Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A tiny tian

Bearing in mind the wonderful excesses of our Blueprint Café meal last night I had promised a light supper for our final meal on dry land for a while. I had spotted these fabulous little Scottish smoked haddock, egg, smoked salmon and asparagus tians with a Champagne vinaigrette on my last trip to Waitrose. They are really just a starter but with tagliatelle slices of cold cucumber piled up and doused with the gorgeous Champagne vinaigrette they were very fine indeed. M claimed she couldn't really eat anything else but I figured that she would always manage to find room for my favourite Serious Food hot chocolate fondant as they still haven't found their way onto Ocado despite constant requests, this was her first taste of their chocolatey wickedness. I think M was impressed!

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Blueprint surprise!

I've eaten at Blueprint Café many times and never tire of it but this was unusual as I'd organised this visit as a surprise for M. She'd seen Jeremy Lee strutting his most fabulous stuff on the Great British Menu and Market Kitchen and had hankered after his fishcakes, seafood broth and any other delights he whipped up. This was also the perfect time to show off the Blueprint Café as a summer evening would hopefully mean stunning views along the Thames when you have both the seeped in history raven-infested Tower of London and the incongruously blue Tower Bridge intermingled with the ever so modern diamond glassed Gherkin and the winking lights of towers of money at Canary Wharf.
The surprise element of the evening worked especially well as I was able to give the taxi driver instructions to head for Shad Thames out of M's earshot. And then even though I'm fairly sure I didn't tip them off prior to our visit they continued the celebratory theme. First we were furnished with a welcome glass of Champagne as we perused the menu.

It was an easy decision. I went for tonight’s special which was Chicken livers and immediately transported me back to the night of Charles Campion’s Food from the Fire cookbook club evening and how I overdosed on his succulent chicken livers threaded onto rosemary skewers. M couldn’t resist the much lauded fishcakes as I suspected and didn’t hesitate to plump for the Smoked haddock fishcakes with aioli.

Whilst we were waiting for these to arrive our waiter ever so kindly brought us a plate of Feta, tomatoes, mint and black olive crumb. This is such a lovely surprise; if Jeremy were cooking he may recall my total recoil from tomatoes and it would have been even nicer. But then I have been spoilt by many a gorgeous asparagus spear or salsify wrapped in filo and Parmesan on previous occasions and M completely loved it! I just left a neat little stack of the tomatoes. And the olives!

But the chicken livers were as expected entirely delicious, the crusty caramelised edges were just the best. And the fishcakes went down very well on the other side of the table. And as an extra bonus the appetite-of-a-bird M donated the final one for me to try. Yum!

For our main courses M had the Wild salmon, herb sauce and sorrel and I the Sirloin of beef, pickled walnuts and horseradish. And some extremely fine potatoes!

They were as both as stunning as ever. The pink salmon against the most verdant of herb sauces was just beautiful. And though it was tricky, we just managed to squeeze in a little shared slice of St. Emilion au chocolat. Though I only just managed to grab a photo before M tucked in!

The Blueprint Café just never disappoints! And M is already planning a repeat visit.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunday lunch chez J

Normally when I am planning a meal for friends I spend happy hours browsing through stacks of cookbooks and food magazines plotting and planning my menu for this grand feast. I'll write lists, scout for obscure ingredients and draw my little gastrograms where I sketch the proposed meal, what ingredient goes with what and what each dish is to be served in. And this isn't a chore; it is a crucial part of the whole process. If I had to do this every day or even every week and whip up a satisfying meal for hungry hoards with differing tastes I guess I wouldn't be so keen but as I don't, it is all part of the pleasurable process.

Years ago I'd produce a Sunday lunch for a random collection of itinerant people most Sundays. Some would bring additions generally the accompanying beer, but one quite regularly would turn up with broccoli (apparently his favourite vegetable) for me to cook and pink Champagne which I never minded as I don't drink beer anyway. I don't recall planning these Sunday lunches much. It was a case of just selecting a hunk of meat and various accoutrements based on what was available and looked good at the supermarket or market.

