Le Truc

Now I know we have steak restaurants in Brum; Andersons, MPW, the marvellous Fiesta Del Asado and the mediocre meatfest Rodizio Rico. But my favourite steak to eat in Brum is the onglet in Le Truc. This classic French bistro cut is the muscle that attaches the diaphragm and separates the lungs from the other organs. It’s got a deep beefy offally flavour and has to be cooked rare or it’s as tough as jerky. I always look forward to ordering it, fries and bernaise on the side, a simple thing done incredibly well.

Let’s not overlook Le Truc’s other charms. Open a couple of years now, it used to be the popular Chez Jules off New St. The spacious room is quintessially French bistro with quirky touches and a whole wall enshrined to Serge Gainsbourg. The menu is French bistro but done without any of the corporate Cafe Rouge cynicism. It’s not all French! They do a terrific Sunday roast beef too but really if you’re in the mood for no nonsense Frenchiness then Le Truc does the trick.

Le Truc
21 Ladywell Way, Birmingham B5 4ST
Tel: 0121 622 7050

Bader – Ladypool Rd

Wait what’s this!? A Birmingham food blog and this is the first time we’ve reviewed a restaurant in our famed Balti Triangle?! Hold your horses, it may be at the Balti epicentre of Ladypool Rd but Bader restaurant is not a curry house, the menu is half Lebanese. Amongst the sea of standard Balti house offerings along that road is an island of Arabian calm, because the other half of the menu is Arabic with nods to Maghreb and tagines. It’s the twin sister restaurant to the original on Coventry Rd in Small Heath (which is two doors down from Arabic grill Abu Zayd). Don’t expect the deep red hues of the kebabs you would find at the nearby Lahore grill, but more subtly spiced meat and tastier for it. The real treat is the lamb arayes, a small flatbread topped with a smear of minced lamb and freshly baked. For £3.50 each I could eat these beauties till I burst but that would do the rest of the menu a disservice. Grilled meats are a strength, cooked so that they are still juicy, a state unknown to the Pakistani grills that suffuse the area. The only let down is the rice which to my Chinese palate has been undercooked to an unacceptable degree on every occasion I’ve eaten there. But tough grain aside, it’s no reason why you shouldn’t visit Bader. Certainly the lovely Arabian décor is worth checking out on it’s own.

178-182 Ladypool Road
B12 8JS
Tel: 0121 773 9818

2013 – My Year in Food

It was going to be a top ten list of the best dishes of the year but I can’t be arsed to put them in order and besides ten is a pretty arbitrary number innit? So instead here’s a stream of consciousness in a vaguely chronological fashion.

Keller Fried Chicken


The year started strong on the 1st day with the best fried chicken any of us had ever eaten. A religious experience involving Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc Fried Chicken kit brought back from Yountville, CA by Nick. His kitchen is still getting over the mess he made that day cooking up those golden hunks. But it was worth it, the brine and seasoning made every bite juicy crunchy perfection. The standard that all fried chicken must now live up to.

Brisket Burnt Ends at Grillstock Festival, Bristol


The Grillstock Festival in Bristol came early this year at the start of May which meant we were getting our practise on in the snow. But it was all worth it when we won best brisket and came 5th overall. Let’s talk about the brisket, it scored 476pts out of 500. So from the five judges it averaged over 95%. That’s like, almost, perfect! On that day the best part of the brisket was the burnt ends. In the evening after the judging when they’d had a bit more smoke I actually thought they were perfect. BBQ holy grail attained, he’s a clever bloke that Nick.

Anchovy on Toast & Prawns from Palamos at Etxebarri, Axpe




Later in May was our first visit to the Basque grilling sage Victor Arguinoniz in his restaurant Etxebarri situated between Bilbao and San Sebastien. There were lots of highlights on the tasting menu. The first that shone out was a long fat anchovy that had been caught a year ago, cured by the chef and served on toasted bread. Very simple, very perfect. So much so that to try and describe it any more would be futile. The second dish was a pair of deep red prawns, grilled with salt. Again a perfect thing, the tail meat was buttery sweet and the head juice like a concentrate shot of seafood bisque. The best thing was that no one else wanted their prawn heads so I got to suck down eight of these.

