wildeabandon: waffle with summer berries (mmmfood)
I've just eaten one of the best meals of my life, and you all know how many good meals I've eaten. [livejournal.com profile] borusa and I had the tasting menu at Vanilla. It's late, so I don't think I have time for a full review, but I'll post a few highlights. Edit: Okay, I lied, have a full review. But actually, go and eat there yourselves. Really, do.

The amuse bouche was "clay potato with aioli". Neither of us were quite sure what a clay potato was, despite the efforts with google. What it turned out to be was a new potato coated with a very thin layer of clay. Yes, actual clay, as in hardened mud. Apparently it's good for the digestion, so a good thing to start with. It was surprisingly good. The coating was thin enough not to be really weird, but added a strange and fascinating texture. The aioli was extremely good, and there was a seed and salt dip that turn what could have been just a gimmick into a very flavourful bite. I am going to get hold of a recipe for the coating and use it on medallions of pigeon breast. It has to be done.

The first starter was scallop on pork belly (a traditional combination, for very good reason), with a black pudding, bacon and potato terrine. The scallop was very nice, but completely overshadowed by the terrine, which was amazing. If I were a pig, I'd be queueing up to be turned into this terrine. Oink.

The second starter was an egg cooked very very slowly (45 minutes at 64 degrees) - this meant that the yolk and the white were exactly the same texture - cooked, but not quite solid, and as it was brought to the table it was covered with a large glass that had been filled with oak smoke, which they waved under your nose, which added extra layers of flavour. It was served with a jerusalem artichoke foam, vegetables I'd never tasted before ([livejournal.com profile] borusa help me out - the thing like plantain but black?) and wafer thin layers of lomo sausage, which makes parma ham go home and cry becasue it's just not up to the job.

Then the main course. I had halibut, with mussels, chervil - both whole root and a sauce made with root and leaves, scallop and parsley foam, and hazelnut paste. I know what you're thinking - it sounds like overkill, but whilst each ingredient had a strong flavour alone, a mouthful with all of them Just Worked. Robert had the venison. I had a taste, and it was utterly glorious, but I'll leave him to go into the details.

The pre-dessert was a glass full of berry bubbles. The taste was much like a the fruit bit of a really good summer pudding - very enjoyable, but not outstanding. What made the dish outstanding was the texture. It was like taking the frothiest of frothy mousses and making it frothier still, but with just enough structural integrity to not pop. There was something very pre-adolescent about eating it, and we giggled all the way through. It was served with a pastry with a shell like a very thin doughnut, filled with a liquid vanilla cream, which was exactly what you needed to counter the sharpness of the bubbles.

After that I didn't think it could get any sillier, but the dessert proved me wrong. They brought a plate with fresh and caramelised figs, crushed biscuits and toffee sauce, and a shot glass with what looked like rough sugar cubes inside. Then they poured lavendar milk into the glass of what was actually dry ice. It was AWESOME. It was like miniature volcano on your plate. I may have squealed with excitement a tiny bit. You then dipped the figs and biscuits in the pool of milk that gathered at the bottom of the volcano. It could perhaps have had a bit more flavour to it, but y'know, figs are good no matter what, and also VOLCANO!!!

I think this counts as my third favourite meal ever, but it was third of the price of the Fat Duck, and the only reason it doesn't beat Bacchus* is the lack of matching wines - the food was probably slightly better. One thing that I've noticed about tasting menus is that they either wuss out and do traditional food for one or two courses, or they go slightly too far with the gimmicks and end up making something not very nice (even Heston screwed up with the liquid black pudding, if you ask me), but this place got the balance exactly right. Every course surprised and delighted, and a lot of us made us ask "how can this possible work", but it did work, every single time.

*which sadly has now closed down. I shall find out where the chef is now and when I do I shall tell everyone.


wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)

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