THE ONLY RUNNING FOOTMAN: FIRST MEAL OF 2008
Before going on to talk about a meal at TORF, I wanted to put a picture of a hunk of meat.
Well, when I mentioned to a few people that I was cooking Barnsley Chops for lunch the other day, most were nonplussed having never heard of them. Those who did know them had only experienced the rather dispiriting examples, found in London restaurants, which are an abomination to the name.
For the record, these are Barnsley Chops, cut from the lamb saddle, with a good layer of fat. In this instance, I studded them with a little “gremolata” made of rosemary, garlic and lemon peel before roasting for 45 minutes.
Jolly good they were too.
Anyway, a quiet New Year’s Eve meant that HP, myself and our chum, Nick were up for a gentle, celebratory lunch in the centre of town somewhere.
The Only Running Footman is owned by the same people who own The House in Islington and The Bull in Highgate. I have not tried the latter and the last time I tried the former, it was so vile, I have never been able to bring myself to go back.
But, I had heard decent things about TORF, so was pleased when they were able to squeeze us into the bar area at short notice.
The menu for New Year’s Day was a little truncated, and our small, wobbly table not best suited for dining, but, given that we had no reservation, that is more our fault than theirs.
It is not cheap, which given its location is no surprise. Starters come in between £7 and £9 and main courses top the £20 mark, which does move close to the eye watering mark.
Fortunately, while there are no fireworks, the cooking is solid and show signs of people who are serious about sourcing good ingredients.
HP’s starter of Foie Gras and chicken livers was sufficiently, er liverish and came with two slices of buttery soft brioche. My red onion “tatin” too was worth the effort of removing a forest of salad leaves which hid a creamy slab of goat’s cheese under its bushel. I used the flaky pastry case to mop up onions which had been cooked down to a lovely sweetness.
Best of the bunch was Nick’s choice of red mullet cooked perfectly to point.
Main courses again showed that sourcing is something they take seriously with the main ingredient in each dish standing out against its accompanying vegetables.
Belly pork came with creamy fat, a crunchy topping of crackling and sat on a pile of shredded cabbage.
My own sea bass dish was slightly over cooked but saved by crispy skin and a smart addition of confit garlic.
HP came off best of all with slices of venison loin which, all too rarely in these days of farmed animals, tasted of game which, also for once, was not swamped by too fierce a reduction.
Given the usual post Christmas guilt trip that had all three of us wondering if we need to make extra notches in our belts, none of us could bring ourselves to order pudding. So, we plumped instead for coffee and tea, which brought the bill to a sizable £115 including service and three drinks.
As I said, it is far from a budget option, but, looking at the pub menu, I think it would be perfectly possibly to get away with a lunch for a lot less than that. Given the quality of the meat we tried, I am keen to return to try their mixed grill.
With ingredients of noticeably excellent quality, cooking that is able and disinclined to show off, and the sweetest imaginable service, it provides another option for lunch in Mayfair.
Well worth a try