To thank me for my efforts as his best man, last Friday my brother took me for dinner at Lindsay House. It coincided with his birthday so I decided I'd take him out for dinner too. At the same place. At the same time. And what was the point of that? Well, I just thought we could be a little more expansive on the food and drink choices. Ben's a big fan of Lindsay House but he declined the offer to join us on the grounds that he'd prefer to preserve it as a trysting corner. I have to confess a certain hesitation about the choice, mainly because of my deep-seated distrust of telly chefs (TV's Richard Corrigan is the chef there) and partly because I'd heard some very mixed reports of meals there.
After filled-to-the-brim glasses of champagne at the French House we sauntered round the corner and rang the front door bell at the restaurant. We were ushered into the cosy interior of the Georgian town house and shown upstairs. Despite it being full, there's a relative hush to proceedings, due to the carpeted, cushioned, wallpapered, curtained and tableclothed nature of the place. To me this is preferable to the modern clatter of most new restaurants even though I don't like the concomitant suburban look. The waitress was briefly puzzled as we enquired about sherry (I'm getting use to this), and the puzzlement continued as the waiter brought us Tio Pepe . . . we had ordered Lustau Fino. The sherries disappeared and then re-appeared. It was the Lustau after all. That's alright then. It was a bit warm though, fino should be a crisp, refreshing sherry style and you can't achieve that if the temperature's too high. We took the easy and expansive option and both ordered the tasting menu with accompanying wine matches at £110.
The first course was cured and roasted foie gras terrine with spiced ginger bread and country toast. This came on a slab and also included a celeriac remoulade, strangely the ginger bread actually turned out to be a sort of compote or bread sauce. This isn't to say that these things weren't very tasty, in fact I thought the dish a success - the foie gras styles were complementary, the toast light, crispy and fluffy and the celeriac and ginger offering contrasting textures and tastes. We had to wait a while for our wine, a 2005 Konigin Victoriaberg Riesling Kabinett, Hocheim - Rheingau. This was a good introductory wine, not too sweet and quite subtle - a wine that went with the foie gras, but one from which we could step down from, to a dryer wine, next course.
Next course was a trio of mackerel, prepared in different ways with a beetroot foam. The first of the fish was a magnificent tartar, fresh and acidic, it seemed Scandinavian in style, the next bit of fish was roast mackerel which after the tartar seemed slightly mundane, lastly there was some smoked mackerel, a pate of pretty good consistency and taste - there was some crispbread to eat this with. The beetroot foam was quite dense and matched the mackerel well. The wine was a 2005 Lugana Ca' Dei Frati from Veneto. This was disappointingly lacklustre and seemed to be provided to provide a neutral background to the powerful fish flavours. We came to the conclusion that a wine with more acidity might have been a better match. More worrying though we'd waited even longer this time with our food in front of us before the wine arrived . . .
And then on to another fish course: roast monkfish wrapped in pancetta with soy braised squid. So90s! The monkfish was so so. The squid was rather good though, soft as you like, the soy lending it a deep satisfying flavour. The wine was a lovely 2001 Savennieres, Clos du Papillon, Domaine Baumard from the Loire. This had a rich more-ish though refreshing quality. We couldn't get enough of it. And because Alastair had had a word with the restaurant manager, this wine arrived in sync with the food too.
The next dish sounded like a treat suitable for a dark January day, a game pie with chestnut and game chips. As the dish arrived we asked the waitress what game was in the pie. Er . . . pheasant. So it's a pheasant pie then? This was a game pie lite, if not a game pie zero then barely a game pie one. Disappointing. The 2000 Rioja Reserve - Rincon de Baroja was suitably innocuous. This course should have been the high point of the meal, it failed.
The next dish was a bounce back to form. Served without a matching wine, a crozier blue bavarois was served with a hazelnut and celery salad. There was also a loose [insert someone else's recollection here] jelly on the plate. I've seen cheese masquerading as dessert at quite a few places recently - whipped Brie at Reindeer, blue cheese ice cream at Bacchus - not a bad trend. The bavarois was light with a strong salt tang and while celery was almost entirely absent from the plate, the roasted hazelnuts were delicious.
Finally there was a glazed chocolate brownie with a yoghurt and sour cherry ice cream. The ice cream was fairly melted by the time the plate reached us and though the brownie was nothing special the two flavours went well together. Nothing particularly 'wow' here though. What was wow was the way the wine matched this dish. This was a non-vintage 15 year old Maury from Domaine Mas Amiel. This seemed to have sour cherry notes on top of a rich fruit, perfect for both the brownie and the ice cream.
So what to make of all this? Although there was some high standard cooking, for example the foie gras, the mackerel and the cheese bavarois and the service was ok, apart from the wine lag and the sherry wobble, there was a noticeable lack of overall care to this meal. When we got the bill it was for £220 though, including service so they'd clearly discounted us for the iffy service. The menu, although having some good moments, seems a little dislocated both in time and space . . . some dishes seem a bit jaded, there's a feel of slaphazard global fusion - actually that in itself seems old-fashioned now. The place ought to tighten everything up and bring itself more up to date. It's not a write off yet and given its location and the undoubted demand for the place on the good nights of the week it might just plod along like that for years . . . and that would be a real shame.
Lindsay House, 21 Romilly Street, London. W1D 5AF 0207 439 0450