tin though!