Sunday, 26 October 2014

Smokehouse


Like most of the rest of the London 'Big Smoke', I love barbecue. More than that though I love barbecue without all the machismo and hype that often accompanies it. Its generally associated with grease, excess and gluttony but why could it not be subtle and measured? Chef Neil Rankin is known for doing good barbecue in a relaxed atmosphere (ex Pitt Cue, John Salt..) but has strong roots in classic cookery having worked at multiple Michelin starred locations. This combination makes for delicious, smoky food with exacting balance of flavour and texture- something you don't often find in my experience. This all means that its not your common or garden ribs 'n wings, its more about using smoking in unexpected ways. 

That in itself is surely worth a pilgrimage? I'll be honest; for a South of the River girl it is a little bit of a schlep. All the way to Highbury & Islington and then a good ten minute walk. Just as you're starting to tire and expire from hunger you round a corner and outside a very plain looking pub we were greeted by this:



Well quite. Bring it on. 

Inside the design is simple and light and airy during the day but cosy at night, lots of wood, mismatching furniture and church candles. Outside there is a walled garden full of greenery and tiny fairy lights- possibly the perfect pub garden feeling a million miles away from the rest of Islington. One of the joys of Smokehouse is that whilst its definitely a restaurant menu on offer, it is still run very much as a pub with plenty of space for casual drinking. 




This being barbecue, we are firmly in craft beer land. The range on offer is truly mind boggling with a board of almost unlimited wittily named options; Weird Beard, Flying Dog, Beavertown and Anchor Steam all sound nothing like the beer that they contain. The wine list is dominated by a pretty comprehensive trip around Italy, Spain and France, reasonably priced with plenty of sub £30 options and contains a couple of my Gascon favourites from Plaimont Producteurs. If you've never had a Pacherenc before try the St Albert here, at £3.50 a glass it would be criminal not to. 

The staff are all young and very enthusiastic and all to keen to explain the background to any of the dishes. At their recommendation we kicked off with a potted smoked duck leg on toast giving us a first hint at the deep, dark smokiness instilled by the green egg barbecues favoured by Rankin. Staying succulent under a seal of peppered, clarified butter this was a taste of things to come.




Determined to try out some of the non barbecue bits we ordered a courgette flower stuffed with Fourme d'Ambert & honey. Utterly delicious but not in the slightest bit pretty so you're not getting a photo. It was also a lovely change to have a delicate blue cheese in the flower instead of the usual goats cheese. 

It took a long time to order main courses due entirely to our inability to choose. We finally settled on Shortrib Bourguignon (£17.50) which is an almost unrecognisable spin on the classic and essentially consists of  a large chunk of smoked beef shortrib on the bone with a thick wine sauce, crispy onions and a super smooth Mr Whippy style mash. Really absolutely nothing to fault. Seemingly held together only by the sticky sauce coating the outside, it fell apart with the slightest prod of a fork into perfect strands of deeply smoky meat.


The somewhat innocuous sounding "Grilled salmon, radish peanut & green chilli" (£16.50) turned out to be mindblowingly spicy. Cooked delicately and still surprisingly moist, it was unfortunately a little overpowered by the spice. That said, I get the feeling that meat is what these guys do best. It isn't all meat, meat, meat though; there are plenty of options for vegetarians so don't shy away from letting them come along for the outing. 

Speaking of spice we had also ordered a side of Korean pulled pork; well why wouldn't you? Light and a little crispy with a gently building heat searing past the sweetness, its beyond good, its fantastic. What we couldn't eat came home and was possibly even better the following day.


The almost rans included a highland burger topped with that same Korean pulled pork (£15) and the very dramatic sounding "The Sphere" which, contrary to sounding like a Saturday night gameshow, is actually a construction of smoked ham hock, pigs cheek, squid romesco and fregola (£18).  A smoked duck, kimchi and potato cake (£19) sounded pretty delicious too and smelt it as a plate of it drifted past leaving us craning our necks behind it. 

