The taxi had not yet rolled to a complete stop and a stranger in a top hat was opening my door to help me out. This was Claridge’s. The “Very-Important-Diner” treatment continued as we showed up for our reservation twenty minutes early and were led to the bar for a pre-dinner G&T (only when the final bill came was it apparent that we must have been drinking tonic from the holy fountain at £14 per drink).
In the spacious, art deco themed dining room we asked for the tasting menu (without nuts for myself) and after a quick enquiry to the kitchen, our request was granted. We also opt for the wine accompaniment with each course. At this point it is worth admitting that my review is based on an alcohol impaired two-day old memory, and after just reading ‘Sense of an Ending’, I am having serious doubts as to the credibility of memories. However, at least the lingering memories reveal what was truly erm… memorable.
First appetiser: rosemary wafer with blue cheese mousse and elderberry gel. This was a delightful fresh, light and fragrant mouthful. The usual pungency of blue cheese was delicate and aromatic, balanced by the rosemary and peppery rocket and contrasted in texture and flavour by the elderberry. MD doesn’t like cheese, so I had double!
The next appetiser was a delicious glorified onion bhaji encasing a warm mouthful of succulent stewed rabbit with a lovage dip.
Followed by mackerel, seaweed and horseradish. Cubes of apple offered a sharpness that cut through the oily mackerel. MD and I agreed it was ‘fishy’ and ‘tasty’.
The next course was a smooth blend of potato and winslade cheese with a texture like a béchamel sauce it was reminiscent of mum’s macaroni cheese, except the penne was (gladly) replaced with flavourful squares of duck hearts. Nice but the cheese was dominant and I quite enjoy duck hearts.
Then we were delivered swede dumplings with an egg yolk (I believe it was smoked but the smokiness was not prevalent), mull cheese and truffle. There was fresh grated truffle and intense bursts of truffle that complemented the other ingredients on the plate. This dish was warm, soft and harmonious but best of all the flavour of the truffle was respected and celebrated.
We reached a meat course, and this was one of my favourites. A simple combination of carrots, cured saddleback and pickled shitake and shimeji mushrooms with the addition of buttermilk to bind the mouthfuls. The chef again showcasing his talent for balancing sweet and sharp notes to promote the individual flavours. MD was inspired to recreate the dish at home and tracked down some shimejis, very much looking forward to my next stay over!
Then we had veal sweetbreads with grilled onion and land seaweed. It was light with a lemony flavour that enriched and complimented the wine. I enjoyed the course but it lacked any specific impact.
The fish course – a large juicy mussel in a buttery mussel cream and a perfectly piece of fish with salsify and sea herbs. It was well designed and well executed, the flavours were bold without being too rich and far from heavy despite the cream.The sad interlude when one looks forward to the main meat course but knows the meal is almost over. The main course was roe deer with beetroot and cauliflower. I believe the Pollock style plating is a splash of chicory sauce and a splattering of beetroot sauce. It was good. The meat was tender and pink, the beetroot was sweet and the cauliflower added an earthiness. However, the red meat and beetroot combination has frequently featured on tasting menus recently and something more original would have heightened the enjoyment. The pre-desert was an airy flash, I honestly know no more than beer and dill. But I can say that since the almond and dill dessert we had at Story, dill has become one of my favourite dessert ingredients!
The final dessert puts my teeth on edge all over again just thinking about its sugary sweetness! Meringue with tangy stewed strawberries, it was just a tad too sweet for us and we couldn’t finish. I have a suspicion that the nut-included desert would have been better, damn my allergy!Overall the meal was satisfying, exciting and filled with tasty mouthfuls of talent. We were eventually politely handed the check and sure enough, it wasn’t cheap (thank you MD). Nonetheless, we had a fantastic evening and retired to the bar for a final nightcap. Unfortunately by the time we were served it was five past one and the drinks service had closed, so I went to indulge for another five minutes in their plush ladies room!