I'm sure that if I was whipping up a family meal daily this would always be the case. However as I don't cook for others as much as I used to I seem to want to turn each of these rare occasions into a sumptuous and memorable feast complete with stylish yet witty table décor. But on this particular Sunday there was no frantic flicking through a Nigel, Nigella, Jamie or even a Gordon, it was grab the pile of what had looked good and not too strenuous on an extremely weary crawl round the late night M&S after returning from the Tate Modern last night. We'd scoured the rather dinky M&S looking for inspiration and from the somewhat locus ravaged shelves secured a plump chicken, a selection of summer green vegetables, new potatoes, a bag of our ubiquitous lamb's lettuce and a pot of vibrant fresh pesto. A feast was unfolding! The best thing about only cooking for three was having a little more room on the table for crystal fripperies and being able to pile the bronzed bird and accompaniments on Royal Doulton Gordon Ramsay platters on the table.

So today, all I had to do was concoct something fabulous from the ingredients we’d hastily grabbed from M&S. Firstly, I’d been determined to whip up some minty fresh canapé in preparation for Stephanie’s party so crushed broad bean and crab crostini it was.

The chicken looks a good tasty one so it doesn’t really need a lot of treatment but I like to separate the skin carefully from the flesh carefully so as not to puncture it with my long nails anyway. I smear herby, garlicky butter on the flesh and smoosh it with my fingers, I’ve always been intrigued by the mysterious lumps protruding through the chicken skin. But obviously this all serves as to create fabulous alchemy during the cooking and ensures a super succulent breast (insert your own joke here if you must!). The potatoes were parboiled and inserted around the bronzing chicken and got gorgeously sticky with the chicken fat. The asparagus spears, broccoli and spring cabbage got steamed and showered with shards of salty Parmesan and splodges of verdant pesto. The lamb’s lettuce got its usual treatment of a good dousing of Belazu balsamic vinegar. And despite my Northern roots I am not a particular gravy fan (strange, thick, meat-free "not really gravy" gravy trauma from my childhood!), but I do believe that you can never have too much pesto so I served extra pools of the green stuff in the little new Gordon Ramsay dipping bowls. Truly delicious!
I hadn’t rea
lised how much I miss making Sunday lunch regularly; maybe I need to rattle those pots and pans more often.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Modern art on a plate

D and I had come up with a cunning plan. Instead of doing the cultural thing yesterday we'd been lured astray with the finest afternoon tea and lots of elegant shopping. So today we'd entice MC to join with promises of no shopping, some culture and a slapup meal and of course the day with us two. What more could a man desire?

We started off at Blind Light the Antony Gormley exhibition at the Hayward Gallery. And there were some amazing sculptures to admire. I know many have said he’s too self-absorbed but when so many of his works have his own naked form incorporated in the piece, it is a fair conclusion. We spent a pleasant few hours exploring and counting Antony Gormley effigies dotted around the concrete London skyline. Despite repeated attempts I don't think we managed to find them all. After staring wistfully at an installation entitled Mother’s Pride made from hundreds of loaves of bread our stomachs told us it was time to leave and seek our own bread, as they're not too keen if you nibble the art!
We headed for the Tate Modern, this would provide us with additional cultural sustenance and more needed bodily sustenance. We went straight for the restaurant at the top of the former power station and waited impatiently for it to reopen for dinner. D and I wiled away the required half an hour by drinking pretty green flowery tea in equally pretty pink flowery teacups. And MC had cider (he told me to write that!)

Eventually we secured a table, not with the magnificent views we’d hoped but it was getting to the stage where food was way more important than a fabulous view and anyway we’d been able to admire it already whilst sipping our respective teas and cider.

As you would expect from the Tate Modern, the space is open, sleek and modern with vibrant artworks on the wall and we were pleased to see some quirkier options on the menu. One of the swirly pieces I was particularly interested in had been commissioned in memoriam of a deceased art lover; I was most intrigued by this. Rather more dramatic than a park bench somewhere, I feel. Maybe I will have to consider such a thing for my last will and testament, though I don’t think an art gallery is as appropriate for me as say a restaurant. Perhaps I could have some sort of sculpture made out of forks placed strategically in one of my favourite restaurants, hmm food for thought!

