Friday, 6 March 2009

Lunching at Hibiscus

Hurrah! Finally I am back online. I've sorely missed having the internet; there's only so much crap TV one can put up with. Yes yes, I could have gone and done something productive, but... well... I'm lazy.

The phrase 'credit crunch' has been bandied around like no-one's business. I am, quite frankly, rather bored by it. It's all doom and gloom; I recently left a job and a month later 40% of the work force got the chop. Lucky escape, but it is upsetting. So now, it's encouraging to see that you can still lunch in decent places for a reasonable amount of money.

With this in mind, my sister told me that she was in town for one lunchtime only and that she wanted to go somewhere good. Hibiscus has been on my list for a while now, and having seen it's £25 three course set lunch deal, a table was duly booked.


On arrival, I was greeted graciously and shown to my table, a large 4 seater (for the two of us) facing the rest of the restaurant. The dining room is pretty plush; my heels sunk into the carpets and I felt rather cosseted. My sister hadn't turned up yet, and I was given a bowl of olives. They were flavoursome and crunchy; so far so good.

The set lunch menu consists of two choices per course. All the choices sounded appealing, so I asked my sister to choose whatever she wanted and then I would take the choices she didn't want. In places like these, I think it's best that you try and sample all you can. We were pleasantly surprised when the above pictured amuse bouche was presented to us. It reminded me of a pre-dessert at Launceston Place, presented in the same way. This one was savoury, with a soft poached quail's egg inside which yielded beautifully under the pressure of the teeny tiny spoon, to mix and enrichen a palm heart velouté. Well, at least that's what I think it was; our server's French accent was really thick. The brioche soldier on top made for a good dipping vehicle. "Do you think I could drink the dregs out of the shell?" We were both impressed with it.

The starter was ravioli of scallop, cuttlefish and crab. God knows what was perching on top of it, because for some reason I didn't take a picture of the menu, and I daren't ask the waiter to repeat himself again. This was probably the least favourite of the courses. The filling was rich, the seafood fresh but the pasta wasn't as silky or as light as it could have been.

My main of roasted Cornish silver mullet with turnips, broccoli fricassée and almond sauce was gorgeous. The fish was cooked perfectly and the skin crisp. I'm not a huge fan of almond but it really worked well, lending a richness to the dish. A hit of intense broccoli flavour rounded it off nicely.

Ah, dessert. I'm not particularly bothered with desserts usually, but this one really wowed me and was the best course of the meal.

I ordered the 'Clun Valley Whimberry Clafoutis', wondering what this berry was, but it turns out they're rather like blueberries. They were encased in a light cake, topped with barley malt ice cream and served atop a Earl Grey tea syrup. My god, did this work well. The ice cream was smooth and rich, with just a hint of the barley malt. The syrup was intense and delicious; I found it strange that I liked it so much, as I usually find Earl Grey to be too perfumey for my tastes. On the other side of the table, my sister concurred that her yellow lime tart, topped with a pleasingly crunchy caramel with clove ice cream, was also the star of her meal.

So, for three courses each, a lemonade and service this lunch came to £30 a head. Great value for the quality of the cooking and the attentive (if indecipherable) waiting staff. I'd definitely like to come back for a tasting menu dinner, as the a la carte looked intruiging, but alas, not until I win the lottery. For now, set lunches will do.

Hibiscus

29 Maddox Street

London W1S 2PA

020 7629 2999


Hibiscus on Urbanspoon

14 comments:

Helen said...

Hurrah! Welcome back. Your lunch sounds bargainous indeed. I love the sound of that earl grey syrup, I am a massive fan - even when it's perfumey! Clove ice cream also sounds like something that I NEED.

An American in London said...

I had the tasting menu lunch at Hibiscus before the credit crunch set in (seems like ages ago now), and I really loved it. I didn't realize Hibiscus also offered a set lunch menu, so now I have no excuse for not returning. Another set lunch I've been curious to try, though, is the one at the Ledbury, though I probably couldn't make it there on a weekday.

Dan said...

Welcome back. Hibsicus for £30 a head - fantastic value. The food looks great. I also love the sound of earl grey syrup - (I keep meaning to make Earl Grey Pannacotta) and barley malt ice cream? (I'm trying to imagine what that tastes like.)

Chris said...

The ice-creams were the highlight of my meal at Hibiscus when it was still back in Ludlow. I remember a foie gras ice-cream - win.

Petra Barran said...

MMmmmm - didn't know they were doing the CC thing. Me and my friend Will have an ongoing challenge to find the best bargain lunch in London. Tues: Kensington Place - £19.50 for 3 courses. I'm going to dress up as Lady Di...

Lizzie said...

Hi Petra - I thought Launceston Place was Lady Di's favourite? In which case, they do a 3 course lunch for £18...

Petra said...

It was...but she liked KP too. And I still haven't got to LP either (sounds great). Have neglected West London terribly since moving to the hood!

Gill the Painter said...

Nice review Lizzie.
We ate there when in Ludlow maybe 5 years ago - it was £30, it might have been £35? for a set dinner.

£65 seems a tad pricey now, doesn't it.

There's my thinking London restaurants are generally cheaper than out here in Sticksville.

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

Welcome back to blogging! I think set lunches are the way to go if we want to continue eating at high end restaurants...

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Cor...

Y'know, these wonderful places are really showing the others up with their set price menus at the moment. Yesterday I had a meal at a very average place (not my choice) for a group lunch in Covent Garden. Set menu was roughly the same cost - but the standard of the food was abysmal.

I reckon we should all treat ourselves to Michelin-starred cooking now and celebrate one of the few positives to come out of the credit crunch!

ginger@dinnerdiary.org said...

We had the set lunch at Hibiscus last year and loved it, I can't remember what we had though.

I remember beind impressed with the amuse bouche too though, I was surprised they would include that with a set lunch menu.

kang L. said...

Lo-ve-ly! Welcome back to the internet!

Oh I love love love hibiscus to bits and I think it's the best £25 set meal around, much better than Wareing's £35 set, but I havent done robuchon's yet.

Greeee-at review and now my mouth is watering :D

genuiness said...

oooh... i'm slow with catching up by welcome back. Good review of Hibiscus - I had a good experience myself back in October. Their desserts are just something else as they really are the creation of a mad scientist... If you take a gander at the ALC menu you will see such stars as cep tart!

Anonymous said...

Danke!