I was slightly wobbly, but in fine spirits. This was partly the result of having witnessed the energetic London debut of Cansei de Ser Sexy, but mainly because I was on my way to the Savoy Grill. I'd had supper there some months previously where my brother had announced his engagement . . . I hadn't really concentrated on the food that evening. This time would be different, Ben's parents had come up with rather a good prix fixe deal from Delicious Magazine. This turned out to be a cut down version of the weekend lunch menu, but with wine supplied (in volume) by Penfolds, bottled water chucked as well as a tour of the kitchen and a chance to meet Marcus Wareing, the chef.
I stumbled down the steps to the American Bar where Ben's parents were waiting. They'd come by train and so were getting stuck into some serious looking cocktails. Jazz lurked at a loud background level, threatening to become obtrusive.
Ben arrived and we moved to the Delicious drinks reception. Ben and I glugged a Koonunga Hill Semillon Sauvignon and I showed him the foam recipes in the Cook's Book that was on offer. Al and Cat arrived and now we were six and ready to be chivvied to the dining room.
The dining room was very busy, and not I suspect merely because of the promotion that we were taking part in. The weekend lunch menu is quite a bargain. No sooner had we sat down than there was a Michelin starred chef introducing himself to us. And we couldn't really think of anything intelligent to say, partly because, we hadn't had any of his food yet.
While we perused the menu the amuse bouche arrived - cod brandade with crispbread. Delightfully gloopy - probably made with a potato puree with more butter than potato.
The menu had three choices for each of the three courses. For a starter, five of us plumped for the Savoy's signature Omelette Arnold Bennett, with Kat going for an asparagus and hazelnut salad. This omelette is in principle, simple - smoked haddock, egg, gruyere and in the Savoy's own version, both bechamel and hollandaise sauce. These last two ingredients mean that it's rarely made at home. It was both creamy and fluffy - it's served in a copper dish and finished under a grill rather than folded - and then has chewiness as well, from the gruyere - so a satifying array of textures. The salty smokiness of the haddock is set against the blandness of the egg and white sauces. I see that there's a version of this using lobster on their a la carte menu. The wine served was a Thomas Hyland Chardonnay - slightly more serious than the previous wine and actually tasting somewhat French.
For main course the party was equally split between belly pork and chicken pie. I went for the belly pork - slow roasted with honey and lemon thyme. It came with crackling, removed and served apart from the main piece of pork, caramelised slices of apple and black pudding. The apple tasted like it had also been slightly spiced (clove?). I'd dearly love to know where they get their black pudding - it's as rich as a nineteenth century mill owner. The pork itself was soft enough to eat with a spoon - hmmm . . . I wonder how sous vide works with a fatty meat? Wine was a good, interesting Bin 128 2002 Shiraz.
The party was again egually split for dessert - half going for apple tarte tatin, half, including myself, for custard tart. The latter wobbled like a good custard tart should. Much lighter than I'd thought - wonder if there's some kind of whipping going on here? Hint of nutmeg and then a beautifully light sweet shortcrust pastry.
And then we were taken to the kitchen - alas Mr Wareing had left already, so my burning questions (about custard and pork) were left unanswered. The chef's table looks really good though - it's right in the centre of the action - we spotted another well-known chef was having dinner there the next week. Large maps of British counties and French cheeses hang on the walls (to help the waiters?). We loitered wide-eyed and then retired for some extravagant Armagnac and coffee. We had to remind the waiter before truffles arrived - these were excellent though - rather than being a cream and chocolate confection these were, under a hard shell of chocolate, a liquid caramel (slightly salted?) centre.
So . . . in all very enjoyable. The service at the Savoy is formal - in the sense that when a course is delivered you'll have multiple waiters at your table standing to attention with the dishes. The senior serving staff are, of course, quite charming.
The food? Well, it's probably unfair to judge the entire kitchen on a fixed menu like this. It is competently cooked and it is delicious, but it's not surprising and it is conventional. But then again, this is what you're going to the Savoy for, isn't it? A certain level of old-fashioned style? Hmmm . . . we'll probably have to make a return visit, next time for the chef's table.
Also, not to do with the Savoy Grill, but Delicious Magazine handed out quite a good goodie bag at the end containing among other things some confiture de caramel, that was probably, we decided, destined to end up on a croissant.