Wednesday, 15 July 2009

A Banquet for the Senses

It was a sensual delight from start to finish; beginning with a palate tickling aged Manzilla and ending with a glass of spicey honeyed Gewurztraminer Passito which was very special indeed. In between, accompanied by some fine Garsea recommended by our knowledgeable and charming waitress, we enjoyed such a "degustation" of flavours that we "oohed" and "aahed" all evening. Fortunately, our table was so intimate and private that we had no need to feel inhibited. Comfortable too: I even had the benefit of a few thoughtfully placed cushions.
What lovely combinations; the Tiger Prawns were a juicy triumph but the little cushion of pulses on which they sat elevated the humble lentil to a gastronomic delight. The Pan-Fried Wood Pigeon was cooked to bloody perfection but twinning it with the morcilla perched on crushed fresh peas was a stroke of genius. I could go on. I will. The Confit of Pork Belly; the Very Best of Both Worlds in one piece of meat; a perfectly crispy, crunchy skin on a deeply flavoured flesh so slow cooked that it separated into unctuous fatty shreds. The Cheese Stuffed Courgette Flowers drizzled with honey; yet another winning union of flavours and textures; slightly acidic creamy cheese enclosed in a feather light battered carapace with a dribble of sweetness ! Let us not forget the boards of fine charcuterie, the fine manchego and the nut encrusted membrillo. Or the pink lamb with the milky jus of garlic. Finally there was my small and perfectly formed cheesecake with macerated strawberried which was twinned with the Gewurtztraminer I mentioned earlier; it made me gasp with joy !
And then there was the company; what a pleasure as ever, to share all of this with our dear friends. A very fine evening indeed. 9.5/10

Monday, 13 July 2009


Well the evening was hugely enjoyable, and for the first time in the supper club's history, somewhat drunken (perhaps I should just speak for myself, but I did spend the best part of the next day recovering). The room was disappointing, but we had by far the best seats in the house, a diner-like booth for the four of us, situated at the bottom of the stairs (see blogs for the York and Albany) which afforded comfort, privacy and a good view of passing traffic.

I loved the lazy, slow way in which the meal began, aperitifs with fantastic almonds and marinated olives, followed by a platters of Italian and Spanish Charcuterie and three manchegos with quince, warming up our palates and readying us all for the further delights of delicately battered juicy squid, deep fried artichokes, and culminating in an explosion of taste sensations - with the spectacular wood pigeon, black putting and pea puree (heavenly!) lamb, succulent pork belly with canellini bean, and one of my favourites of the evening, courgettes topped with their beautiful yellow lightly battered flowers stuffed with cheese.

The meal ended with a moist, rich and not too sweet cherry and almond tart, washed down with a glass of desert wine. A meal lovingly and skillfully prepared with excellent produce, and excellent (charming and pretty) service. 9 out of 10!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

More than a pinch of Salt Yard

Well, Ju-Ti-Su-To is on a roll. I loved the food. From the charcuterie, both Spanish and Italian, and the Manchego, the produce was of the very highest quality. Truly distinctive and totally divine. My cocktail was a little under-powered but the wine soon made up for this; well chosen by the excellent waiting staff in consultation with Ti. Then, we were treated to a meat-fest of such deliciousness that I was unable to say which I liked best - the pigeon, no the pork belly, no the lamb. And what about the prawns? All superb. My only quibble would be the room which seemd rather drab and I was very pleased that Ju-TI had secured by far the best table in the house. A simple 9/10,

Shared Pleasures

Nice banquette at bottom of the stairs gave us a 'private' dining room...cocktails (passion fruit martini) and nibbles of marcona almonds and olives gave a nice kick-off to the evening. We started with two boards of charcuterie: one Spanish and one Italian - both exemplary samples of what greatness can be achieved by pig-curing.
There then followed a seemingly neverending array of delicious little plates of gorgeous food that we all shared, which added to the enjoyment. Standouts for me were the meat dishes of lamb with marinated courgettes and 'ajo blanco' (sweet garlic jus); confit pork belly with cannelini beans; and best of all, the pidgeon with crushed peas and morcilla - scrumptious!
The service was perfect, a very charming and friendly waitress had a good knowledge of and enthuisiasm for the menu, as well as possessing other qualities admired by the superficial male.
She (being Spanish) directed us to the Garsea tempranillo which we managed to consume two bottles of, it being quite delicious.
Would definitely return soon - 9/10