But back to our food, and were we hungry? I started with Potted Cornish devilled crab with sourdough toast, D relished the Ox tongue with dandelion salad and beetroot and MC the Leeks vinaigrette with soft Burford egg, black olives and capers.

It's such a pleasure to be able to take photos of our dishes and still be able to see them when I look at them the next day. Maybe the answer to my continued frustrations with gloomily lit restaurants is to only eat during the day, and hopefully bright days at that!

For some reason in my my still heightened state of hunger I forgot to note down our main but if I recall I had a lamb chop with perfect carrots that looked like they'd been wrested from Bugs Bunny.

MC had the Ham hock with smashed up broad beans and D pondered the fish and chips from the Newlyn day boats in Cornwall but I think settled on the Halibut instead.

And before we hit the art again we finished off our meal with a platter of British Farmhouse cheeses with oat biscuits and gooseberry jelly for MC and D and I predictably had a Chocolate plate for two to share.

I think the Tate Modern's food is appropriately clean looking, accomplished and tasty. We were so exceptionally hungry so possibly would have eaten anything but instead we ate well. A modern pair of forks for the Tate Modern restaurant.

Friday, July 27, 2007


There's afternoon tea and then there's the "Prêt-à-Portea" afternoon tea for fashionistas at the Berkeley.

D and I had planned a day of culture today but then we decided we needed to eat also. Obviously we couldn't possibly try and match the magnificence of last night's jaw-dropping food at L'Atelier but we're not going to just throw in the towel either. D has the brilliant idea of partaking in an afternoon tea and when I recalled the afternoon tea with the designer fashion theme with the dinky handbag shaped cakes, a spot of googling revealed that we should book ourselves a table in the Caramel room at the Berkeley.

And with the Berkeley Hotel being in Knightsbridge and us with some crucial shopping to be done in that neck of the woods we postpone the culture until tomorrow and head for bright lights of Harvey Nichols and the local environs. There are many sparkly things to ponder over but I tear myself away from all the fabulousness and we make our way over to stately elegance of the Berkeley Hotel. They stow away our shiny carrier bags and we down at our little round table in the window.

There are several menu options available but it just has to be Prêt-à-Portea for us. Just perfect!

We are delivered a pretty Paul Smith tiered cake stand stacked with the infamous designer pastries and cakes, gorgeous little canapés and a tray of sandwiches. We start on the sandwiches carefully splitting everything in two, well as long as it was the smoked salmon, cheese and ham or other goodies and there’s no mayonnaise or tomato for me. The waiter seems amused by our careful division and delivered another tray of the tiny sandwiches.

The mini canapés on the bottom tier are stunning, especially the smoked salmon rolls, the roast beef and creamy horseradish filling, sesame seeded tuna slice and the asparagus wrapped in a herbed pancake. Again we dissect each canapé precisely so as we can both try all the delicious flavours. But again the waiter whisked by and delivered another plate of the delectable titbits. They seemed delighted that we were enjoying the savouries so much, and how could we not as they were really yummy. And such a refreshing change from an ordinary afternoon tea. Not that I object to some crust-less cucumber sandwiches and a scone with a dollop of home-made strawberry jam but the seemingly never-ending savoury canapés were an extra delight on this occasion. My favourite was the roast beef with the gooey cream cheesey horseradish filling and our waiter brought another plate of these to share.

In fact when we were ready to attack the little Anya Hindmarch blue Carker lemon handbag, Alexander McQueen lavender floral crème cone, Emmanuel Ungaro blackberry mousse accompanied by a Manolo Blahnik high heeled shoe we are struggling a little. Note the fabulous little Manolo Blahnik stilettoed bisuity leg sticking out of the intensely blackberry mousse.

We we finally admitted that we'd eaten enough canapés we were given new Paul Smith plates and cutlery to embark on the patiserrie part of our afternoon tea. The little designer cakes were just so inventive and clever, the most vibrant being the Giambattista Valli strawberry crème hat with a dusting of red velvet white chocolate and the stripy chocolate tower based on the heel of a shoe.

