19 January 2015
The main surprise here was that the restaurant was far from full, which is apparently the norm in January after the end of year rush, and yet another surprise was that the six-course lunch tasting menu was such a reasonable price, so we happily opted for that as we had sufficient time before our next engagement. The wine flight would certainly have been over the top, so we chose a half bottle of an excellent Condrieu to accompany the first three courses and a glass of brilliant Brunello to go with the main course and the cheese. We liked: the amuse-bouche of chicken consommé with its super pickled walnut jelly, crunchy fried onion and butternut squash purée; the flaked salt-cured cod which combined beautifully with a bright red juniper sauce, raw chestnut, chestnut cream, fresh leek hearts and heritage potato; the slow-cooked (waterbath) duck egg and its Speck crumble, "melted onions", chanterelles, and the nice touch of some Poilâne toast as a soldier for dipping; the flame-grilled mackerel, as superb as we expected and enhanced with an excellent vegetable mixture, beach herbs, chives and delicious mussels; the ox cheek main course which deserves Oscar status, slow-cooked overnight in veal stock, chicken stock, beef stock and vegetable stock and then glazed with a fabulous reduction of the stock to yield a texture to match the deep, rich flavour, contrasted with the baby shallots and turnips and the perfect potato mousseline; the generous and classy cheese plate, often a supplement elsewhere, made up of Stilton, Waterloo, excellent Comté and Monrachet goat's cheese and some hazel nut toast, light oat cake and raisin bread to help it down; the surprising dessert of good, light clementine and camomile fool cleverly accompanied with wild thyme and a touch of olive all amazingly perfectly in balance and well served by the tiny macarons and tasty tuile; the chocolate rock and caramel marshmallow with the very good coffee.
We were not so keen on: there were, however, two fairly minor niggles, namely that, even with our preference for not being rushed, we found the initial tempo to be dragging on, and not all the staff managed to impress and it was noticeable that some did not last the whole lunchtime shift.
Nonetheless, this was a seriously good dining experience which echoed our view of our previous meal at The Square.