Dessert almost didn't happen. We were stuffed to the gills with meat in an almost undignified way but then that second stomach thing happened. You know, that little bit of space that seems to stay free no matter what you eat? Yeah, it came into play and a DD Tart (apparently an homage to and pimping up of the lowly Double Decker) was ordered at our waiter's recommendation.  It could/should have been very sickly indeed but a thick, dark, bitter chocolate ganache kept things away from too sweet on the top of a crunchy base of cocoa pops in white chocolate (£6.50). 


A trend seems to be developing recently for pictures involving the loos in my posts so this one will be no exception. Antlers host those ever crucial spare loo rolls. Great quirk. 


Whenever I eat out I always try and order something that I'm not likely to be able to make at home which is perhaps why I found it so hard to choose what to eat here. Although the emphasis is on comfort food, the big plates and simple presentation conceal real skill and innovation of cooking.

Would I go back? If it was more local to me I'd be there for Sunday lunch more often than a vicar goes to church but due solely to distance its more of a once in a while trip. 

Highlights: Shortrib & mash.

Summary: Excellent carnivorous comfort food

7.5/10

Smokehouse
63-69 Canonbury Road, Islington, London. N1 2DG
0207 3541144
Smokehouse on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Colombo: Galle Face Green

I don't know about you but I am an expert people watcher. I get it from my mother. My brother calls it just plain nosey but I'd like to think I'm just super observant and good at taking in my surroundings. At least that's what I call it.  Galle Face Green in Colombo is an excellent place to sharpen those well-honed people watching skills and is a fascinating snapshot into leisure time in Sri Lanka.

Dusk begins to fall and the Green gets busier and busier as parents finish work and bring their children to the shore.  The skyline becomes dotted with kites dancing in the breeze as people weave in and out, dodging competing kite strings and chasing their aerial toys.




Whole families kick off their shoes and paddle in the foamy waves crashing onto the sand.







Even soggy monks get in on the action




Lovebird couples stroll along the waterfront or steal kisses hidden under umbrellas unfurled in the pretence of blocking out the sun.






Small green huts dotted along the promenade offer various types of street food usually involving prawns in every incarnation you can think of...



Street vendors call out offering all kinds of mystery goods...



Brightly coloured inflatables and windmills draw admiring glances from awestruck toddlers


Most of all though, it feels like a very happy carefree place to be.

If you're thirsty or just need some time away from the hustle and bustle head next door to the Galle Face Hotel for a pot of Ceylon tea or an early evening cocktail. First constructed in 1864 it has managed to retain a lot of its old world charm. It was under renovation when I visited (and will be until the end of 2014) but despite the builders you can still see hints of the beautiful colonial architecture.  If you sit in the garden there is a fair chance you will be visited by one of these inquisitive chaps….

Monday, 23 June 2014

Galvin Bistrot de Luxe

I have a very long list of places in London that I'm itching to visit and Galvin BdL was not on it. I have never had any particular aversion to it, its just not somewhere that had enough reasons to be alluring - no crazy innovation, no 'new place' buzz, slightly fiddly location from home/work, the list goes on. There must be hundreds of places in London in a similar boat; they had their moment in the press and were once an 'it' place and now they carry on with a local committed clientele punctuated by the odd TopTable deal. But that was before I tried their tarte tatin …  




I was there on an early dining package menu with a group of girlfriends (three courses and a glass of kir royale for £26) and my first pleasant surprise was that this isn't one of those places where those on a "deal" are treated as subordinate to the a la carte customers (I'm glaring at you L'Autre Pied). All the dishes are on their a la carte menu as well so these aren't "specials" using cheaper/ left over ingredients, you are getting the real McCoy. 

As soon as you enter there is no question whatsoever as to the nationality of the food on offer. Dark wooden floors and wall panelling punctuated by mirrors along with startched white table cloths and wooden bamboo back chairs are unmistakably Gallic. Service is of the old school French variety minus the sterotypical rudeness, in fact all the waiters are rather lovely. 



The food on offer cannot be described as unusual or imaginative. What it is, however, is traditional food cooked and presented well. Very well in fact. Most of our group kicked off with a plate of the thinnest most delicate slices of cured smoked salmon, edged with a dill-dominated herb pesto and topped with blinis and a  quenelle of fromage blanc.