We leave the inspired by designer Melissa Odabash bikini biscuits to the last and our waiter kindly wraps them up in a little pistachio green cardboard handbag so we can transport them home. The cakes are so gorgeous to look at, some I guess are not very flavoursome with really the artistry being the point but then again we have rather hit the sandwiches and savoury canapés so I don’t really need too much of the sweet delights.

We have such a fabulous afternoon in the Berkeley’s Caramel Room, we consume the delectables over three hours and several Paul Smith designed teapots of various flowery teas, I tried the chocolate mint, clearly buoyed by the chocolate and temporary forgetting that I am not crazy about mint tea! It wasn’t bad but I preferred the flowery non-mint teas.

As you can imagine most of our dining companions are the ladies who lunch, we spot a couple of possibly très elegante hen parties and/or baby showers but strangely enough very few men. The ones that were there seemed to be tucking into impressive looking manly hot meaty sandwiches and weren’t partaking of a handbag shaped cake. But I guess that makes sense.

This was such an unusual and delightful experience for afternoon tea, three cake forks for the Berkeley Hotel for their wonderful Prêt-à-Portea. It occurs to us that the Berkeley would be the perfect place to stay for a gourmet weekend. The two Michelin starred Petrus presided over by the wonderful Marcus Wareing where we enjoyed such a fabulous meal at last year is on one side of us and another one from the Ramsay stable, the Boxwood Café with Stuart Gillies on the other side. I guess if you tire of all that amazing eating you could always do a spot of shopping! And as it was late night opening, that's exactly what we did!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mash heaven!

I think my love affair began whilst I was turning the pages in awe of an amazing new cookbook whilst sprawled on my flowery bed in my chintzy room listening to bells. Lots of bells! Well, I was staying in a fabulously eclectic room in a Paris hotel called Hotel Esmeralda, and yes, I was indeed very much in hearing distance of the Notre Dame bells. I am fairly sure if I’d been able to tear my eyes from the pages of my newly acquired cookbook I would have spotted Quasimodo out of my window. It was over ten years ago and I was having an eccentrically accommodated night sandwiched between two stays in a dull, lifeless business hotel whilst working in Paris for a week or so. I had checked out of clean and soulless ‘hotel rooms inc.’ and checked it to the wildest higgledy piggledy hotel I’d ever stayed in. I dragged my case up the sweeping staircase, it’s not the sort of place that has a lift, passing the rather moth eaten cat and plonked myself on the candlewick bedspread and gasped at the pink flowered trellis wallpaper. Who could have decorated this? Another rather bizarre touch was a desire that their guests wouldn’t leave with their room key and lose it whilst trawling around this little corner of Paris so they attached this huge object to each key so as to discourage you from slipping it into your pocket. I had a large wooden animal attached to mine; so I wasn’t tempted to try and cram it into my handbag. As soon as I could I went exploring, I had wanted to stay here as I desired to be so close to the Latin Quarter and all the life, colour and tasty food that would be on my doorstep. On my first trip out I found myself meandering in various bookshops, Shakespeare & Co. was my first port of call, it is the infamous English bookshop a few doors down from where I was staying. It was fun to visit but I wasn’t tempted to buy. Further down Rue Saint Jacques I found another bookshop and in the food and drink section found an interesting book fortunately written in English extolling the astounding recipes of a French chef I hadn’t then heard of – Joël Robuchon. But I became an instant fan of him and his work. The book was a paperback version of Cuisine Actuelle written by Patricia Wells. I think it has been reissued in the US as ‘Simply French’ more recently. And I was instantly hooked, I couldn’t wait to get back to my crazily decorated room and start absorbing it.

Some of the seminal moments in my cookbook gathering life have taken place whilst I’ve been away from home. I have mentioned before that the discovery that set me on this maniacal cookbook collecting was stumbling across Alastair Little’s Keep it Simple whilst staying with friends on their farm. I’ve always browsed through friends’ cookbooks as others may flick through the LP and now more likely CD collections. So Alastair Little started me on this wantonness and another favourite foreign acquisition is ‘West of Ireland Summers, a Cook Book: Recipes and Memories from an Irish Childhood’ by Tamasin Day-Lewis which I found rather serendipitously whilst at H and R’s beautiful wedding in Ireland in 2000. I was rather taken with Tamasin’s style as I had been by Alastair and ended up collecting all her cookbooks.

