On a balmy summer's evening, we had a cheeky drink before trekking down Liverpool Road. The area became more and more suburban, and we wondered whether we had taken a wrong turning. We hadn't, and I was surprised by how unassuming the restaurant front was. Upon entering, it was very hushed. The dining room was small, and there was only one or two other tables occupied. The restaurant soon filled up as the evening went on. There is definitely a green theme throughout; the menu was green, as was the seating and a couple of walls. We were advised to get the tasting menu.
After some delicious bread, we started off with gazpacho, with a tomato and olive oil sorbet. I was a bit nervous about this, as I've recently discovered that I don't like gazpacho. I've had it several times before and even tested a gazpacho recipe, but if you'll excuse the pun, it leaves me a bit cold. This one was different though. Rich, with an almost creamy feel to it, it left me wanting more. The sorbet had a decent olive oil flavour to it and I was sad when it was finished.
The tasting menu had separate options to choose from, and I chose the scallop tartare three ways. On the left hand side the basil sorbet that adorned the scallop tartare was wonderfully herby. The middle pile hiding under the leaves sat upon a romanesco-style sauce, and the far right had more of that tomato sorbet, with the tartare itself mixed with a little diced mango and cucumber. The tapenade dribbled down the sides added a welcome salty hit. Of the meal, I felt that this was the least successful dish. Although visually stunning, the delicate sweetness of the scallop was a bit lost and the dish would have benifitted from a stronger flavoured fish.
My least favourite dish of the meal was followed by the best of the evening; red mullet with razor clams, fennel pureé and a saffron foam. When it was first placed in front of me, my heart skipped a beat and I thought it was a slab of belly tuna. My eyesight isn't great. The red mullet, though not crispy skinned, was perfectly cooked and melted in the mouth. The saffron foam was in no way bird-spit-like, as some foams can turn out to be, but was flavoursome and highlighted the freshness of the fish. I wanted a big trough of this. Razor clams with diced tomatoes gave a pleasing texture contrast and fennel pureé added a luxuriousness to the dish. Lovely stuff.
For my next choice, I went for rabbit with mustard, steamed gnocchi and courgette in a parsley sauce. This arrived without the sauce, which was then poured over the dish tableside. I'm not sure what this contributed, but I was excited by the little rabbit chops. They were so weeny! The gnocchi was light as a feather, which isn't something you experience every day as it has such a tendency to be a complete stodge-fest. Under the saddle of rabbit was spinach, which hid a cake of rabbit meat mixed with wholegrain mustard. Some consider courgettes to be a rather dull vegetable, but here, steamed provided a light contrast to what was otherwise a rich dish. The rolled rabbit meat on top of the tower were delicious and full of flavour but if anything, the rabbit and mustard meat underneath could have done with a lighter hand with the salt. Otherwise it was a very satisfying dish. I gnawed those little bones dry of the succulent meat.
By this point, I was feeling pretty full. I had a quick look at the menu, and hoped that the 'Light Vanilla Rice Pudding' would be true to it's name. I had horrible visions of a big bowl of steaming rice in a creamy sauce, and I breathed a sigh of relief when this was set before me. The rice pudding is nestled inside the orange scented tuile, with a passionfruit sorbet and sauce providing an ample tang to contrast the sweet vanilla. The perfect prelude to the apricot soufflé to follow.
The soufflé had risen perfectly, which I'm sure anyone who cooks (and even if you don't) knows that this is no easy feat. I've had many a lopsided soufflé but there was no hint of a sag here. The soufflé was cut into by our server, and a coulis of apricot poured inside it. This was delicious; beautifully light and foamy inside. To accompany was a rosemary ice cream. I've never tried rosemary ice cream, but I think I'll try making some at home as it was very moreish. I really loved all the crockery the food immaculately was served on. The plates with the matte cocentric circles were so pretty, it almost drove me to kleptomania. If only I could fit one in my handbag.
We had a good go at some pretty little petit fours, but were too stuffed to finish them off. Service was proficient if a little cold, but Morgan Meunier came and had a quick chat with us which was a pleasant surprise; he seemed like a very nice man and answered my inane question graciously.
While the food wasn't earth shattering, I came away feeling really well looked after, as if I'd been wrapped up in cotton wool and given a big hug simultaneously. The red mullet was a stand-out dish, and showed that they really know what they're doing in the kitchen. As we left we did wonder why it had been over-looked by Michelin; lack of amuses? Its suburban location? Whatever; it's worth the trip.
489 Liverpool Road,
London N7 8NS
Tel: 020 7609 3560