I opted for ham hock terrine. One of those deceptively simple French dishes where one can look no different to the next but the flavour varies greatly. This one was well seasoned with a welcome crunch of texture from pistachio nuts.  Pickled baby onions and cornichons helped cut through any greasiness from the meat. No complaints here. 




The smoothest pomme puree you can find (replete with copious butter and cream no doubt!) was a rich foil to a caramelised crusted calve's liver with onions and Alsace bacon which I'm told was a complete winner although a very large portion for something so rich (but better too much than too little in my opinion).




I've never quite managed to get to grips with liver so went for the vegetarian option; Norfolk asparagus with a poached Burford egg on a bed of polenta.  The polenta was unfortunately seemingly completely unseasoned and needed a good dose of pepper as well as some salt, despite the parmesan shavings. The asparagus was a thing of perfection though, the woody, chewy bits peeled away and asparagus cooked to soft but not floppy topped with a soft orange yolked egg popped open to ooze over the asparagus.




The wine list was decent with plenty of options at all price points and we plumped for a perfectly quaffable Picpoul de Pinet at £26. 

GBdL are justly very proud of their tarte tatin, the apples a dark, rich brown with caramel topped off with a sweet, crispy, pastry base (no soggy bottoms here). It was definitely one to rival the best that I have eaten.

It wasn't all perfect (see polenta above) but in general it was a well executed bistro menu. Main courses are in the mid twenties a la carte and desserts £6.50- £8.50 so its the upper end of mid range for a bistro. I suspect that there is an element of resting on their laurels though. Many of the accolades on their website and the certificates lining the corridors leading to the toilet are several years old.  There are also a good deal more french bistro/brasserie type venues that have sprung up since many of the original reviews of GBdL (Zedel, Chavot, Little Social to name but a few). That said, if you want good, traditional French brasserie food done well in the Baker Street area then you can do much worse

7/10 (but I'm basing that on my early dining priced package)

Bistro Galvin de Luxe
66 Baker St, London W1U 7DJ
020 7935 4007


Galvin Bistrot de Luxe on Urbanspoon Square Meal

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Dabbous

I am pretty sure that unless you have been hiding under a gastronomic stone for the last couple of years you will have heard of Dabbous. Opened in early 2012 to immediate critical acclaim, chef Ollie Dabbous' first restaurant became virtually instantaneously unbookable.  I sent an email back in May 2013 enquiring as to when I could book a table and received a prompt, polite but firm response notifying me that every table for 2013 was booked but I could lodge an enquiry from September for 2014. Yes, you did read that right; because they don't operate a 30 or 60 day policy like many places they were booked up for the entirety of 2013. Madness. This sort of hype can be dangerous and catching. After all, surely if its still this full two years after opening it must be amazing, no?

The critical acclaim was added to in 2013 when Dabbous was awarded its first Michelin star. That said, its like no other Michelin location I know of in London. Walls have the now ubiquitous crumbling concrete and plaster, the dining room ressembles the stark, metal gridded set of the recent Donmar staging of Coriolanus, I half expected a naked Tom Hiddlestone to be winched down on a chain between courses (it didn't happen unfortunately). Tables in the restaurant are packed close together risking bruising from sharp furniture leaving me wondering whether I would summarise Dabbous as painfully hip or painful hips...



Oskar's Bar downstairs has an extensive cocktail menu and offers a limited menu. When we arrived it was pretty empty so would be a good way to get a taste of Dabbous without the almost interminable wait for a table. Speaking of tables, after finishing two very well made cocktails we went upstairs with increasingly grumbly tummies, so far so good. 

We had been hoping to have a matching wine flight with the menu but couldn't find one in the list and the sommelier didn't mention or suggest one despite our prevarication trying to find one wine to match all the dishes, it was only at dessert time that we found it nestled away on the inside back cover which was a bit of a shame.