Cha Ca La Vong and Goi Cuon



Went through a bit of a Vietnamese cooking binge mid-summer. There is a dearth of good Vietnamese food in Brum that I can’t understand. Maybe it’s the logistics of the fresh veg and herbs required to make the dishes really special. The first dish Cha Ca La Vong, I marinated baby monkfish tails in turmeric and lemongrass before frying them with spring onion and mounds of fresh dill. They’re served over rice vermicelli dressed with cashews, coriander, sweet basil, mint, chillies and nuoc cham. A taste explosion! The second dish Goi Coun or Summer Rolls. A thin rice paper wrapper filled to bursting with fatty belly pork, white crab meat, prawns, rice vermicelli and all those herbs. Dipped in nuoc cham, don’t think I can wait till summer to eat these again.

Kabayaki Unagi


As explained in this blog post here. The simple joy of cooking is learning to cook the things that you like to eat. This dish had always seemed really difficult to recreate but when I did the results were spectacularly good. The bonus being it was actually a doddle. There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t think about cooking this again, the only problem is finding good fat clean eels.

Lobster Curry


I like a bit of lobster I’m not afraid to admit. Usually stir-fried Cantonese style with noodles or Thermidor with buttery fettucine. But this summer I fancied a change and started experimenting with a Thai red curry sauce. Split female lobsters in half saving the roe and tomalley, char grill them then finish them with a red curry sauce thickened with the lobster innards. Yes, I’m salivating too as I type.

Everything at L’Enclume, Cartmel


Late summer tasting menu at L’Enclume. We’ve been twice before in colder months so it was great to come back when the earth around Cartmel was at its most fecund. Is it possible to choose single dishes out for praise? Would be like choosing the best songs from your favourite album, you’d quickly end up with an album’s worth of songs. Possibly my meal of the year, but then that can be true in any year that we go.

Stilton and Prosciutto Macarons



Been slowly perfecting my macaron technique this year using Pierre Hermé’s basic recipe and by Jove I think I’ve got it! So much so that it’s one of the few sweet recipes I know by heart. My favourite variation was a plain macaron piped with a mixture of white Stilton*, cream cheese, black pepper and crispy prosciutto. A savoury twist that surprised and delight everyone who tried it.

*apparently this year some TV Bake-Off muppet just stuck a wedge of Stilton between two mac shells. Unsurprisingly it wasn’t well received by the judges.

Mille-feuille at Jacques Genin, Paris


We’ve all had mille-feuille in some form or another. Custard slices we call them here, some puff pastry layered with some kind of filling or another. Cut into it and the filling squirts out from between the cold claggy pastry. You end up eating a mash up of soggy pastry and sweetened dairy gunk. It doesn’t have to be this way though. Imagine made-to-order mille-feuille, freshly baked squares of perfect light buttery puff pastry piped with delicately smooth crème patissiere or even chocolate mousse. Well you needn’t imagine it, just go to Jacques Genin’s patisserie in the Marais area of Paris. You needn’t imagine your knife falling through the layers of pastry like a sigh, clinking the plate with a whisper. Nor the perfect balance of textures and flavours melting in your mouth.

Hall Green Salami


I’ve been making my own dry-cured sausages for almost 7 years with some mixed results. Not having a humidity controlled drying room would account for that. Trying to gauge how the weather will pan out three weeks in advance has been the trick for me. I took apart half a massively fat Tamworth pig in mid-October, made some fennel salami and chorizo and the dry cool weather we had in Birmingham (akin to autumnal Tuscan mountain air) produced the best charcuterie I’ve ever made.

Dexter Prime Rib Roast



I don’t often cook big beef roasting joints. Big crusty steaks, yes I’m your man. But this Xmas I wanted something other than the usual bird and ham combination so went for bird and beef instead and ordered a standing roast from Berkswell in mid-November. Knowing full well that it would be nicely aged by Xmas day. What I wasn’t expecting was Berkswell delivering in spades with the most amazing joint of beef that I’d ever seen. An untrimmed five rib Dexter aged over 5 weeks. They’d only had one Dexter carcass the whole year so I felt very lucky indeed. Two days before Xmas I trimmed it up and seasoned it, on Xmas day it was put into a 100C over for about 4hrs until the internal temp reached 40C then rested for 2hrs whilst we finished cooking the rest of the meal. A quick sear before slicing resulted in the best roast beef the family had ever eaten, to quote my cousin as she guzzling down another slice: “it’s the beef of dreams!”



Throughout 2013 I had the pleasure of cooking with Dom Clarke at our CANeat popups in Stirchley. Too many different dishes to list but the grilled mackerel, smoked beef rib and smoked belly pork & squid were personal favourites. Expect more from us in 2014!

