Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A summer night at Jeremy's

If you are a follower of US dramas, a couple of series in they often like to have a real time episode, an hour of helter-skelter camera techniques with that sense of speed and jeopardy throughout. As I find myself on a solo table for my dearly awaited Jeremy Lee's Summer Party, I have decided to write my thoughts on tonight's meal live and as it happens - mouthful by mouthful and taste after delicious taste! I hadn’t intended to sit by myself but Jeremy’s generosity has meant that not as many people as should have done have signed up for tonight’s extravaganza and I am very disappointed in them. The food is always magnificent, the wine perfectly complimentary and plentiful and a good time is definitely had by all. But the only people who’ve signed up are a couple of corporate tables so I can’t really just join them and the rest of the restaurant is just open to the public and they’re unaware of the specialness of tonight. Though I guess the best part of having one's own table is that it's not considered rude to write your review on your BlackBerry in between courses so here goes. After I'm seated I have not one but two plates (either I have a reputation or there is an eagerness to please to make up for my “Billy No-mates” situation) of a Blueprint staple nibble, an always extremely welcome asparagus wrapped in tissue leaves of filo pastry baked and then showered with aged Parmesan, just a crowd pleaser every time. And a perfect foil to the free flowing champagne! The starter was the much anticipated crab cakes with aioli, two perfect little rounds of crabness, surprisingly subtle with a low volume aioli, but very good indeed. I half expected to be socked round the face with the crab but as it is all white meat, it’s very gentle. The aioli was not a cousin of Jeremy's horseradish sauce which would have you begging for mercy normally, but a soft whispering garlic that mingles with the delicate crab and doesn't overwhelm the delicateness, I am enraptured!
And after the crab I have the fish course which is a sublime broth of lobster, razor clams, mussels, clams (of the non razor variety) samphire and peas. This is fabulously vibrant as each individual seafood element is clearly identifiable and distinct. Jeremy joins me as we discuss how his comment about "flabby scallops" on Great British Menu has become legendary. And he indulges me by answering all sort of random anorak questions about how the Great British Menu show actually works. The intensity of the questioning is perhaps due to the copious and perfectly matching wine that accompanies every mouthful. I have totally exceeded my normal consumption level and wonder if I can get through the meal without feeling a bizarre urge to climb on my little red table and thoroughly embarrass myself. Richard has chosen excellent wine to accompany each course but being the lonely diner there's a very grave danger of me being drunk by the main course. About this time I thought I’d sway over to the window and attempt to capture the view I’ve often talked about. The sky is most definitely bruising and I should have thought about this earlier but I’ll try and point out some of the famous and infamous for all the wrong reasons sights.

No.1 is the Tower 42, it used to be call the NatWest Tower when the National Westminster Bank resides there and fact fans, it is shaped like the interlocking logos of NatWest. Now it is famous, at least in my eyes for being the home of Rhodes24, so named because it’s half way up on the 24th floor of this sky scraping building.

No. 2 is not very distinct but is, rather incongruously amongst all these modern buildings, the Tower of London, much visited by tourists from all over the world and home to the crown jewels, Beefeaters and ravens. I see this building nearly every day and am still always surprised that it’s just there, so much history in the midst of all this city madness.

No. 3 is the Swiss Re building, generally referred to as ‘the erotic gherkin’ and hugely controversial. Like marmite, you either love it or hate it. And just so you know, I love it and totally and utterly detest Marmite!

No.4 is just the last span of Tower Bridge, again a compulsory photo opportunity when visiting London for the first time. The Thames first bridge and formerly lifted by steam but since the 70’s the hydraulics has been powered by oil and electrics. I have always been perplexed by the red, white and predominantly blue livery but have recently learnt that it was only painted in 1977 to celebrate the Queen’s silver jubilee but before that was chocolate brown. I have no recollection of seeing it chocolaty brown but maybe that’s why the blueness has always seemed odd to me.

No. 5 is the hideous monstrosity that is formerly known as the Tower Thistle and is now the Guoman Thistle and still extremely ugly and looming menacingly next to much more interesting buildings. The lights in the foreground and coming on as I photograph line the river for quite a way, well further than I’ve ever walked anyway and are often to be seen in the background of a London at night shot in a film, especially if they’re trying to be romantic. On one of my visits to Blueprint Café we witnessed Gwyneth Paltrow doing her ‘lights camera action’ bit in front of these very lights. And what a main course greets me on my return, everything I said about the subtly of the gorgeous crabcakes is contradicted by the total taste bud onslaught of the peppered beef, pickled walnuts, peppery watercress and the eye watering, take no prisoners, beg for mercy horseradish sauce. Oh my, after a couple of mouthfuls I'm mopping a fevered brow. Jeremy swings by to check if I'm crying and is delighted to see that I am and declares it all a great success! It is a stunning dish, the beef is pink and melting, the pickled walnuts are softer and more interesting than I expected and I savour every mouthful even with my eyes streaming and tongue tingling from the hot, hot, hot horseradish.

You can tell it's a 'summer' evening as unusually for a Blueprint Café soiree I can photograph the delicious food easily, I might get some photographs that don't look a little sepia around the edges and have to be photoshopped to death in an effort to lift some of the gloom. That would be a pleasant change.
The dessert is two crisp snappy layers of shortcake corralling raspberries and a thick vanilla cream and it’s melt in the mouth and very lovely.

I had feared that being sat by myself would be rather sad but I could type furiously as I ate and Jeremy and Richard and many of the waiters stopped by often to ensure I didn’t feel too alone and I now feel very sway-ey (as M would say) so a fabulous evening all round. It’s probably a very good thing that I noted my thoughts before the last glass or two of wine as I am sure the edges will be a little blurry tomorrow. I could just post this as is but I think I may just check tomorrow for any major effects of grapey excess and correct any of the more bizarre spellings (a curious side effect of BlackBerry use)!

Jeremy you were robbed, you should have gone to Paris. I would have voted for you, hang on – I did!


Deborah Dowd said...

What a beautiful and delicious blog! I was salivating over each course and you are a very good photographer as well! I will be back!

J said...

Thank you Deborah, it is my pleasure! Lovely to have you here.

Anonymous said...

Darling J

This lyrical (if somewhat sway-ey) account of your meal has definitely confirmed one of my aims in life is to sample the Blue Print Cafe. Maybe we can fit it in when I visit London for more than a flying visit. Its a date.

Love M

J said...

Ah I'm already on the case. I mentioned it to Jeremy and he said it would be his pleasure... he couldn't guarantee the inclusion of crab cakes on the menu though, but we can but see Jx