We settled on an ever reliable JJ Prum Riesling on the basis that its medium dry so works with a wider range of dishes (it was particularly fab with the coddled egg). The wine list is reasonably extensive without being too crazy off the wall. 



The first course arrived swiftly. Fat, dark green English asparagus spears served with virgin rapeseed oil mayonnaise and crumbled hazelnuts. It was very tasty undoubtedly. It did, however, seem to me that whilst its great to have wonderful ingredients showcased through simple plating and service, there is an argument that it is just asparagus and mayonnaise. Its not exactly highly technical. 



A bowl of avocado, basil and almonds in a chilled osmanthus broth followed. Certainly imaginative and clever in the marriage of flavours and very pretty tasting due to the osmanthus, I can't help but think that I might have liked it to be warm. 


Vulturous, circling serving staff tried to swoop repeatedly on our broth bowls (three in less than two minutes) leading us to sit with our spoons aloft in mid air purely to create a hiatus in an otherwise brisk gallop of a meal. The table next to us asked to slow down, the thumping beat of the music creating a slightly frenetic pace for both service and consumption that was not terribly relaxing.

Just as I wondered if I was staring down the barrel of a tasting menu to rival the "emperor's new clothes" of Restaurant Story along came the coddled egg with smoked butter.  A thing of such beauty & perfection comes along so rarely; silky smooth and like a warm blanket for my tongue I felt like I could have eaten an ostrich egg sized one but in reality probably couldn't it was so rich. I can't begin to properly describe quite how utterly wonderful this course was. 




Things carried on in the same inventive and delicious vein with the arrival of barbecued octopus with muscadel grapes.  An explosion of sweet juice from each grape contrasted the char on the outside of the octopus tentacles. Octopus can be a tricky beast but this one was soft and tender without a hint of rubber which must be a bit of an undertaking to barbecue. I could merrily have ploughed on eating portion after portion until I'd munched all eight tentacles but the next course beckoned.


Pulled veal with white asaparagus and summer truffle was tasty and I'd quite happily eat it again but not particularly memorable in comparison with the egg or octopus dishes.


I'm sorry to report that things then derailed slightly. Lovage ice was revolting, not a word I use lightly but completely applicable here. There are some things that are creative and interesting but should never actually be eaten and this is one of them. A blast of very intense, savoury, celery-like flavour but cold and frozen. Let's move swiftly on. 



The final course of the tasting menu was listed as "barley flour sponge soaked in red tea with Tahitian vanilla cream". It was perhaps not as pretty as many of the previous courses but more substantial and a nice eat. Essentially a baba like heavy sponge with sweet Chantilly cream, I'd challenge anyone to object to it but equally it was hard to get too excited about. 



I would summarise it as a very tasty baba that would have been even tastier with the addition of rum. Then again I find that most things become tastier with the addition of rum but maybe that's just me?

Where Dabbous is sadly let down is on the service front which I would categorise as lackadaisical with an insouciant air of cool. Male serving staff are all of the bearded and braced variety missing only a Quaker hat but perfectly genial. The girls are all size eight or below and some had that slightly dead-in-the-eyes look that comes from extreme hunger and boredom and exude an air of processing tables swiftly so the annoying people will leave.

Whilst they have a basic knowledge of the dishes being served that doesn't extend to detail about the ingredients used. My favourite interaction related to some really very delicious tiny waka mono green baby peaches from Japan served at the end of our meal. Or more specifically from Fukishima, a detail volunteered by our waitress. "Are you sure?" was our measured reply bearing in mind irradiated power stations and all that. The response came "well that's where my boss told me they were from but he might have been joking". I'm still none the wiser.  Other similar questions around ingredients or dishes were met with rather quizzical looks. Not your average Michelin star service. 



Between the volume of the dance beat based background soundtrack and the proximity of tables  to one another, you will hear everything from your neighbour's table and they you.  To our left two very amiable chaps were planning a baritone ukelele tribute to Leonard Cohen trio (fabulous idea and initiated a very fun conversation) and to our right a very Eurotrash couple were discussing the ins and outs of their friends' multiple divorces and transnational custody battles (less fun). The point being that we were so conscious of being able to hear everything they said that our own conversation was very stilted and limited to talk about our meal rather than catching up on our own gossip. 