The Bartons Arms


It’s quite a modern day phenomenon, Thai food served in very traditional pubs. There are quite a few dotted around down that there London. But the only one in Brum is at The Bartons Arms, a truly gorgeous restored Victorian boozer in a pretty rough corner of town. Sitting in the dining room it’s hard not to think that it may be the most beautiful in the city, not as grand or opulent as Mughal e Azam but definitely having more soul, possessing a timeless quality that’s been scrubbed clean and looks fresh again.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting much from the food. I find most Thai food served in the city to be pretty generic, like the offerings in our Balti houses, choose your gravy then choose the protein to go into it. Which is a shame because great Thai cuisine is so vibrant, pushing the hot-sour-salty-sweet envelope with complex flavours. Like a massaman curry which served here comes close to greatness, better than the roast duck curry with pineapple that should be more sour. Most Thai food in this country is generally too sweet and the food here doesn’t escape that syndrome. The juicy well cooked tamarind duck should be both sweet and sour but childishly errs to candy. The hot and salty can be fixed with a little dish of prik nam pla (Thai chillies in fish sauce) at the table but sometimes the sour need to be cooked-in. A gripe, which I happily acknowledge is down to personal preference, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the dishes here. The starters are mixed, nice honey ribs but bland chicken wings and satay. Fishcakes could do with a little more kick but are of a pleasingly irregular handmade shape. Never trust a perfectly round fish cake, they’ve probably been dropped into the fryer from frozen straight out of the packet. There is the sense of fresh ingredients here, from the Thai basil in the curry to the shredded carrot and cabbage garnish, it’s all been cooked with care.

The Bartons Arms
144 High Street, Aston, Birmingham, B6 4UP
Tel: 0121 3335988

Red n’ Hot


What’s in a name? In particular Red n’ Hot, what kind of establishment does it sound like? As you’re reading a food blog you’ll guess it’s some kind of restaurant but in other circumstances you might say it’s a soft-core porn collection from the days of VHS. Something a bit niche. In some ways it might as well be for all the mainstream attention it gets but it must be doing something right sitting in it’s prime Hurst St location next to the the Hippodrome. It’s actually a chain of Sichuan restaurants, the other branches in London and Manchester. With the recent demise of BBQ village it’s become my go to for that spicy branch of Chinese cuisine. It’s pure Sichuan too, no pandering to Cantonese, Shanghainese or Beijing tastes.

Neither seemingly does it pander to Western tastes, the dark frontage looks brooding and the dark beaded blinds prevents passersby from peeking in. If you do get through the door the first thing you see is a little office space, cus that’s what it is, a Chinese travel agency. Look beyond this bit and you get the restaurant, all bare black surfaces. The tables have hotpot functionality but I’ve never had that there, always going for the plated dishes from the phonebook sized menu with its 100+ items. The old menu was a little more concise with photos of every dish listed but this one only illustrates the highlights. The dishes are listed in English but the components are in Chinese, so cryptic names like Husband and Wife Slices can be a little hard to decipher (cold sliced beef tripe and pork tongue). But be brave, order a lot and ask for it spicy because these are flavours you should fully commit to.

Rumour has it that the chef from BBQ Village relocated here and there is evidence in the Dry Fried Chicken with Chillies 辣子雞丁. The outrageous amount of chillies used in the dish is a hallmark. But then the Sliced Pork in Chilli 水煮肉片 is a little underpowered, it should be face-melting but wasn’t. It’s still delicious but when the waitress issues a warning when you order and it doesn’t deliver on maximum numbing 麻 and hot 辣 then you have to be a little disappointed. Nonetheless the flavours of the Sizzling Cumin Lamb 孜然羊肉 and Gong Bao King Prawn 宫保虾球 are excellent and worth going for on their own. Indeed I think dishes taste a lot cleaner than they did at BBQ Village so maybe the chef has cleaned up his act, literally, as the restaurant displays it’s 5/5 hygiene rating proudly. Some say it takes away something from the food, but in these more enlightened times maybe a little less MSG and sizzling oil is actually a good thing.

