Wednesday, May 28, 2008

No 1

When H and I decided to indulge in lunch with the lovely m and P our only problem was whose hands we would trust with our pampering. I was hankering after a chance to visit Hix Oyster & Chop House but it seems me and the entire salivating world have the same idea at the moment and seats are just not to be had for love nor oysters. So my next cunning plan was 1 Lombard Street, conveniently located and often lauded. I had reservations though; I’ve only eaten there once previously, a few years ago and BB (before blogging) and I recalled lovely posh nursery food, soft smoked haddock topped with a soft poached egg and hollandaise sauce. Pale and very interesting! However H took another client there on a later occasion and had a very disagreeable time being practically ignored by the waiter and then unceremoniously told that they were closing for a private party, and vowed never to return. So it was with a little trepidation that I secured one of their curved banquettes and in their bright converted banking hall bathed in light beneath the glass domed ceiling vowed to give them another chance. Our first surprise was the menu based on Tolstoy’s great works, a hush fell on the table apart from small murmurs of appreciation, this was a serious task we were undertaking. Firstly there was a section of starters, but no it didn’t end there as you could also pick from the soup, egg & pasta menu and of course the vegetarian. And then there were two other menus of random dishes, not entitled and not on the website – so maybe the daily specials. But no I haven’t finished yet, you could choose from the fish menu, or crustacean, then of course, meat and finally a small list of classics. But you’ve still got to select from the side dishes and later puddings and finally a cheese list. I was seriously exhausted just reading it all, the terminal indecisive could possibly pass out from starvation. They don’t have a tasting menu here which possibly is a shame as there were so many dishes we could have chosen, but eventually we reached a decision.

P had only recently become acquainted with the dark art of smoking Scottish salmon so opted to check out their version. I didn’t ascertain if until now he has had his salmon sans smoke or whether he has until now dodged all salmon – I suspect it’s the latter. And I think his Oak smoked Scottish salmon with brown bread, dill salad capers and lemon looked exceptionally vibrant and so very round. And more importantly P declared it delicious.

I, breaking a habit of a lifetime went for the Seared foie gras and asparagus salad and it was perfect!

After being similarly overwhelmed with the choice, m went for Artichoke bottom stuffed with wild mushrooms, poached egg, sauce Hollandaise and parsley jus from the vegetarian selection. And seemed very impressed, the egg yolk performed well breaking and flowing and mingling with the mushrooms and artichoke bottom. I guess this is the herbivore version of my last meal here.

H was particularly hungry and plumped for the very spring-like Spinach, garlic and potato soup with crème fraîche and nutmeg. And stunningly verdant it was too.

After scanning the copious dishes on offer I had to admit that, true to form, they completely had me at ‘white truffle oil mash’ and so went for the Roast new season lamb chump chop with white truffle oil mash, rosemary and garlic jus. And then I realised that we’d all chosen this dish; you see the powers of white truffle oil mash and was going to select an alternative. But there’s just so many wonderful options, what to do, what to do? I panicked and left the order the same; at least we couldn’t have meal envy! Now consulting their unabridged works of culinary excellence I can quickly spot another ten random interesting options -

Coq au vin ‘bourguignon’ made from black leg chicken, mashed potatoes

Roast suckling pig with wild mushroom and bread stuffing, warm cabbage and speck salad

Casserole of mussels and clams with white wine, garlic and parsley broth

Caramelised diver caught scallops with fettuccini in lobster sauce, chervil

Grilled lobster with tarragon, mustard and garlic butter

Smoked haddock spinach and poached egg with Colman’s English mustard glaze

Caramelised organic Hebredian salmon with asparagus and sauce Hollandaise

Roast turbot on the bone spinach and mash with wild mushroom and lobster sauce

Roast cannon of lamb rosemary and garlic jus with potation gratin Dauphinoise

Loin of veal forestiere spinach and mash with Chablis, wild mushroom and tarragon veloute

And that’s really just a drop in their vast ocean of dishes. But I certainly wasn’t disappointed, though probably the least interesting looking dishes I could have selected, the lamb was rosemary-perfumed, rosy and delicious. And truffle oil mash is always going to be a good thing!

m managed better than me and swiftly swapped her lamb for the Seared stone bass with braised fennel, pesto and sauce vierge. And again seemed happy and this does look so pretty. I am sure I’ve seen it on the cover of someone’s cook book! In hindsight, always a wonderful thing, if I was sat there clutching the twelve (!) menus and wanted to make a last minute substitution I would have gone for the Caramelised diver caught scallops with fettuccini in lobster sauce, chervil or maybe sticking to the lobster sauce theme I could choose Roast turbot on the bone spinach and mash with wild mushroom and lobster sauce. Or perhaps the Roast suckling pig with wild mushroom and bread stuffing, warm cabbage and speck salad if I could persuade someone to share this dish for two. No it’s still too difficult, I guess I will just have to visit again soon and ‘try’ not to be seduced by words like ‘truffle’ and ‘mash’.

Thankfully the puddings menu wasn’t such an epic and we were quickly able to choose two desserts to share – Hot chocolate fondant and pistachio ice cream and Thin crispy ‘upside down’ apple tart with crème Chantilly and calvados Anglais.

We were intrigued by the decoration on the chocolate fondant plate, H obviously though it was for her but I suspect that the dish was put in front of m, not me, and therefore it’s actually the Roman numeral I they have on a brass plate at the entrance. The pistachio ice cream is a ideal foil for the rich melting middle chocolate and we made short shrift of this.

The apple tart was tasty as well as took me right back to the oh so French tarts that M used to make for dinner parties.

Considering the issues we’d had making a decision amongst all the dishes on offer, I should also say that we were dining in the brasserie (as I have a penchant for banquettes and glass domed ceilings) but if we were having dinner I think we would have gone to the restaurant, where, yes you’ve guessed it, there is a further myriad of exciting menu options available. Personally I am delighted we gave 1 Lombard Street another try, we had a fabulous meal with wonderful company in elegant surroundings. We weren’t moved on in the slightest, even though we were the penultimate table to push back our chairs and leave. And after polishing off a rather good bottle of Malbec that was actually slightly harder than it seemed.

A redeemed 1 Lombard – Please accept your three forks with my pleasure!

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