Price wise it is pitched at the right level for the food and the experience at £59 for the tasting menu. A set lunch (£28) and dinner menu (£48) are also on offer for 4 courses. 

Dabbous is worth a visit just for those flashes of brilliance found in the coddled egg and the barbecue octopus but other dishes were not so great and its not a relaxing experience or somewhere that I would like to take someone for a special occasion. The egg is on the bar menu along with a rather delicious sounding beef shortrib sandwich so my temptation would be just to pop in for a cocktail and snack combination rather than fighting/ waiting for another booking.

6.5/10

Dabbous
39 Whitfield St, London WIT 2SF
020 7323 1544


Dabbous on Urbanspoon  Square Meal

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Gin Mare - Happy World Gin Day!

The front doorbell rang last night and I opened it to a bag of gin being proffered forth. If only all visitors were quite so obliging. My excitement was dampened slightly when told said gin was purchased on holiday in Spain. 'Spain' and 'gin' are not two words commonly partnered so I anticipated that a final few excess Euros had been disposed of in Malaga Duty Free and braced myself for the worst. 


So often the local tipple tastes great when you're sat next to a pool with a sunburnt nose and a belly full of paella but the reality on arriving home can be quite different. So many poor, deluded souls (myself amongst them) have returned to Blighty claiming they've found "the most delicious thing that you really must try" before foisting it off on unsuspecting  relatives who sip away with fixed smiles knowing the ensuing hangover will be dire. Either that or sadistic friends knowingly bring something completely god-awful to taunt you with. This is surely the only possible explanation for the presence of any Metaxa ever on British shores?



Back to the gin. My innate suspicion deepened when I looked at the label and it was called 'Gin Mare'. "What as in 'nightmare'?"  I asked? Well more fool me, as it turns out that intended meaning of the "Mare" in question is more "Mar" i.e. sea in Spanish, than any kind of nightmare. The bottle is classy, made from heavy, blue-tinted glass and  a base shaped like a wave. But its not all about the packaging of course.



Sorry for the empty bottle in the photo. We drank it all.

On the nose the first thing that you get is a clear hit of black olive with a deep savoury character. On the palate, once the olive subsides a little, more subtle hints of rosemary come through accompanied by some basil. Of course the compulsory botanicals are in there; the juniper, the coriander seeds etc but they are very much background notes. This is an overwhelmingly savoury gin and is truly unlike any other that I've tasted. I'm a total heathen and can't stand tonic (that sweet tooth strikes again) so I mixed it with lemonade instead - I can almost hear the chorus of disappointed sighs- but that lifted the very savoury element for me. 



With the bottle empty we had to seek solace elsewhere. Carrying on the blue glass theme I dug out a bottle of Bombay Sapphire. I usually quite like Bombay Sapphire. Sure, its not the best gin on the market but its still quite a leap forward from a measure of Beefeater's. It really does then show quite how good Gin Mare is that the Bombay tasted bland and rather flat.



So am I being mean and again taunting you with unobtainable delicacies? Not this time, although granted a premium drink like this doesn't come cheap. There are places in the UK that stock it, one being Whisky Exchange online where it is £35 (and they have great customer service in my experience too). Slightly more accessible but a touch pricier is Waitrose at £38.25. If you're in the market for some gin this summer (and lets face it, who isn't?) do try it, I promise that its worth it!



Their website in English is here. Watch out if you've got your speakers turned up, its one of those sites that plays music at you. They can also be found on Twitter via @GinMare





Saturday, 10 May 2014

Tom Aikens

I have to start out with an apology. I'm rather conscious that here I am merrily writing about somewhere that has closed down (albeit with a potential replacement in the pipeline). Jolly annoying I know as there is the risk that it might all sound rather yummy and then you can't go and have it yourself. So there we are; SORRY. But it was such a perfect dining experience that I'm downgrading that apology to a lower case and tiny print 'sorry'.  