Red n’ Hot
Tel: 0121 6666076
35 Hurst Street, Birmingham B5 4BJ

Report: San Carlo Fumo, Birmingham

Picture the scene, you’ve turned a few corners in the maze of Venice’s back streets and find yourself lost. You turn a few more corners and stumble onto a bacaro, a small Venetian restaurant bar. It’s a real find, there’s not a tourist in sight and you sit down and order what the locals are eating, mostly fresh seafood cooked simply but with robust flavours that reflect the centuries of culinary excellence of the great city-state of Venice. There are crispy yet moist bacala croquettes filled with moreish salt cod, and fresh grilled sardines served on crusty bruschetta adorned with sun-ripened tomatoes and punchy capers. You look around and see a gleaming tranche of pearly white fish seared to perfection, it flakes into soft juicy petals when prodded with an eager fork. All the dishes are small, Venetian tapas you could say or dim sum, a little something with which to touch the heart. In Venice the small dishes served in bacaro are called Cicchetti and this is also what is served at Fumo, the sister restaurant of that Birmingham favourite San Carlo.

Let’s snap back to reality, I was in a party of seven recently and ordered what seemed at the time half of Fumo’s lengthy menu. Olives, bread, bacala, octopus stew, octopus salad, crab salad, gnocchi with gorgonzola, porchetta, lamb osso bucco, sardines, halibut, scampi ravioli, sea bass ravioli, tuna tartare, baked ricotta, soft-shell crab, aubergine parmagiana, smoked salmon, buffalo mozarella… and a selection of desserts. Small plates mean more choice and more chance of landing a great dish. The real standout dish for me was the octopus stew, these were soft baby octopodi in a deep tomato based sauce with a good hit of chilli. I could have eaten a big bowl of it with the good bread. Shame it was one of the specials of the day as I would come back just for that dish. In the main though most of the dishes were fairly ordinary. The octopus salad lacked any distinctive vinaigrette and hence flavour. Porchetta tasted good but only two thin processed ham-like slices is pretty mean. Lamb osso bucco was tender and tasty but was the knuckle end, if you’re going to call it osso bucco then please make it the bone with a hole and plenty of marrow. The ravioli were well made, the sheets of pasta thin and delicate but the fillings were underwhelming. A generous portion of gnocchi was smothered with a pungent creamy Gorgonzola sauce but was marred by the Parmesan basket it was served in. I assume it was a basket but by the time it reached us it was as flat as a pancake. It had also been overcooked by a fair degree, the acrid tang of burnt cheese did no favours to the well made gnocchi.

Then there were the less than enjoyable dishes. The bacala came as three thin croquettes, the cod had not been soaked for long enough and it gave them a chewy mealy consistency coupled with blandness that made eating them a chore. The sardines on bruschetta were buried under a mountain of cherry tomatoes. The tomatoes were good, maybe that’s the reason for sheer volume of them, to hide the rank piece of sardine. The kitchen would have done better to open a tin of sardines and served them instead. There was a thin halibut steak that had been seared past the point of well-done and then some more. It didn’t taste fresh at all and stuck your teeth together with it’s dryness. The worst dish was the Honey Smoked salmon. This was a finger sized tranche that was unpleasantly salty and had a strange fishy bitterness. Worse it wasn’t skinned, worst the skin wasn’t scaled! Who in their right mind serves smoked salmon like this?! The kitchen needs to sort this out right away, it’s embarrassingly incompetent.

The service is typically Italian, that mixture of rushed and slow at the same time. If you’re not too demanding a customer it can be quite entertaining having up to six different servers getting your order mixed up. Some of the staff were very good but some clearly were there for decoration and should not be handling orders. We arrived around 7pm on a Friday and got a table right away. By 8pm the room was packed and there was definitely an enjoyable buzz about the place. The bar is elegant and the dining area comfortable. Which is why it’s such a shame the food was so hit and miss. With such a long menu I think it’s possible to have good meal there if you choose well. But on the other hand if you’d ordered the bacala, halibut, sardines and smoked salmon you would be close to having the worst meal of your life.

San Carlo have recently opened Cichetti in Piccadilly, if the food is twice as good as Fumo then it won’t be half as good as Polpo around the corner in Soho. Now there’s Venetian small plates to lose yourself in.

Report: The Chef’s Dozen, Alcester, Warwickshire

Where’s the last place you’d expect to find a great restaurant? Obviously anywhere with a spectacular vantage point – almost always a sign that the restaurant will be relying on you being distracted by the view out of the window to notice that you’ve paid £20 for a plate of soggy pasta. And obviously don’t go looking for great eats in a municipal shopping centre (or leisure centre), or a Travelodge, or at motorway services (with the honorable exception of Tebay on J38 of the M6).

Until today I’d also have said don’t try and eat at one of those weird little converted barn shopping villages. These strange little places usually house a selection of unrelated and mainly unneeded shops – bridal ware, a pet clothes shop, a children’s photographer, maybe a weird little arts and crafts shop specialising in art deco ceramic sun-dials. These are not natural bed-fellows for haute cuisine.