Salt Yard - the bill


Well it seems odd to post three months after a meal, especially when it is now hard to recall the detail of the experience, but my blogger's conscience compels me to do so. What I do remember well is the truly unusual but wholly inventive and confident combination of ingredients. My crab salad starter was delicate and flavoursome, and was followed by the red mullet which Toby reminds me was accompanied with serrano ham, and a hearty, earthy, cauliflower and parsnip puree: truly delicious. Sadly I cannot recall the pudding and to plump for one of those listed on the receipt would be a pointless exercise in fictitious blogging. 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009


First of all, the setting - an unremarkable ground floor in a residential street in Barnsbury. Nice and cosy, candles which induce both romance and partial blindness, dull art. The service had a certain wooden coolness, which is probably the only minor quibble I would make. The food that this Danish chef concocts is special.
How lovely to sample some inventive cuisine that has had some real thought put into it. My starter of oxtail bouillon with celeriac, truffle and smoked bone marrow was a bowl of heavenly flavours, no matter that the delicious but unattributed meat pieces therein were unidentifiable.
Next, my main course of stuffed quail, sweetbreads and morels was a beautifully tasty plate of food, the sort of cooking one would never do at home. This was followed by a licorice parfait with passion fruit ice-cream: a triumphant and surprising combination, superbly enhanced by the (recommended) sweet wine that accompanied it.
Our delightful companions (Su-To) chose excellent wines.
Fig is unusual in offering ambitious cooking with quality seasonal ingredients, at very reasonable prices. I'll give it an 8.25/10

Daring and Divine !

My hazelnut bisque with artichoke ice cream and salted scallops provided an impressive debut to this top class meal; the contrast between the warm and nutty foam and the cold was a triumph as was the addition of those fishy discs of sweet-saltiness. To follow; a generous portion of perfectly pink and tender fillet of Herdwick lamb shared the plate with a "barigoule" (stewed in wine/water) of baby artichokes and delicately flavoured bread sauce. I am of the opinion that you can never eat enough artichokes ! This course was another lovely combination of textures, flavours and colours. As indeed was my dessert which consisted of blood orange sorbet, caramelized carrot and white chocolate mousse all artfully arranged in low pyramid style; sharp and sweet and chewy all in one go. Thank goodness I followed the suggestion in the menu of a glass of sweet wine from "Blewitt Springs" to go with this divine conconction; the combination sent me straight to paradise !
Fig is a snug and intimate place. In spite of limited space, I didn't feel cramped or overlooked. The service was a bit awkward at times. With dishes like those, I felt the staff should have been proudly announcing them as they placed them before us. The food here is a real gastronomic treat. Looking into the kitchen, as I could from my seat, everyone was working calmly but non-stop in what seemed to be a very well-run operation. Marks: 8.5/10 !

Monday, 16 March 2009

A FIG of beauty!

Well, fellow diners, the bar has been raised. The company remains the same - perfect in every way with the exception of this particular member who apologises for his unpardonable tiredness at the end of the evening. Now FIG and its food. Inventive, odd, challenging, surprising but above all delicious. The champagne was a good substitute as no cocktails were on offer and we all pondered a very exciting menu. I plumped for Monk Fish Cheeks, langoustine, monk's beard and herb museli. Very subtle until you added the langoustine when the whole thing zinged with flavour. This went well with SU's choice of white. I followed with Red Mullet, ham, cauli and parsnip goo. Superb flavours and textures just oozing with salty loviness. The Oregon Pinot Noir went well with it. I finished with Carrot, White Choc. and Blood orange which was sweet and citric and yummy, washed down with a great desert wine. The service was fine, a little amatuerish but perectly ok, the room was a little austere and lacking in atmosphere but the price was very fair. The man can cook and I give it 8.5/10.

Sunday, 15 March 2009