I had initially decided against posting this article as the meal itself was a couple of months back now but I've been for quite a few meals recently at places that have been the subject of lots of critical acclaim and chatter and in various cases I just wasn't that wowed and in some I was downright disappointed. It has been months since I had a meal that I thought was mindblowing on every level from quality, quantity and innovation of dishes to perfection of service and the overall experience (other than the eternally perfect Medlar). In fact one of the last occasions that happened was chez Tom Aikens. I was very definitely wowed by the experience there so decided to post it any way as I'm very much hoping that we will see Tom back cooking at the highest level in London again soon. 

My wine tasting buddy S has dined at Tom Aikens on a seemingly weekly basis ever since I have known him and cannot say enough good things about the food,  wine and service. I think we may have to put him into therapy now that it has closed its doors. Either that or attach him to an intravenous drip of good German Riesling to ease the pain.  As soon as the news of the closure broke I was in touch like a shot begging to be included on his last pilgrimage. 



I even got there early which is pretty much unheard of. So early that most tables around me were deserted, see above. They soon all filled up though. I really liked the decor of the restaurant. Not too starchy but still quite slick. Quite dark but with a spotlight above each table making each table feel like its own little bubble. A single flower was placed on each table in a vase with a round bottom that made it rock to and fro like a metronome and convinced me that I was about to spill something. Staff were all lovely but sartorially speaking I did think that the sleeveless jackets and denim shirts were a step too far though (didn't get a photo of those, they were moving too fast). 

Tom Aikens himself is something of a Marmite character. Love him or hate him. If you were to form your opinion solely from the Twitterati then he would probably be pilloried.  Rumours abound of assault in the kitchen, accusing customers of theft and leaving suppliers up the creek without payment. None of it is good.  People who know him personally tell a different story. Who knows. Whilst those things are indeed important, right now as a diner my main concern on the night is how well he and his team can cook and what's about to go into my tummy.

Canapes included the thinnest slices of translucent gold potato crisp stuck together with frozen foie gras and cepe. Shortbreads with blackberry (bit too desserty for me as a canape),  and horseradish cheesecake rolled in fresh herbs. The bread was exceptional, especially  bacon and onion brioche. Who doesn't need bacon and onion brioche in their lives? Other breads included polenta bread, rustic buttermilk and cepe bread. You also get pretty spoilt on the butter front. Three options; cepe butter, bacon butter or sea salt butter. Um, all three please.



The wine list arrived in the form of an old edition of Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson's World Atlas of Wine with the restaurant's offerings pasted into the first fifty or so pages of the book. Yes, that many pages, it's a pretty extensive wine selection. It is the first time that I have seen a restaurant deliberately apply a lower profit margin to wines that are made from unusual grapes or are from lesser known regions which I think is a brilliant idea- anything that persuades people to take a chance on something other than their usual "go to" is fabulous. All the big hitters are there too but I'm not spending too much time poring over the contents tonight as we're asking sommelier Raphael to go freestyle on us.

Although there was the very tempting option of a tasting menu, I was wisely advised to go a la carte to get a proper big dose of each course. Whilst I do adore a good tasting menu there is something annoying about loving something so much that you're kicking yourself that you only have a couple of bites of it. I kicked off with venison tartare with smoked beetroot, hazelnut mayonnaise and horseradish snow. If you have read my experience at Restaurant Story you may already know that I'm not a big fan of "snow". There are only rare occasions when flavoured ice shards can add anything to a savoury dish in my experience. This was also the case with the venison dish, I hardly got the horseradish flavour at all- not that it mattered though, you could just have given me a tub of the hazelnut mayonnaise and I think I could have happily eaten it with a spoon.  I'm desperate to try and recreate it at home, as thick and unctuous as a mayonnaise could possibly be with a tooth cloying richness from the hazelnut oil.  The remaining ingredients were stratospherically good. Silky venison cubed alongside beetroot, the slight tartness acting as the perfect foil to the rich meat and mayonnaise with the leaves bringing a bitter edge.



The marinated scallop with chorizo red pepper puree and Iberico ham was a classic combination of flavours- nothing exciting or ground breaking perhaps but perfectly delicious nonetheless.   Deep and smoky with a little acidic bite from the red pepper.
  