So how did we find ourselves at Longbarn Village, near the pretty historic town of Alcester to eat lunch at The Chefs’ Dozen today, despite the threat of 10cm of snow this afternoon? Well, as with most tips these days, I heard about this place from Twitter. Richard, the chef-owner’s Twitter profile describes himself as ‘chef and general food geek’, a promising biog. The menu on their website read very nicely. Chef has an interesting pedigree, most recently working at The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais, one of the 50 restaurants in that rather silly but nevertheless prestigious San Pellegrino list. He’d also spent a bit of time at the Kingham Plough, the local gastro-boozer for “massive food knob-end” Alex James (quote courtesy me) featuring ex-Fat Duck chef Emily Watkins (although not everyone who works at the Fat Duck necessarily does much cooking, I refer you to the brilliant Down and Out in London and Padstow).

The Chef’s dozen refers to the menu – 12 dishes of roughly similar sizes and not explicitly designated as a main, starter or dessert. During the week you can order as few as two courses for £15, at weekends it’s either four (£28) or six (£40). So in theory you could order a starter and three puddings (good idea!).

It’s a curious concept and I suspect most people will naturally break it down into a traditional four-course meal format, but I like the flexibility although I bet it confuses the hell out of those coming to buy a sun-dial, a dog jumper and a wedding dress and who have popped in for a spot of lunch. These aren’t sharing plates though, or tasting plates – they are still pretty substantial. As there were three of us, we decided to make life easy and order one of everything on the menu. And I’m glad we did, because we weren’t served a single duff morsel. An amuse of silky smooth chicken liver with damson (particularly appreciated by my pregnant partner who hasn’t been allowed liver for 8 months) and crushed ginger biscuits preceded the appearance of very good bread, which came with a little pot of whipped pork dripping mixed with something green, as well as butter. Pork dripping!!

Then came the starters which aren’t starters, if you see what I mean. I got given the beetroot dish – golden beetroot with a goat’s cheese beignet and goat’s curd and Solanche (co-owner) must have seen my micro-expression because she asked if I wanted to swap my plate for a rather meatier looking one that had been given to Sarah. Actually perhaps it wasn’t a micro-expression because she said it looked like I was going to cry. Plates swapped and I was most relieved to get the lion’s share of the brawn dish – a very fine (in both senses of the word) terrine, which worked perfectly with a prettily pale yellow piccalilli mousse, subtle and refined. There was also a small mackerel fillet which was superfluous but not unwelcome.

The next wave of dishes brought me an ox heart tartare with a smoked egg yolk, not unlike the dish at Roganic served with salt beef. There was a little bit of bone marrow tucked in there too. A proper man’s dish. Butternut squash came with a cute and very delicious little cheese souffle.

The mains were stand-out – the Cotswold pheasant breast was wonderful and soft, but even better was a little cottage pie of pheasant leg confit, topped with soft mash served in an attractive Mr Whippee-like formation. Sarah loved the combination of a nicely flaking and chunky cod fillet with a lick of lemon curd, which worked much better than the description suggests.

My dessert (could be starter remember!) of warm pear with Oxford blue cheese was wonderfully creamy, salty and melty. The chocolate dish – a melting centred choc sponge sitting on a peanut swoosh, a cube of rich dense chocolate accompanied by a banana mousse of heavenly texture – was excellent as was the super smooth egg-custard tart, which was the highlight of a plate described as rhubarb and custard.

Even the petit fours were imaginative and fresh – a departure from the usual blobs of over-rich sweetness – pineapple cubes served as dumplings (think miniature pineapple fritters), acetone rich and juicy, quince jellies, light-as-clouds peach marshmallow and tiny chocolate brownie cubes.

A lovely, leisurely lunch served by people obviously passionate about what they are doing and who love cooking and eating food – and incredible value.

What a find. We will return ASAP.

Chef's Dozen on Urbanspoon

The Curlew, Bodiam, East Sussex

An early Christmas celebration saw us make the 3 hour journey from Birmingham to the Curlew on the outskirts of Bodiam, a part of the world most famous for the French getting all arsey with the British in 1066, so rather topical in these times of Euro summit meltdown. Another sign of the times was that the restaurant was all but empty for Saturday lunch, a massive surprise given the conviviality of the setting and the quality of the food we encountered. This is a great place to take the cold edge off a winter’s day. And the spirit of Christmas is definitely in the air at the Curlew – helped by a “mince pie Bellini”, an inspired aperitif which successfully paired prosecco with candied fruit and spices. Bread was lovely, served with thyme butter. The less adventurous diners in our party were very happy with their langoustine prawn cocktails (piquant sauce with tiny tender prawns and refreshing tiny chunks of melon, crunchy against the softness of the seafood) which came with a little tempura’d nugget of langoustine. I enjoyed my soft, squidgy veal tongue which was served with pickled beetroot. The Don had the cutest looking game pie, served with foie gras, nice goose ham and a beetroot chutney.

