Thursday, January 03, 2008

A taste of Novelli

Over ten years ago I visited the long-gone Maison Novelli in Clerkenwell with F. My only memory is the most awesome daube de boeuf , which was the archetypical eat-with-a-spoon dish, it just melted in the mouth and instantly made me a life-long fan of this French classic. And when D had the sudden, random and rather excellent idea of venturing forth into a possible blizzard to check out Jean-Christophe Novelli’s pub the White Horse in Harpenden, I was crossing my fingers that I could relive that dish. We figured that at least of we got stranded there; there would be some good food to eat! But the weather held out and we arrived in the bright, white beamed ceiling restaurant full of square tables and chairs upholstered in intriguing fabric emulating button-back Chesterfields. The tables are all set with generous wine and water glasses that tinkle together as you walk along the wooden floor, it’s like a little symphony if you don’t tiptoe enough. We start by tearing into the scrummy herby and slightly beery bread that arrived on our table in a terracotta plant pot and consult the menu.

D selected the White onion and almond soup, black olive and truffle puff pastry for her starter, which did look very fine, though if I am being picky the puff pastry was a little 'caramelised'.

I plumped for the Scallops ‘sweet and sour’ roasted, celeriac purée, crushed herbs belle de fontenay, apple purée which were succulent and sweet with the cacophony of creamy purées and the cake of wonderful smashed belle de fontenay potatoes. Quite excellent!

And I got my dearest wish! We both pounced on the Daube de boeuf “Mamon Novelli” pot braised beef with liquorice, Chantenay carrots, pancetta, pomme mousseline which was definitely worth waiting for; just as I remembered, moist, meaty and marvellous. Utterly sublime and that wasn’t just the mash! Well done Jean-Christophe’s mother!

For my dessert I went for the Chocolate fondant, infused Tonka bean, prune and Armagnac ice cream. The chocolate fondant wasn’t as oozing-in-the middle as it should have been which was a tad disappointing and therefore a little dry but I enjoyed the ice cream and some of D’s parfait instead. And to be honest I was a little full from all that indulgence. I should say that they did happily remove it from the bill as they agreed it wasn’t the finest exponent of the chocolate fondant art.

D’s Iced peanut parfait, almond praline, Columbian chocolate truffle was rather a stunner though, I probably would have been tempted apart form a deep-seated fear of peanut butter; it just sticks to the roof of your mouth – ugh! But this was very good, I guess icing the peanut butter would prevent the tendency to cling to everything it touches, good move!

I am very grateful that D was willing to tackle the potential perils of the long drive to this almost empty but boutique-hotel elegant restaurant and apart from the minor transgression in my dessert (all forgiven now) this was a fabulous three forker! Oh and that daube, the stuff of dreams!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The pleasure was all mine. It was certainly worth the drive and reading the post has immediately brought back the taste of the daube - the stuff of dreams, indeed.
Where to on our next sojourn, I wonder?
D xx