But why was I so enraptured by Joël Robuchon’s recipes? I think that not only could I could just taste the food as I read the recipes and drunk in the fabulous Steven Rothfeld photography but I was transfixed by Patricia Wells’ metamorphosis as a cook just being in the presence of such a culinary magician as Chef Robuchon. The rather innocuous recipe that leapt out at me was potato purée. The attention to detail, the repeated passing through the finest mesh sieve of the mash to achieve the smoothest, creamiest, buttery most delectable mash captured my imagination and there and then I swore that by hook or by crook I would one day dine at this 3 star Michelin chef’s restaurant. A few years later I was on a French cooking holiday in Dijon and discussing with Michel the French chef his most memorable meal at the hands of this gastronomic genius. I was enthralled, he described the wit and the tastes of the sea captured in his dish and as a homage to Joël and my enthusiasm he kindly slaved for at least an hour to recreate some of the special mash potato for me. And it was delectable but still, I needed to be fed and the great man’s hands. A few years later I was devastated to learn that Joël Robuchon had removed his toque and hung up his chef’s whites and retired. What would I do? I would never experience this awesome mash and all his other fabulous food and my life just wouldn’t be complete. But fortunately retirement proved to be a little dull and he started on his new venture L’Atelier. And last year when I heard one was opening in London I could almost taste the mash potatoes and was determined to visit.

When D suggested a cultural trip to London it seemed an obvious idea to secretly try and get a long awaited table at his Covent Garden venture. I was keen to get a booking in the restaurant – La Cuisine and not the bar and fortunately I was able to secure one. And it was so worth the wait!

When I enthused about dining at Joël Robuchon's place at work today, no one had any idea who I was referring to. I wonder if I made as similar announcement in a Parisian office whether they would have echoed my excited anticipation. I would have thought so, Joël is such a passionate doyen of fine French cooking and a perfectionist, a master and I gather a celebrity chef in his own right. He should be lauded in the manner we seem to preserve for footballers now, I'm not sure if he is but I suspect it would be considerably more likely in France than the UK. If I asked friends who don't write food blogs or worship at the altar of all that is gastronomic, I'd be intrigued what top chefs they could name. I suspect the names recalled wouldn't necessarily be based on culinary talent but maybe on a certain notoriety. Take Gordon Ramsay, multi Michelin starred purveyor of the finest dining but how is he described in the Observer this weekend? Potty-mouthed! Now I'd be the first to admit that I think some people swear too much. I appreciate the need for the occasional expletive in moments of extreme stress or pain but as someone who doesn't swear myself I can't get my head round replacing every superlative with a swear word. But despite Gordon having a predilection for this habit, I still think he should be renowned for his culinary skill and not his customary sweary rants.

Maybe the name of Heston Blumenthal would pop up; he has been on television fairly recently and with a thought provoking program with the singularly most pervasive theme tune. Or would he be famous for putting snail porridge on the culinary map? I guess some may have heard of Tom Aiken, probably only for his notoriety of branding a fellow chef with a red-hot knife and accusing a diner of stealing a silver teaspoon (which was later found!), not necessarily for any food artistry. I'm sure the name Jamie Oliver would be mooted, he has done much to get the nation boshing a few Italian ingredients together to produce an artful tasting plate and worked tirelessly to highlight the atrocious slop dished out in the name of school dinners (though apparently his overhaul of their turkey twizzler, fatty, pappy food has not always met with enthusiasm from the pint-sized diners – well they miss their chips!). Though his restaurant Fifteen is not in Gordon, Heston and Tom's league of dizzying gastronomic brilliance it is extremely popular nonetheless and I do intend to try it for myself one day. But I guess there is one very good reason to dine at one of France’s most famous chefs in preference to a well known British chef, I can much more easily get a table!