The head waitress was friendly although occasionally let the service show and we were mindful of being the last diners in for lunch. She steered us towards the duck dish which featured lovely soft confit, of duck leg, some pickled cabbage but unfortunately quite underpar chips, nicely crunchy on the outside but dry and powdery in the middle. Much better was the “leg of fallow deer” which came with a tart cranberry sauce, braised chicory and some of the cutest little Brussels sprouts you’ve ever seen. I really liked my pork cheeks which fell apart with a touch of the fork and came with some PX-sherry raisins and some very thinly sliced cauliflower. Partridge with cabbage was another solid dish. Presentation as you can see in the photos was very clean and inviting.

Jollities were temporarily put on hold when my mum began to feel a little unwell (not related to the food!) – but desserts were still enjoyable despite this setback. After lamenting that clafoutis is so often disappointing both in restaurants and during home experimentation the Don was delighted with the Curlew’s version, all soft and sweet with “tutti frutti” flavours served with brandy ice cream. Junket, a dessert of heated and set milk is not to everyone’s taste but I enjoyed mine which came with hot and sticky eccles cakes.

Some mince pie petit fours came with coffee and reinforced that those little bits of detail are what make the difference at this level, and also made it doubly surprising that the restaurant wasn’t packed out. Support this little gem.

The Curlew on Urbanspoon

Roganic, Marylebone, London

I’m not going to subject you to a dish-by-dish account of our 10 (well, 11) course lunch at Roganic. It’s been reviewed to death, see for example here and here. But it’s too good not to report back on.

When we went to L’enclume in April we were blown away by Simon Rogan’s hyper-local approach, making stars out of neglected vegetables and herbs, supplied from his farm and team of foragers. We were also seduced by the paradise village of Cartmel, replete with treats including the cheese shop, bakery and village shop – home of the sticky toffee pudding. We wondered at the time how the newly announced Roganic, a “2 year pop-up” in Marylebone would be able to reproduce the feelings of la belle vie evoked by the clean air, stone cottages, plants and flowers and slower pace of life in the village.

Well, inevitably Roganic couldn’t hope to reproduce those conditions. In fact the fairly pokey little space with ill-judged low light fittings (resulting in numerous entertaining head-clonkings) was pretty far away from the idyll of Cartmel. But it didn’t matter because Roganic has its own charms. The service was uniformly lovely and friendly, with informative but unobstrusive descriptions of dishes, and good steers through the wine list. And the food managed to hit the same heights as the mothership (perhaps even better?!). So if you’ve got to be in dirty old London on a Saturday, I can’t think of many places nicer to be.

What’s curious about the food at both Roganic and L’enclume is that the food philosophy is deliberately gentle. It is not about flavours exploding in the mouth, or generous portions of protein which sate you into sleepiness. It’s finely-judged. The 10-course menu leaves you with some residual energy. You don’t stagger out, holding your stomach desperate to lie down on the pavement (although we achieved this state a bit later on, at MEATliquor, but that’s another story).

This I think is a good thing, but I can see how others, after shelling out their £80 per head may prefer a more visceral experience. For me each and every dish was a joy, nothing was served which wasn’t interesting, and all dishes were distinct pleasures. Some dishes hit the real heights: a smoked, slow-cooked egg yolk with shavings of salt beef – right up my street. A small but perfectly formed roast langoustine with soft but tender cured Arctic char. The classic L’enclume dehydrated and roasted cauliflower, singing with sweet and earthy flavour (even cauliflower-hater Lap might enjoy this). And how can you not love a heritage potato cooked in chicken fat, served with chicken skin? Bilberries with dried caramel, yoghurt and iced lemon thyme was miraculous. And a special bonus course paired spiced brioche with smoked ice-cream and tart sea-buckthorn.

We left over four hours later – just as Ben Spalding and his team were having a well-deserved sit-down and a takeaway pizza before cracking on with their evening service.

It’s not cheap, but it’s definitely value.

Roganic on Urbanspoon