I CAN SEE BY WHAT YOU CARRY THAT YOU COME FROM BARRYTOWN
Dinner on my own tonight as HS was laid up with a badly bruised coccyx (don’t laugh). Hence a barely adequate report from deepest Knightsbridge and a disappointing restaurant called La Noisette.
I quite like eating by myself, it allows a pleasing level of self-indulgence. Whole bottles of expensive wine to oneself, no worries about trying to balance the meal (I’ll have the lamb, you have the fish), great table. The restaurant staff are usually extra nice as well, the best example of which was when I got comp’d a big bowl of pasta and white truffle at Jean Georges. Anyway, when I pitched up for my table at La Noisette I spotted my table straight away. It might as well as have had a sign above it saying Billy No-Mates with a big arrow pointing down. All signs that this might have been be a table for two had been removed, even
the flowers seemed, well, a bit limper than on the other tables.
Never mind. I sat down, relaxed and sipped a very chilled Lustau Manazanilla and munched on breadsticks and a labneh (in other words chips ‘n’ dip). This space used to be home to Pengelley’s and the décor probably contributed to its demise: think airport lounges from the early to mid-seventies. Everything was brown and orange. Still the food’s the thing and I went for the Inspiration Menu. For £65 you get a surprise degustation menu. The surprise in my case being how uninspiring the whole thing was.
First up was veal carpaccio which didn’t really taste of anything but had
some very nice little bits of baby coriander.
Next a little salad nicoise. This was good, quali egg perfectly cooked, tinned tuna, some confited tomatoes, small onion rings, french beans and incongruously, rocket, all brought together by a really good dressing. Now I began to get excited and was looking
forward to the courses to come, the first of which was…
Deep fried Soft-shell crab. I’ve never got my head round this dish even in the context of a SE Asian restaurant, the frying does seems to get in the way and this was no different. It was crispy, salty, slightly greasy. Nice with a cold one but somewhat out of place in a fine dining restaurant. The accompanying broad beans didn’t really do much to lift the dish. The
tomatoes made another appearance.
Onwards and slightly backwards. Deep fried squid with more rocket and what’s this ? Our old chum confit tomatoes. There was some good technique here, the teeny tiny squid rings were perfectly cooked. Unfortunately, not a good thing to do to a little squid - you could hardly taste the blighter.
Technique was the name of the game in the next course: a hedgehogged scallop (see picture) in pea puree with some deep-fried herbs on top. Looked stunning but why inflict this treatment on a scallop ? The foamed puree was too underpowered and the scallop lacked that sweetness that the best ones do.
I was now getting a little weary. Tasting menus are fine when there are some real highlights but when you realise they’re not going to come the whole thing becomes a chore. Also, the timing was all wrong with the dishes coming in quick sucession. The next dish certainly woke me up.
Rack of lamb in a curry sauce. Oh dear, oh dear. What a disaster. Imagine you made a curry sauce but you dropped most of the curry powder in. The result would still be better than this. To make things worse the spices hadn’t been cooked out properly. The taste lives with me still. The lamb was perfectly cooked but like most of the source ingredients tonight, tasted of not very much. Compare with Galvin @ Windows which I visited when it opened. There, the quality of the meat, fish etc. shone through with every dish. I complained about this dish and the FOH after returning from the kitchen admitted that the chef had got a bit carried away, There was nothing offered in compensation but I noticed most of the wines by the glass I had to accompany the meal had been knocked off the final bill but obviosuly I would have preferred an edible dish.
Cheese course next at a supplement of £8. The usual (French) suspects were ok but no more. The oat biscuits were quite nice though.
The first sweet course was the best dish of the night. A mini-crème brulee with a berry coulis in a shot glass. Excellent brulee with a crisp top and tiede custard partnered with an intense and slightly tart berry coulis. Great stuff.
Back to the humdrum with the second dessert, a chocolate tart with ice-cream, bits and berries. By this time I was ready to leave.
I thought I might as well go the whole nine yards and have coffe and PFs and a little digestif. The coffee was very good, the PFs were, well, PFs. The grappa did it’s job well (oh how I love it).
What can I say ? I was really looking forward to this meal but like most high-end dining in London it flatters to deceive. The level of technique in the kitchen is high but the quality of ingredients mediocre and the first can never compensate for the second.
When I got home there was news of more carnage in the Middle East which made me think that if the worse I can say about my life is that I get jejune saucing in a restaurant then I’m not really doing that bad.