And how excited were we that I’d been able to? Our eagerness meant that we were early but that was fortuitous as we were able to discover the ever so stylish red and black bar. If I had only known I would have dressed in red and black accordingly. We had suitably coordinated raspberry red cocktails with, in my case, a very exotic lemon grass foam in the sumptuous surroundings and severely coveted the glossy little vases and the slick black coffee tables and admired all the stylish, deeply aromatic dark red roses everywhere. The anticipation levels rise higher and higher as we try and guess what the evening has ahead of us. And when we can wait no longer we ascend in the lift up to La Cuisine on the top floor.

La Cuisine is designed to look like you’re sitting in a black and white kitchen with pots and pans, multiple rolling pins, jars of multi coloured macaroons and rather inexplicably, giant wooden apples left about. It is pretty empty when we arrive and the dreadful thought of rattling around in a atmosphere-less empty restaurant flits through my thoughts, maybe no one has heard of Joël Robuchon! But fortunately the restaurant soon fills up with eager diners and we get down to the more important task of selecting tonight’s gastronomic pleasure. After deciding on the menu decouverte, I start examining the fabulous black and silver chargers before they are whipped away from us. In fact our chargers were whisked away most swiftly so we took a surreptitious glance at the bottoms of those on the neighbouring table and I could jot down Bernardaud for further research, I recognised the black stripy crystal water glasses also. You can tell this is going to be very good, I am even thrilled about the tableware!

We only had to make a couple of tweaks the the tasting menu, I of course had to alert them of my ardent tomato avoidance and both D and I abhorred the thought of goats' cheese in the ravioli so our seemingly rather inexperienced waitress promised a goats' cheese and tomato free substitution.

A hush descends on our table and our AMUSE-BOUCHE arrives - a little pale glass filled with foie gras, a port wine reduction and topped with Parmesan foam. Wow, this is truly stunning! Each spoonful cuts through the delicate strata and gives you the sublime trio of creamy foie gras, intense port and the Parmesan. The man is a genius, believe the hype! Oh, this was seriously worth the anticipation!

Next was LE TOURTEAU, the crabmeat in tomato jelly with avocado. And yes you’ve read correctly, tomato jelly! And I did eat it, it wasn’t my favourite flavour but the crab was so tasty and tantalizing I tried to ignore that niggling harsh tomato taste intruding on the crabby loveliness. Though D would never back me up on this I suspect, she thought the tomato was just perfect. Each to their own!

We were given funny burgundy plastic spoons to scoop the crab and jelly mixture up out of the rather fabulous ceramic egg this was served in. I guess this is to ensure the taste is not tainted, much like you may have a ceramic egg spoon or a bone caviar spoon. Well it worked anyway!

Next it was LES GIROLLES pan-fried girolle mushrooms with ‘Iberico de Bellota’ ham shavings. And another joy this one, the meaty, earthy mushrooms with that lovely touch of Spanish ham and dreamy dressing, delicious!

Next we have the most wonderful egg cocotte I’ve ever seen placed carefully in front of us. It arrives in a martini glass – so very diva! – and is described as egg cocotte topped with light wild mushroom cream. I’ve baked eggs before but have had a recent renaissance after falling for them all over again after reading Clotilde’s fabulous Chocolate & Zucchini but this one is the crème de la crème of egg cocottes. The foamy mushroom cream hides the perfect golden egg ready to erupt and send its golden yolk mingling with that delicious cream, mushroomy heaven. This is one awesome egg cocotte.

We move on to the first courses. The tasting menu says we should have goat’s cheese and basil ravioli, lemongrass scented prawn broth but as we both eschew all that is goat we are delivered a rather lovely crispy langoustine fritter with basil pistou instead, a much more preferable option and very melt in the mouth. The basil pistou is especially good.

Continuing with the fishy theme it’s the turn of the LE ROUGET, the red mullet on crisp pastry base with a citrus fruit dressing. Unfortunately the menu didn’t mention the pool of tomato-ey relish the red mullet was swimming in so I politely declined to try it. I would normally have a little around the edges but the tomato aroma was heady and not in a good way. It fair assaulted my senses but hey, it looked pretty. The lights have been turned down, maybe in an attempt to hide the tomato indiscretion or just to hinder my photography, but yet again I struggle to capture the true beauty of our meal. I wonder for the umpteenth time if I can surreptitiously carry my own light source. Though a light source that would discretely illuminate my plate but not the disturb any other diners, rather tricky I think! However as lousy as the photos are at least they act as an aide memoir for me. I do rather like pictures, though I would like them even better if I thought that anyone else could enjoy them also.

