As good as expected
It is a truism that personal perception can be influenced for better or worse by all manner of external factors, a sunny day, muzak, interaction with other people, good or bad moods, and, in a restaurant, how to compare one menu and the dishes on it with what is offered by another restaurant one has had experience of. On this occasion everything seemed set fair - sunniest, hottest day of the year, no music in the charming, almost intimate, dining room, very friendly welcome, the best of moods as it was a birthday treat, and, as it was lunch, the pleasing opportunity to choose between a shorter and a longer tasting menu. Although we have coped with more in the past, the six course version seemed more appropriate on this occasion. JSW is blessed with a decent selection of half-bottles and the St Aubin and the Crozes-Hermitage clearly made good matches for the two fish and the two meat dishes. Simple but adequate canapés, olives and a lovely brandade which did not overdo the fishiness, and super bread made for a promising start. Our scallops were very good and cleverly matched with a cauliflower cheese sauce cum purée, truffle oil and pretty nasturtiums, and this was followed by an excellent combination of delicious melt-in-the-mouth cured and poached salmon accompanied by a local quartet of Hampshire ingredients - crayfish, gentle wasabi, quite forward watercress and very special pickled cucumber, the latter something of a revelation for me as a cucumber avoider. The hay-baked parsnips, crispy carrot, sea beet and orange sauce went very well with the excellent duck, but the textures of lamb dish was a bit uneven with the wondrous shepherd’s pie sauce rather outshining the lamb and the salt-baked turnips, and it has to said that there was a curious lack of green vegetables which could have made a major difference to the already quite artistic presentation of both these plates. The edgy palate cleanser of poached peaches and strawberry and peach granita with an Earl Grey panna cotta was the perfect introduction to the dessert proper, lemon curd parfait, raspberry and lemon balm and raspberry granita - a properly summery way to bring the meal to an end, although not quite as the petits fours (served after coffee) were also very good.