"It's not much but it's ours"

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Granville

What will it be - some soothing herb tea ?

I knew when I proclaimed that Magdalen was my meal of the year that I may have to er…eat my words but I didn’t think I would have to a) wait until half the year had passed by and b) travel outside London . But my recent meal at The Granville has wrested the mantle from Magdalen and now takes top spot. Let me explain.

The Granville has the same owners as The Sportsman in Seasalter which I visited and really enjoyed a couple of months ago. Like the The Sportsman it’s a pub situated outside of a town. In this case it’s a few miles from Canterbury. I was warned that walking wasn’t really an option but fool that I am I tried. It started raining, there were no signs, the bushes were rustling ominously (and rustling bushes are always ominous). After an interminable walk down a muddy track I gave up and slunk back to the town, wet, tail between my legs and got a cab instead.

A short hop and I had arrived a little early at the pub and spent an awkward five minutes testing the locked door and kicking my heels. Very reminiscent of standing outside a pub at five to five (note to younger readers: licensed premises had to close between three and five in the good old days). Once I got inside a couple of pints of the lovely Early Bird Spring Hop Ale from the Shepherds Neame brewery made me forget about my bedraggled state.

While waiting for the meal proper I chomped down on the lovely Focaccia that I had tried at The Sportsman and a bowl of toasted pumpkin seeds. It also gave me a moment to take in the utilitarian décor. A style I quite like – giving less (or preferably no) money to David Collins always seems to equate to a better meal. Strange that.

The food was the star though. My starter of Baby Dover Sole was as good as you’d get in Spain (and if you’ve read DH you’ll know how much of a complement that is). Simply grilled it had a small dollop of the best Tartare Sauce I’ve tasted. These two elements on their own would be good enough but someone in the kitchen had had the idea of saving some of the cooking juices and serving them on the side. A simple idea, sure, but a great one which added another twist to the dish.

“Sliced Meats - For Two” sounded a bit more prosaic but turned out to be a fine section of Italian Antipasti including a wonderful home-cured bresaola. In place of the usual, sad, floppy salad leaves there were a couple of lightly dressed, crisp Romaine. It looked pretty good. It tasted even better.

A main course of Brill came as two generous braised fillets. The Pommes puree was perfect .i.e. not loaded up with butter (which would have been just wrong in this context) and the spinach was the best I’ve tasted (apparently, it’s from the chef’s garden). The whole was surrounded a light cream sauce speckled with chives, an ingredient that rarely contributes anything to a dish but in this case did. Another cracking dish.

Taking a little breather and checking out the other dishes being sent out I saw large tranches of chicken liver parfait, whole sea bass, pan fried steaks and hunks of chicken and crispy duck. For once I bemoaned the absence of HS (and it’s not often I can say that) as we would have been able to cover more of the menu. Well, most of it actually.

A good restaurant should have a certain sort of rhythm. And The Granville on this particular service seemed to have hit the perfect beat. The three FOH staff were variously serving the dishes, pouring pints, refilling water jugs and answering the phone (sorry, no tables available for Sunday lunch). None of this I guess was unusual, though, given the large number of regulars tucking into plates of great food and creating a very nice buzz on my lunchtime visit.

I knew I was going to like whatever pudding I had and the Tirmaisu failed to let preceding standards drop. Again, there was a lightness of touch to the dish that made it a pleasure rather than an over-sweetened chore to eat. The addition of the cherries marinated in kirsch was yet another sign of a kitchen with ideas. Oh, and I had to try the home made ginger ice-cream which was ace.

I’m not saying anything about the coffee and PFs but leave it for you dear reader to guess whether I liked them (but of course I did).

Out of the DS, HS is the one who likes to hobnob with chefs (me, I just want to eat their food rather than be their amigo) but in this case I thought the meal was so good I just had to thank the kitchen personally at the end of service. Actually, I was quite shocked to see how young the brigade was. This was, after all, a meal that would make most places in London look like the nasty rip-offs most of them are. Whereas here the food was intelligent, well prepared and tasty. And that in the end is all I ask from a meal. I’m checking out the cost of season tickets straight away and so should you...

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