Too much at Texture.
This was compensation for not being invited to beach volleyball. Apparently, the whole of the property industry is going to see this excuse-for-a-sport (which bit of surprised are you, exactly?) and for some reason, my firm’s practice insurer thought I wouldn’t be interested in all that bouncing, so invited me to name the restaurant of my choice. That restaurant was Texture.
It’s a joint venture between Agnar Sverrisson and Xavier Rousset and as they are both ex-Le Manoir, you’d expect fine dining and a decent wine list. Their website describes the food as “modern European with Scandinavian influences” and I can’t improve on that.
The wine list is given particular prominence and there is a whole section devoted to Riesling, which I applaud.
Given that, I’d expected the odd Gewurztraminer. Nope. All Rieslings known to man and not one Gewurtz. Odd that. The rest of the wine list was great and had an enormous selection of champagne, in particular. But I didn’t want that.
I really wanted to love it. I want to have the same opinion as all those critics and chefs I admire. I want to be seen to appreciative of genius and have a sophisticated palate and not be a big fat philistine. But to give this a sparkling review, what I want (as in “she wants telling, that one”), is to be able to suspend my imagination and not worry about whether or not this is a bit of emperor’s new clothes. But I’m from Manchester and I just can’t do it.
There were a number of set menus we could have chosen from but we opted for the à la carte. It was the Norwegian king crab wot did it, with coconut, ginger and sol. No, me neither. It’s Icelandic seaweed. Thank you Wikipedia.
£28.50 for that starter. That’s before service at 12.5%, which they whack on the bill without asking you.
It was, I grant you, a work of art. Have a look
Beautifully presented, pretty as a picture and clever. I can see why chefs love it but, whilst it was unusual, tasty and aesthetically satisfying, it was also overpriced and over fussy; more an intellectual exercise than a meal. There was just too much going on. Too many components; too many flavours; too much taste information. Bits of it were spectacular and I would have liked more, bits of it were “so what”.
There’s a point at which food becomes so divorced from reality, so played with, so refined, that it practically isn’t food any more. Look, I get the point of fine dining – I really do, and I “get” this sort of food, but to me, this is on the borderline of pretension and the prices push it over and make it feel like a piss-take (sorry).
There were really good things- the crispbreads; the fabulous yogurt-whipped butter; the great sourdough; it really was great- earthy with a dense crust and rich in flavour.
And then the main course. Poached turbot. It was the size of my hand, without the fingers attached. I have small hands. It came with mussels, scallops and bonito broth. The fish was translucent. Perfectly cooked, but after the multimedia experience of the starter, really bland. I felt I’d chosen the wrong dish.
And Dessert. Valhrona chocolate, salted caramel and star anise ice cream. How can you go wrong? The ice cream tasted like licorice and I actually didn’t think it went at all well with the salted caramel. Each component was fine on its own, and obviously the salted caramel and the chocolate worked, but the whole didn’t.
It came sitting in a bed of something unidentifiable but which looked like tiny bits of woodchip, studded with little bits of grape, which I didn’t like at all. My dining companion’s coconut dessert was far more of a success.
Because I was being taken and because my greed has no bounds, we also had a cheese course. That was excellent. There were only 3 cheeses and I was introduced to a Scandinavian Gruyere-type cheese which was delicious.The petit-fours were fun too. I particularly like the Fishermans’ Friend macaroons on a stick (I kid you not) – interesting and the flavour was rather unexpected. It worked though.
Look, even in my most Princess-y moments I know that I am extremely fortunate to be going out to these restaurants and to complain about them, when people work extremely hard to deliver an unusual and interesting dining experience, which they clearly do here, seems ungracious and churlish, but the truth is that I thought the meal was patchy. I didn’t like the room and thought the decor was odd and jarred with the grandeur of the original building and I just didn’t have a meal that I really want to repeat. Elements of it were great, but the whole didn’t hang together and I was disappointed – especially after all the hype – perhaps because of all the hype. And perhaps there’s a reason that we could get in for dinner on Thursday night at short notice and perhaps that reason isn’t the Olympics.