Tuesday, October 24, 2006

'The' North star!

I'd been really looking forward to our visit to Juniper in Altrincham. My appetite had been seriously whetted by the excellent press reviews I’d read and the glowing comments made by Gordon Ramsay. We knew what we were having as Tuesday's have a special menu at Juniper's and at the supreme price of only £30 a head. After we were seated I mentioned my deep and abiding hatred of tomatoes and the goats' cheese in the dessert and was quite surprised by the reaction, I was admonished for not informing them when I made the booking. I was a little surprised and felt suitably chastised. We'd come a long way to eat here and we'd not come for this particular menu just for a night when they were able to squeeze us in this very popular place. Clearly our waitress was a huge fan of tomatoes and goats' cheese and felt I was tinkering with the chef's artistry but after some consultation said "they'd see what they could do".

That being said I had chance to look around at the restaurant and boy, was that worth checking out. I'd never seen so many artificial flowers in a restaurant outside of those mad, local in France. They've got twisty metal light fittings all round the restaurant which on their website are not unnecessarily adorned with red silk roses but at the moment, they are. Personally I think that flowers should be real or not seen. But Juniper has even more surprises. They have a huge tree branch on their ceiling, which is covered in fake blossom hmmm. But enough about the curious décor, what about the food?

This is the menu as written but there were couple of little extras.

Glazed Gruyere Cheese Risotto, Prunes,

Sweetcorn, Garden Peas, Brazils


Smoked Haddock, Celery, Potato and Dill Soup,

Olive Oil, Chives, Pea Puree, Caviar


Slow Cooked Fillet of Beef, Roquefort Blue Cheese,

Assiette of Tomato, Barley, Rosemary, Port, Pear,

Saffron, Lemon, Walnuts


Assiette of Cheese


Glazed Lemon Tart, Goats Cheese,

Praline and Fennel Ice Cream,

Warm Cream Cheese and Vanilla Anglaise


Coffee and Petit Fours

Our first amuse gueule was a shot glass with a Cauliflower and Red Pepper Foam with Caper Berries accompanied by a Sea Salt and Chocolate Flap Jack. Clearly this was going to be a seriously special meal.

We were told to keep the little spoon and was handed our tiny dish of Glazed Gruyere Cheese Risotto containing Prunes, Sweetcorn and Garden Peas with a Brazil Nut in the middle. I thought Gary Rhodes served the teeniest risotto ever but this one was just a few unctuous mouthfuls. The peas and the Brazil nut was very apparent but I wasn’t aware of prunes in the couple of mouthfuls I had, I would have expected to detect the sweetness but didn’t. Really delicious though!

And we needed the little spoon again for the Smoked Haddock, Celery, Potato and Dill Soup with a lovely surprise of Caviar hidden in the bottom of the shot glass. The smoked haddock was in the foam on top of the potato and dill soup and again I must admit that I couldn’t really detect the taste; it was just so incredibly subtle (unusually for smoked haddock!) but again, a stunning flavour.

Next it was the main course, this was a lovely piece of Slow Cooked Fillet of Beef with a Roquefort Blue Cheese on an Assiette of Tomato with alarmingly purple Port Barley with Pears and Walnuts. They had swapped my assiette of tomato for an assiette of tapenade and even though I’m not crazy about olives they are so much better than tomatoes so this was great. I was kind of hoping that the Roquefort would be left off as I think the taste overwhelms slightly but I still really enjoyed it. The alarming port coloured barley was really unusual, I’d probably be horribly conventional and have preferred a potato accompaniment but it was different and added an interesting nutty texture to the dish – like undercooked risotto.

Then we were given an Assiette of Cheese to share, I think there were 14 different cheeses here and I was trying to keep all the names in my head. All I really did was earmark the goat cheeses for immediate removal to M’s plate and then I cut the remaining pieces in half and tried to recall their names. They were all at the peak of ripeness but I wish I could remember what I’d had.

Before our dessert we given a shot glass of Cornflake Milk which was a refreshing surprise and then a really fabulous Glazed Lemon Tart which in M’s case came with Goats’ Cheese Ice Cream and mine in a much more suitable Orange Sorbet – seriously good!

The Petit Fours were the tiniest sliver of a very good Custard Tart; I could definitely have squeezed a little more in if they’d offered it and yummy gooey Chocolate Truffles that I had to take with me so maybe I couldn’t have crammed in any more custard tart!

All this was accompanied by a really delicious La Croix des Moines Lalande-de-Pomerol red wine which was really wonderful and we had a glass of Sauternes to accompany the fabulous glazed lemon tart. My attempts to take a couple of photos were foiled by if truth be told there being no light at all but it would have been a really photogenic meal if I’d had a small spotlight with me. I was trying to be discrete so it was seriously no flash – but I needed it very desperately this time.

This was an amazing meal; it really can’t be faulted as each mouthful had some new surprise. I soon forgot about the bizarre décor! A definite three forks for Juniper - this is a North star, Gordon was so right!

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