Dear readers. Sorry for the lack of posts recently, blame a hectic time at work (a week of seven o'clock starts), a bit of excess in my social life and also trying to organise my brother's imminent stag event. A general lack of getting-around-to-it-ness then. To make up for it I've got quite a bit to post over the next few days.
To start with here's an account of the original excess, not last weekend, but the weekend before that. My brother, Alastair, was visiting London so I thought it was time to show him some of my recent favourite eating and drinking establishments. He has a professional interest, his soon-to-open restaurant in Pembrokeshire. This was also an opportunity for me to visit a place Ben's been recently and vice-versa.
First off, I took Alastair to the Rivington Grill whose burgers Ben has already written about a bit. British simplicity is the key here. All those seasonality and provenance themes that you see everywhere these days have been here for a while. This was a Friday lunchtime so the restaurant was filled with business lunchers, we managed to get what looked like the last table and settled down to examine the menu. My brother scanned the paper with the eyes of someone soon to be writing one. He generally liked it, but criticised three elements. There is a slight preference for style at the expense of clarity, for example one dish on offer was 'Heaven and Earth' . . . this is the German dish 'Himmel und Erde' that normally accompanies sausages and the like. So, we get some clarity in the translation to English, but you probably wouldn't know what it was unless you'd actually been to Germany anyway. The wine list is inconsistent in its wine listing - countries are mentioned for some, regions for others, grapes for some, types for others. This means it's not easy to pick through the list. Finally the provenance of some dishes is considered more important to convey than others, so the scallops come from Lyme Bay but the origin of the lobster is unknown.
The bread arrived at the table, warm and inviting with a thick but not troublesome crust and soft inner texture. Very good indeed and presented well on a wooden chopping board. The restaurant was very noisy, partly no doubt with business banter but this is certainly amplified by the dominance of hard surfaces in the dining room.
Our cauliflower soup had a very good, creamy taste and a smooth, medium-thick texture. It was, alas, served luke warm.
We had ordered a roast chicken between two. This arrived, like the bread, on a chopping board and had been symmetrically divided. Accompanying this were some smashing roast potatoes and some very tasty sage and onion stuffing. There was also a small jug of well made gravy. The chicken tasted like a good chicken should, but it was dry in parts, probably a result of a hasty roast.
So . . . could've done better. I like the style of the place and the food though, so I'll give it some more chances.
We walked off our dinner with a cross-London trip to the Japanese Knife Shop. Sadly closed though . . . call before you go.
In the evening after a quick pint at the Reliance we met up with Ben and our friend Guy and set off for supper at Bacchus.
I was eager for Alastair to see this place as he's interested in some
of the same progressive cooking techniques they use. He'd been in
contact with Phil, one of the owners but unfortunately he wasn't around
that evening for a chat. I won't go into depth about the meal, just to
say that there were some signs of refinement since my last visit. The
stand out dish for me this time was a rabbit mousse starter. This was
served rolled/interleaved with very thin slices of potato that almost
were almost pasta-like. This was crowned with an aromatic floral
display. Unfortunately my photo of this came out somewhat blurry but
it looks quite beautiful. Desserts unfortunately were hit and miss. I
didn't warm to my space ball - a sort of gelatinous ball of ice cream -
in either concept nor execution. Guy hit the hay early to prepare for
an audition the next day.
In the Owl and Pussycat on Redchurch Street billiard balls went down better than the space ball had. The went down particuarly well for Ben. It's a good, proper pub which serves a good pint of London Pride. It does get its fair share of fashionable types, but I quite like that and if you're prone to wardrobe malfunctions you won't feel uncomfortable. Priit, an old Estonian friend, joined us.
Ben peeled off for Brockley and the rest of us finished off the night at the Redchurch, which was packed and quite raucous.
Quite an enjoyable day really.
Next day was my first trip to the Anchor and Hope, which I'd anticipated even more since Ben's shining review. Alastair and I met Ben at Borough Market and then went for a drink at The Rake and waited for Mark to join us and then set off for A&H. We loitered for half an hour or so before we were shown to a table. This gave us a chance to peruse one of the most inviting menus I've ever read. There was a leg of lamb for five or six to share and duck or bass for those with smaller parties. I was disappointed not to have the opportunity to break my embarassing grouse virginity here, as it were. Once seated a heated debate ensued over whether the four of us should have the lamb for six, unanimous gluttony was achieved.
Alastair had pigs brain in breadcrumbs with sauce gribiche to start. The creamy and gelatinous porcine, not-really grey, grey matter was well complemented with the crunch of the crumbs and the sharpness of the sauce. I had ballotine of foie gras, which came with a poached pear. It was absolutely melt-in-your-mouth and richly delicious. A glass of Muscat was a good match. Ben had the amusingly named bottled rabbit (photo below). This came with a chickpeas and a vinaigrette with a soft-boiled egg on top. The eater rated this highly but thought there were too many chickpeas. I'm afraid my memory fails me as to what Mark had, but he may well leave a comment below.
The lamb's arrival was impressive, laid out on a huge mound of barley with carrots and celery. It had been cooked v . . . .e . . . .r . . . . r . . . . . .y . . . . . . . . s . . . . . . .l . . . . . . o . . . . . .w . . . . . l . . . . . . . . . y. The meat fell off the bone with ease. Everything was delicious. We managed about enough for four. It's a nostalgic dish, the kind of thing your gran might have served you long ago and the sentimentality is heightened by it being a shared dish. We had a St Julien Langoa-Barton '97 to accompany this. I don't normally splash out on proper Bordeaux but the lamb merited it. It didn't disappoint and the dark purple wine charmed us with its softness and ripeness.
We waddled back to Borough and sagged into the Wheatsheaf. I couldn't even manage a pint of Ordinary and had a teeeny digestif instead.
So what were Alastair's thoughts? Well, he'd like to open a cross between Bacchus and the Anchor and Hope. Is this possible? I dearly hope so.