Saturday, May 08, 2004

Yesterday was our anniversary. We decided not to rush out and buy big presents (it was a big anniversary) but instead to treat ourselves to dinner at a Haute Cuisine restaurant.

After researching Time Out's Eating and Drinking guide, we settled on The Square. We had the eight course tasting menu. Actually, it was seven courses without the cheese.

Presentation was done with novelty plates, same as East meets West. Those who ordered from the normal menu got a little chicken consommé topped with sour cream as an amuse-gueule, served in a shot glass. It looked jolly cute.

Our menu was

1) Parsley soup served with morels and langoustines. Well, it was more like a sliver of morel and langoustine, given the size of the soup bowl. This is a tasting menu, after all. This was quite amazing, and I am now wondering how to make parsley soup. We think it may have had a fish stock base, but that flavour may have come from the langoustine.

2) Spring vegetable salad with truffle cream and a soft poached egg. The egg in this case was a quail egg, suited to the small portion. It came in a crunchy shell, so I don't know how poached it was. Unless it was poached in oil? The truffle cream was much milder than the truffle butter I bought at Sainsburys a while back. I think even my BIL would approve of the vegetable portion: one bean, one asparagus tip, a couple of peas, a tiny carrot. He doesn't like vegetables much.

3) Roast Scallop with a fricassée of mousserons, gnocci and parmesan. Mousserons are a tiny mushroom, I had to ask what it was, never had them before. The fish knife they gave us was so wide and short, it looked more like a spoon.

4) Roast Foie Gras with a tarte fine of caramelised endive and late picked muscat grapes. (Does anyone get the impression that I actually wrote all of this down?)

An aside here about the sommelier. (We do not normally eat in restaurants that have sommeliers, so I can't comment on how good or bad she was, but we thought she was great.) She came over when I began looking at the wine menu to see if she could assist. We said we were having the tasting menu, and she immediately suggested we start with a half bottle of white for the first few courses and then change. I said I didn't really drink white, unless they were rich and buttery, because whites are too acidic for me.

She then asked if we liked new world wines (probably because of my accent) but I said I didn't think they would go with the food too well. So we settled on a light burgundy for most of the meal, and she suggested a glass of a new world red to go with the beef. Cool. Sounded good to us. It was an Hervé Arlaud 1997 wine, a Morey-Saint-Denis if I recall correctly.

Anyway, while we were munching the scallop (actually, given the size of the portion, hardly munching but you know what I mean), she came up and asked whether we would like a sweet wine with the Foie Gras. This is a new concept to me, so we gave it a go. (This was only the 2nd or 3rd time I've eaten foie gras, so I can be forgiven for my ignorance.) She suggested a Tokai or a Velich and we ended up having one glass of each. We liked the Velich more as a wine, but the Tokai, being more acidic, went better with the foie gras. The burgundy just made the foie gras taste salty and actually ruined the dish. It really worked with the sweet wine, so that was interesting and educational.

OK, back to the food. After our four starters, we had two mains:

5) Fillet of Halibut with a Purée of peas and Velouté of ham. The velouté turned out to be little tiny cubes, and not a cream at all. This was one of the highlights of the meal, but at the end of this course I was feeling at capacity.

6) Fillet of Beef with a beignet of asparagus and a persillade of girolles. I still don't know what a persillade of girolles is. There were some mushroomy things and some spinach that came with the beef. My beef was not great, Paul's looked more tender and tasted more tender. I managed to give him a large taste of mine (see note about being at capacity) to compare with his, without giving away the fact that I was feeling mightily full. The wine the sommelier brought us was an american syrah, but she never told us what it was. It smelt like a cab, though, with apricot notes. Tasted like shiraz, which was interesting.

At this point they brought us an amuse-gueule, vanilla yogurt topped with rhubarb purée and a miniature sweet beignet dusted in sugar. This was very nice, and very light, and I managed to eat and enjoy it. This was served in a shot glass, so you can get an idea of how much it was.

7) I don't know what happened to the tasting menu at the point of dessert. Maybe normal people have a separate appetite for dessert. They brought a FULL SIZE dessert, a passion fruit soufflé with banana ice cream. A shot glass size I could have coped with, and that is what I was expecting. We got a 4 inch ramekin, with the soufflé towering majectically a good inch above the rim. We had a glass of the Velich with the desserts, because it was such a nice wine.

So that was the meal. We started at around 7 pm, and finished at 9.30.

And yes, I would do it again. I think I could get hooked on tasting menus, but I'm going to have to do something about my appetite.

Maybe just practice eating more.