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Thursday, January 10, 2008

THE LANDAU













We sail our icecats on the frozen river
Some loser fires off a flare, amen



After the car crash of a meal that was “WB” (or Waterloo Brasserie in the common vernacular) I needed to get back in the culinary saddle and ride down my next meal on the plains of the er… pampas that is London. And I wasn’t sure if The Landau would be the place to reaffirm my faith. It had lots in the cons column. Restaurant in a hotel (The Langham). Expensive. Designed by David Collins. There was nothing in the pros column apart from the chef at the helm is Andrew Turner, someone who seemed to have a pretty good rep but whose cooking I’d never tried.

But first things first and a drink in the Artesian, the hotel bar. Designed by the aforementioned DC (natch) it promised a “sophisticated bar scene” what I got was a pretty bog-standard, for London, hotel bar complete with over-loud, high bpm* music, middle-aged men leering at young women (that’ll be me then) and just adequate cocktails.

I liked The Landau dining room which is a first for me with a DC interior - it had a touch of the Baronials which was refreshingly different. The lighting was just so and you could actually see what you were eating. Music early on was overloud but it was turned down during the evening as the place filled up.

Much more impressive was the food. With nearly every dish it tasted as if the kitchen was beavering away and doing their damndest to create something above the ordinary. Being good enough just wasn’t on the agenda. The amuse - so often a pre-prepped afterthought - of cubes of pumpkin and potato covered with a bacon espuma
was as good as a standalone course at other gaffs. It was outdone by my starter proper: three super fresh langoustines with some little Secrett’s leeks, swirls of beautiful carrot puree and some foam made from shiso. In less expert hands this dish could be just ho-hum but here everything tasted sensational and the whole made perfect sense.

If ever a menu undersold a dish then my “Rack of lamb and confit of Merton Farm mutton breast pudding, mint, artichokes and a crispy organic hen’s yolk“
was it. My rack of lamb was not the usual couple of skinny cutlets that are so popular at this level of dining but came in the form of two Desperate Dan size chops, cooked pink with a nice layer of fat. The Mutton pudding was one of the nicest things I’ve put in my mouth in ’07: intensely meaty within and a fine suet pastry without. The deep fried egg had a non-greasy panko-like covering and was perfectly cooked. Secrett’s veg featured again in a nicely judged artichoke and mint puree.

All that would have been pleasing enough for a main course but the kitchen had upped the ante by adding a couple of unadvertised dishes. A big lump of creamy lamb’s sweetbread and a croquette of what tasted like shredded slow-cooked shoulder could have unbalanced the whole dish but the excellence of the preparation easily circumvented such objections.

What a shame then that the dessert was a bit of a clunker. I’ve always liked the idea of retro dishes brought up to date but my profiteroles were pretty nasty. Profiteroles should be light, airy and crisp but these were stodgy and dense. The lime ice cream wasn’t a clever idea either. The whole was topped of by a very sweet chocolate sauce. It was a real effort to eat dish. A complaint brought forth the feeble response that I had put too much sauce on it. Not very helpful. The PFs were similarly underwhelming (or maybe it was the sugar overload of the previous dish). Still, I have been to many places where the chef loses interest at the sweet course. A dedicated pastry chef would be indicated here.

No matter. I’m not a pudding person and the preceding courses had been very impressive. Not cheap, but really good food never is or shouldn’t be.

After failing to finish a lovely bottle of Icewine (the rest donated to the friendly waiters who had served me) I decided to stroll down to see the famous lights of Oxford Street. Yup, just as jaw-dropping as they were a year ago.

*My younger friends tell me this means beats per minute a measurement much like the foot-poundal

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1 Comments:

Blogger Chris said...

Damn you - I thought for once in my life I'd have a scoop on DH by visiting a new restaurant before you (I'm booked in for Sunday lunch). Still on the plus side this all looks fabulous so I'm very much looking forward to my visit now.

Friday, January 11, 2008 10:53:00 am  

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