Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Perfection at Petrus

I am extremely hacked off about still not feeling myself but even though I’m struggling with the breathing, the swallowing and not the coughing continuously, fortunately my taste buds aren’t shot and that’s extremely providential as tonight I have the hottest ticket in town – a reservation at Petrus.

Since my last visit Marcus has earned a much deserved shiny new extra Michelin star and the accolade of being THE top dining experience in London and I’ve really been looking forward to tonight.

I’ve dosed myself up accordingly and slipped on a new red dress that coincidentally matches the décor of Petrus (though I don’t believe this is compulsory for all diners) and dragged my weary bones to Knightsbridge.

And I am so glad I did, E and I immediately plump for the tasting menu and without more ado get immersed in the brilliance of Marcus’ cooking.

Our first little titbit to whet the appetite is taramasalata and avocado purée and a puff pastry sandwich with foie gras and blackcurrant. My favourite is the foie gras triangle with the thinnest crispest pastry ever; it is truly sublime and just melts in the mouth so quickly. I could have happily tucked into more of these little beauties.

The amuse bouche to commence the tasting menu extravaganza is a tall shot glass of the smoothest pumpkin soup with a Parmesan creamy foam which is just gorgeous, I love drinking the soup through the cheesy foam. It is accompanied by a thankfully entirely Marmite free cheesy twiglet-style bread stick.

I think we’re in for a roller coaster ride of culinary excellence, some of my favourite ingredients are starring on today’s menu and luckily I can just about taste them all.

And now it’s the turn of more foie gras (which I could never complain about as it is one of my all-time favourite edible ecstasy ingredients) and we have pan fried foie gras with fig compote, spiced pears and finished with an almond purée. This is another stunning combination, a sweet and smooth hunk of foie gras with the delicate criss-cross etching on its caramelised top, with a hint of the spice from the soft pears and a pale comma of a gentle essence of marzipan purée.

Then a perfect Scottish scallop, braised sweet onions and Alsace bacon which is again a faultless and classic combination. I adore scallops with bacon and this scallop has teeny bits of bacon, a little inspirational bacony foam and is nestled in a jammy sweet onion pool.

After our scallops we devour some succulent and simple roasted quail, sweet corn, fresh cobnuts and tarragon jus. I like merest whiff of the aniseed from the tarragon jus with the pleasantly pink quail. Sometimes I guess it takes confidence to present the dish without bells and whistles, but this needed no more.

For the fish course we have a plump piece of Dorset turbot, peppered baby gem caper and golden raisin purée which is delicately meaty and is accompanied by gently sautéed lettuce leaves (which is a great touch) and some tasty rich toffee-ish smears of raisin purée.

For the ‘main course’ we have a choice of venison or salt marsh lamb and E and I both choose the roasted saddle of Cranborne Estate venison, prune purée with pommes boulangère. It turns out that the only place I would have encountered the dreaded tomato would have been in the lamb so clearly my honed tomato-dar is finely tuned and picked out the one thing I might not have gone totally crazy about this evening. But the venison is an inspired choice, the succulent, moist and flavoursome deer meat is sat on a dinky round of stock-soaked potato scallops and we have a sauce spoon to ensure all those meaty juices and the pruney purée are lapped up.

Next we have a fabulous selection of cheeses from the trolley to peruse; I choose the smelly and soft end of the trolley and have some fine Brie, Camembert and Vacherin to tuck into with my bread and grapes.

For our pre dessert we have a chocolate and orange cake flanked by a tiny glass of a cream-topped lemon posset. The chocolate diamond is a perfect deconstructed Jaffa cake made of the finest slices of tangy orange and dark chocolate and is delicious. The posset is subtle and refreshing.

The final dessert is a vanilla crème, honey poached plums with spiced plum sorbet which is the perfect finale; we get a tower of a kind of vanilla mimosa which when toppled is crunched through and mingled with the gorgeous plummy sorbet and honeyed plum slices. You would have thought after all these gastronomic delights we’d be stuffed and struggling to scrape the last remnants of the fruity sauce off our square glass plate but we’re not, well not totally. The tasting menu is perfectly balanced, there not too many flavours to cause some sort of sensory overload but just layers of exciting tastes that build to a crescendo. That’s why Marcus Wareing is a star and why he now has two Michelin stars. It’s not all fireworks but beautifully prepared and tasting delights with fabulously accomplished food and the odd stunner. In this case I think the pumpkin soup with the Parmesan foam and the foie gras diamonds are my ultimate favourites tonight.

And it’s not all over yet – our waiter wheels over the bon-bon trolley with a flourish and sees if he can tempt us with more sweet amusements. There’s really a cornucopia of macaroons, truffles and nutty clusters to choose from. E and I have to entirely agree to disagree on the choices, I desire a flavour explosions in the shape of a raspberry macaroon with dark chocolate truffles and hazelnut coated ganache, whereas E eschews all of these in favour of the white chocolate and possibly some sort of banana sweet.

And we think it’s all over and it is now, the final treat on a gold flecked dish is a pair of lemon meringues. E (despite fearing being stereotyped as someone who constantly sees miniature breasts in their food – see our trip to Tom Aikens last year) does add that he thinks our teensy meringues could have been enhanced by being topped with a little red currant to compete the look! But it isn’t and somehow managed to taste lovely without this extra embellishment. Maybe that’s what you need for three Michelin stars, E?

As it turns out I am struggling with my chocolates after my toy lemon meringue pie so our waiter kindly packs a few extra chocolates in a little silver P adorned box for me to take home. It has been a truly magnificent three-fork meal (which I would have enjoyed even more if that's possible if I was at my best) and Petrus deserves all its plaudits and high praise, fight to get a table if you can.

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