Friday, May 11, 2007

A meal with a view

The sun is out, the sky is (almost) blue so it seems an excellent idea to hang out in Blueprint Cafe for a while with the distinctly non-barking* JA & DS and enjoy the excellent view. And whilst we're there it would be somewhat foolish not to avail ourselves of a few platefuls of Jeremy Lee's fabulous food! The great man himself was off gallivanting which was a shame as I was hoping to congratulate him on winning the Scottish heat of the Great British Menu. Never mind I'm back again for a cookbook event next week so I'll see him then.

As usual there was a small but perfectly formed seasonal menu to select from all with Jeremy's usual brevity of dish descriptions. I really noticed that on Great British Menu when comparing the two regional menus how the more laid back assured chefs that I really admire like Jeremy, Richard Corrigan and Mark Hix generally favoured the minimalist approach, for example Jeremy offers us crab cakes & mayonnaise or raspberry shortcake. The straightforward lack of flowery descriptions bely the fact that a lot of work has gone into the dish and you get to be pleasantly surprised by the over-delivery on flavours. In contrast there's Noel McMeel’s Canon of lamb with black pudding, minted pea puree and wild garlic potato cakes or his Trio of rhubarb: rhubarb and ginger mousse, rhubarb ice cream, and rhubarb and whiskey compote, don't get me wrong I also like to know what I'm eating but there's always a danger of style over content and the florid narratives end up describing what you should have eaten but can't actually taste.

DS choose the innocuous sounding baked asparagus & parmesan, JA the pâté but when I saw some of Jeremy's infamous fishcakes I couldn't see anything on the menu. I'd bought my camera to record our feast but had annoying opted to leave it at the office. Fortunately DS lent me his camera with attached phone so we could capture each of our dishes. Perhaps we've started a new trend, before anyone starts tucking in the camera phone is passed from diner to diner and all food is snapped. I've no idea what our waitress thought about this bizarre ritual but was polite enough to pass no comment.

Also, I’ve no idea if I’ll ever be able to extract these photos from the camera phone/ phone camera again, but there were duly noted. (update: DS was successful and not only do I have all the photos, his son is now a fan of photographing all meals - I knew we'd started a trend!) My smoked haddock fishcakes were really delicious, served with a big bunch of watercress and an extremely punchy aioli. Generally when you order fishcakes for a starter you get one big fishcake nestled amongst some greenery but here I enjoyed three perfectly formed extremely tasty mini fishcakes. DA's baked asparagus was cooked in a similar fashion to the way Jeremy serves his salsify, wrapped in the thinnest of filo pastry jackets and sprinkled liberally with grated parmesan; he declared it to be very fine. JA's pâté was accompanied by a pleasing mound of booze steeped plums. Everyone thought that it looked suspiciously like chocolate ice cream and DS's son was especially impressed when perusing the photographs later to learn that when you're older you're allowed to start a meal with ice cream. The pâté itself was that gorgeous parfait smoothness that I adore in a pâté (more preferable to me than a coarse terrine), and I can vouch for the taste as I was offered a few knife-fuls to sample with my remaining bread. Scrumptious!

My main was onglet, mustard, watercress & horseradish, DS selected the skate and JA the well hung Scottish beef. We shared possibly the largest Jersey royals I've ever seen (we were serves five between three of us), a bowl of pert green sprue asparagus & hispi cabbage and some almost black-green spinach. We enjoyed these as we admired the view and wondered if various boats had moved during our meal. And also, with the slightly disorientating effect of all the mirrors, tried not to get confused as landmarks appeared in unfamiliar locations. I enjoyed an old Jeremy favourite dessert - St Emilion au chocolat and JA the crème brûlée.

I am delighted to see that after Jeremy’s success in the Great British Menu he is hosting a special evening on the 26th June showcasing his winning menu. I don’t know how closely he’ll stick to the dishes he’s aiming to cook for the French but the winning actual menu was:

Crab cakes and mayonnaise
A broth of Scottish shellfish
Fillet steak, pickled walnuts and horseradish

Raspberry shortcake

So it will be a very interesting evening I think. I especially want to try his crab cakes and that amazing sounding 'broth'.

* kind of difficult to explain but definitely nothing to do with dogs!

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