We  entered the wine fray with a Galician  Ribeira Sacra which means "sacred shore" and I can see why based on the wine that it produces. Dry red but with sweet bursting ripe red cherries. I really do believe its true when people say that you can taste the sun and this wine was that philosophy in a bottle.



Next up came piglet belly with smoked apple and baked aubergine. As if roast piglet cooked two ways couldn't get any better it came topped with pork scratchings. It truly was amongst the best pork dishes that I have ever been served. The aubergine had a depth of flavour and smokiness that no baba ganoush has ever managed to reach in my experience.

I've just been given (thanks H!) a Super-Aladin hand smoker (post on that soon) so will be trying out smoking apple puree as soon as possible as it was truly a revelation, Sunday roasts will never be the same again. 



Beef short rib with red cabbage gazpacho, pickled shallot and oyster was extremely tempting but I just can't bring myself to love oysters. I've tried them every which way; raw, deep fried, steamed you name it, they just aren't for me. That said S said it was lovely and it did look great even though the red cabbage gazpacho was an alarming shade of virulent pink.



A carmenere was a bit of a curve ball and, like Mr Aikens himself is probably a marmite option. To me it tasted like the smell of a medicine cabinet that has both your Dad's vintage bottle of Brut or Old Spice in it as well as various sticking plasters and antiseptic wipes. I swapped it out for something a little less risque.

Barely does a restaurant meal go by when I don't add a cheese course especially if I've seen the trolley drifting around the restaurant during my meal. The trolley here didn't disappoint either, the Epoisses being a particularly gungey, smelly example (this is a good thing I promise).



I loved the wafer thin toasts, especially the gingerbread one, unusual perhaps with cheese but worked very well as did a glass of Maury. I'm a big fan of Maury as it has never let me down so far (although I can't guarantee there aren't bad ones out there). Sweet and full bodied enough to stand up to both cheese and chocolate but without the viscous stick-to-your-teeth characteristics of chocolate favourite Pedro Ximenez. S went for a glass of Savagnin which was ok I suppose and great for the palate of an aged Riesling connoisseur but by that point of my meal I'm well and truly onto the sweet stuff. 




Apple jelly, caramel parfait and apple air comes served on a giant stone egg shaped platter. Its basically apple in every permutation you can think of served with a giant claw like sweet beignet which when combined with the apple air (read 'foam') reminds me of the sea shore. For some reason whilst under the influence of a lot of wine I described the overall dish as looking like an alien egg and afterbirth but I promise you, it was utterly heavenly.



Who can say no to Tokaji? So Oremus 5 Puttonyos isn't the most original or unusual of wines with dessert but you just can't go wrong with it.  Honey, apricot, yep you've heard it all before but its all good. 

Petit fours may be the most Willy Wonkaesque plates of extravagance that I have seen anywhere. An exquisite caramel-filled mini doughnut left me trying not to lick my lips and failing miserably. A vintage metal box revealed shards of nougat and mini bars of chocolate. A separate dish offered up a sticky chocolate tuile and chocolate truffle. 



The bill came tucked inside a beautiful leather-bound, antique recipe book, nestled in a page bearing a recipe for Rumpledethumps. I'm not sure how good it would taste, nor did I 100% understand what it is short of being a kind of bubble & squeak but it has the best name ever and that alone makes me want it (minus the references to beetles though).




As always with Mr Aikens, the rumour mill continues to grind as to what the future holds. Twitter had its claws on display with noise about potential financial troubles, the internet talked of a possible move stateside to join his brother in New York. Put us out of our misery soon please and tell us we can eat this level of  food closer to home than the other side of the Atlantic!!

It was one of the very best meals that I've had in ages and I'm sad that I discovered it only on the cusp of closing. If you haven't been then I'm truly sorry but fight me to the front of the line if and when his new restaurant opens in the centre of town. 

Tom Aikens 
43 Elystan Street, London SW3 3NT


Tom Aikens on Urbanspoon Square Meal