Wild Honey. The Bee’s Knees.
I had an important evening appointment with my cat groomer – what- you don’t have one? Gold dust dahlink – so I needed to eat early, at 6 p.m. the pensioner special. I quite like an early supper, as it happens. I have turned into my father.
And a brief foray onto Toptable showed me that this was available. It’s been on the list forever and an excellent blog by my friend reminded me that I hadn’t got round to it yet.
On a fairly nondescript part of St. George Street, in Mayfair, C tells me that this used to be a barber’s shop. It’s a long, fairly narrow room, with wooden panelling, good, austere lighting and interesting modern art on the walls. Comfortable without being fussy, it’s an elegant and stylish restaurant. I felt at home as soon as I walked through the door.
A very decent Kir kicked off the proceedings. Kir is my aperitif of choice and here it was spot on, not the insipid imitation served up in so in many places not quite getting the requirement to actually taste some crème de cassis.
And because I have the curse of having to know everything about everything I thought I’d find out whether I was right, or whether my preference for a sweeter Kir was yet another example of my unsophisticated palate.
So I discovered that Kir was a drink originally known as blanc-cassis. Apparently its reinvention came about after the Second World War as a result of the German Army’s confiscation of all the local red Burgundy, although the formulation had been around for much longer. The mayor of Dijon, Félix Kir used to flog it to visiting dignitaries, mixed with astringent aligoté.
And according to The International Bartenders Association (who knew?) the recipe is 1:10 crème de cassis, but certain French recipes specify more. 19th century recipes for blanc-cassis recommend 1:3 crème de cassis, which is going it some, even for a cassis lover like me and modern sources typically specify about 1:5, which I prefer.
History lesson over and Kir duly downed, I toyed with the set dinner which, at £29.50 for two courses and £35 for three, is a bargain for the level of cooking, especially when the main courses hover around the mid-£20s mark.
But the waiter had rhapsodised about the sea trout and I’m ever so suggestible in the face of food enthusiasm, so it took me about a second to change my mind and go for that. It doesn’t take much to move me off a set menu. There’s something about limiting my choice and feeling like I’m getting not quite the best that the kitchen can offer that I don’t like. Which I know is a silly prejudice, but there you go. C has no such reservations, his desire for a bargain outweighing his desire for choice. So I left him to it whilst I went off-piste.
But first, decent bread, a small sourdough loaf, warm. I managed to limit myself to only the three slices, slathered in good salted butter.
And then a simple, but perfectly balanced dish of baby broad beans, fresh peas, burnt leek and goat’s cheese. Nothing outshone anything else, the goat’s cheese was delicate, not overpowering the simple flavour of the lightly-dressed peas and beans and the leek added a bit of onion-y contrast. Simple and completely delicious.
Then the sea trout. With a side of spinach, dressed in a nut oil and smashed broccoli, two fillets were balanced on a green sauce and on the side, a razor clam. I’d never really got the point of razor clams, until now. Chopped within the shell and dressed with herbs, this was a great contrast, both in texture and taste, to the subtlety of the sea trout. Everything was restrained, yet properly flavoured. There was a lot happening on the plate but it didn’t feel busy. The waiter was right. It was a good choice.
And then, because we really needed, clafoutis. It had the words wild honey in its title so I felt compelled to order it. I had asked C whether or not he wanted dessert and he had politely but firmly declined, but that was just an invitation to treat, as we say in my neck of the woods so I went ahead and ordered it anyway. This was for two, and I predicted (correctly) that he would wilt in the face of a baked dessert and ice-cream. At the very worst, I would have to eat it myself, even though it was actually big enough for three. Tragedy.
The bastard child of a Yorkshire pudding and Bakewell tart, this was served with wild honey ice cream. It was fabulous. Gooey, rich, chewy soft and crisp on the edges. I died. Apricots giving a contrast to the richness and the ice-cream giving it that extra bit of mouth-lubrication necessary because of all that almondy stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth thing going on.
It was, without question, one of the best things I have eaten in some considerable time. And I’m not really a dessert person. Although I can do a very good imitation.
They didn’t put a foot wrong. I liked it all. I can see I’m going to get to know them very well.