Texture. Let it snow.
Where shall we eat, asks my client. Near you? My heart does that little sinking feeling as I work in the culinary wasteland that is Marble Arch.
But then I remember Texture. It is on the corner of Portman Square, opposite the exercise in wallet-emptying that is Locanda Locatelli.
I have been banging on to everyone who will listen to me that the set lunch at Texture is one of London’s great lunchtime fine dining bargains. For those of you who remember my eating glory days, life has changed. I no longer eat out almost every day and I no longer go out for lunch and dinner on the same day and I no longer eat everything I want to eat, whenever I want to eat it.
For this constant denial, (for that is what it is) there is the reward of having dropped five clothes sizes. I am a greedy fat person by genetics and nature, trapped inside a slim person’s body. I am now restrained. I am now controlled. I now bore myself. Except, that is, when I am at Texture.
It starts with the crispbreads. I am not really even listening to my dining companion, client S, or the waitress who is trying to tell us about the yogurt dip that comes with them. I just want her to go, so that I can get started. I don’t actually count the number of different crispbreads because that would be wasting time.
I make a beeline for the one I like best, the one that is like pork crackling, but with a fishy taste. I realize that this description isn’t selling it. Trust me though, it’s the one you want to be fighting over. Client S does not fight. He tells me he struggles to put weight on (ha!) and I wonder if I can get through the meal and still like him at the end of it. He tells me he needs to eat 4,200 calories a day so as not to lose weight. He goes to the gym as well. Why, I think.
If someone told me I had to eat 4,200 calories a day I would:
- do a middle aged woman’s approximation of star jumps, every day;
- think that all my Christmases had come at once;
- never have a problem reaching that target,
I try to eat slowly. It is at this point that they bring the two types of excellent crusty bread, a dark sourdough and a rye, together with two types of olive oil and black lava salt. What could be better? Well, maybe a half-inch of salted butter, but that would be a churlish thing to wish for, when the olive oil is of this quality. Oh and there’s a little amuse-bouche. And I say little, but it was almost bigger than the starter of ceviche I had at a certain restaurant in Blandford Street earlier in the week, (OK, Blandford Comptoir since you ask) where I left hungry and had to go home and have two chocolate peanut butter bombs, just to feel like I could carry on with my day.
The set lunch here has two choices for each course. They aren’t choices that make you feel short-changed. I went for the new English baby beetroots, with Roquefort “snow” walnuts and leaves. A pretty as a picture plate, in the way that you can do with beetroot these days, when you don’t serve it from a glass jar.
Moving swiftly on from the childhood trauma of pickled beetroot and mash (an abomination) to this delicacy of a dish, all colour and lightness, with a bit of “snow” on the side. The snow is a thing here and makes its appearance so often that it makes me think that they must have bought a very expensive turning food into snow machine that they have to justify, by using it all the time.
Still quietly tidying the crackers into my face between courses, the Cornish Skate, sorrel, sprouting broccoli and yuzu broth is next to arrive.
The fish is perfect, fresh and properly cooked, the wing balanced on a bed of what appears to be barley, steeped in broth, with elegant shaved fronds of pink broccoli, yes, pink, scattered throughout. The yuzu in the broth gives it the necessary sharpness. There are those cute little fat green fingers that look like a bit of houseplant at your granny’s. I do not know what they are and of course this pains me.
There is another inter-course treat of rhubarb granita, or, possibly, snow. Delicious. Then dessert.
In for a penny, in for another pound on the scales, I order the white chocolate, which is a delicate, crisp, pastry cigar, wrapped in white chocolate, with cucumber dill and lemon, filled with a white chocolate cream. Yes! Cucumber! Who knew? And it works. Tiny squares of cucumber, mind you and some white chocolate ice cream in case there wasn’t enough going on. Do not be a snob about white chocolate. It has moved on since the Milky Bar kid.
And because Madame might not have quite committed carbicide, with our coffee comes an elaborate log of petits fours, a selection of vehicles designed to convey even more sugar into my body, the warm madeleine being the standout. Because we needed.
The three course menu is £39.90pp with water, coffee and tea. You can ditch the water and coffee and save yourself £6 per person. Or you could have 2 courses for £29. But why would you?
Texture has a Michelin Star, natch, and it shows. With the set lunch you get all the bells and whistles that come with the a la carte. It’s effectively 5 courses for the price of three. I still don’t like the room (weird layout, odd dividers) but I can get over myself. And if you can get over to Texture, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
P.S. I think that there are ten different types of crispbread.
Scores on the doors:
Value for money 9/10
Best for: crispbread glory
Worst for: the steak and chips brigade