When our waitress realised she’d forgotten out ‘tomatoes are evil’ conversation she was truly repentant and promised a little something later to compensate. Okay I’ll forgive her then.

So drawing a line under the fish we turned our thoughts to the meat course, we had been given a choice of L’AGNEAU - lamb cutlets with fresh thyme or LA CAILLE - free range quail stuffed with foie gras served with truffled mash potatoes. Okay, absolutely no prize for guessing which option we chose. The mash was calling us and with truffles as well, this could some earth shattering experience. As it was truly breath-taking, the quail and foie gras stunning and the mash, well yes there was a flash of light, a fanfare of golden trumpets and the potato fairy waved her sparkly wand over us. This is mash mimosa, the most exquisite few delicate forkfuls bursting with flavour in our mouths than I've ever had. We wanted more! Though the truffle mash was almost too good to have some more but we asked if we could try some of the more infamous heavenly mash sans truffle. And realising we were true believers, a bowl was duly delivered for us to lap up. Everything I have read about this mash is completely true, it is the most fabulous that you can imagine. The book must be closed on the mash hall of fame, no one could produce better. We encouraged the couple on the next table to also order a portion of this potato paradise, they were suitably impressed also.

The décor of the restaurant extended to the dramatically appointed black bathrooms, they were tiled with black tiles and in a dark recess was a stack of black hand towels. Hmm very intriguing! I wonder if anyone without 20-20 vision has ever come unstuck in them, either struggling to dry their hands or perhaps even the door to leave!

The lights dim further (as is so customary now) and to bring us down gently from the mash clouds we are flying in we were delivered an extra sweet treat, this was our recompense for my red mullet/red tomato distress. And this is truly the first time I’ve tasted green chocolate and whilst I am at it sweet celeriac jelly, cardamom, cumin and lemon cream. It is a delicate dessert, it wasn’t entirely apparent initially that the green top to our bowl was edible, but it was and with such unusual and refreshing flavours also.

But this was our additional dessert we still had the mysterious François’s duo of desserts to come. And this was came with a little laminated card inscribed with Sensation, cream, cocoa, oreo, crispy, sugar, choco, milk… C’est bon. And c'est bon it is, in fact très, très bon. It's like a chocolate lucky dip, one mouthful is crunchy, then smooth and creamy and unctuous all topped with wafer (pronounced 'waffer' of course) thin squares of coloured, delicately flavoured chocolate. The next spoonful has a biscuity bite then just an intense chocolate rush. I really have died and gone to heaven now, this is another stunning dish, we are in the presence of a true culinary God. Give that man more Michelin stars!
We finish with some restorative Earl Grey tea and liquid centre chocolates, served rather beautifully on a striped card topped with a little laminate. I am fairly sure it wasn't for eating, so we didn't!
I have yet again run out of superlatives for this phenomenal meal, it is just too, too fabulous. I hope he never dreams of retiring again because the world needs to experience this delectable food.
Just to cap our wonderful evening we are asked if we'd like a tour of the whole place, we are taken down to the bar where a shorter version of our menu is prepared to the expectant diners perched on bar stools watching their every move. Well I would be doing so anyway! We spot even more wooden apples of varying sizes scattered around and gaze at the wooden frames filled with spices and condiments and try de
sperately to identify them all.
The dream conjured up in that little Parisian garrick bedroom when I first heard of the great man has finally been realised and I adored every minute of it. And I intend to leave it no where near as long to experience this brilliance again.
The crown has been passed on, this is my new diamond fork meal, my most magnificent, marvellous and extraordinary dining experience. I don't know if Joël Robuchon's cooking is superior to Heston Blumenthal, Gary Rhodes or Gordon Ramsay but I was served truffle mash. Enough said!