Saturday 2 August 2008

The Square.

On Friday evening I met my good friend John for dinner at The Square. John is about as close to perfect a dining companion as I can think of in that he is as fussy, discerning and hungry as me. You may remember the photos of him in rapture over some bone marrow at St John. John at St. John. Sorry, how droll.

We had planned to got o the Dorchester to try out the Martini flight but work being work, got in the way. John's lack of the male map-reading gene also got in the way with us walking away from the restaurant instead of towards it. The Square is located in Mayfair, on a street just off a square! It has links to La Trompette in Chiswick where I have had three very fine meals. Despite us being half an hour late we were greeted graciously at the door and taken to our table. It was a good one, we agreed, giving us a great vantage point from which to view our fellow diners. We immediately became obsessed by what looked liked two 15 yr olds who were quite obviously in their element, working their way through what looked like both the tasting and wine menu. We fantasised they were celebrating a belated Bar Mitzvah, or something.

As we sat down I was reassured they had passed the first test, that of acquiescing to my seating request which states that I prefer to be sat at an angle to my dining companion not directly opposite them, to maximise both chatting and sharing opportunities.
Points on

Things went smoothly as follows:
good bread selection, points on
bread not warm, points off
two types of butter, one salted, points on
butter room temp and spreadable, points on
response to substitution to tasting menu- charming, so points on.

By this point we were relaxing into what promised to be a good night. We had agreed that one of us would do the wine pairing i.e. John, and we would share it, with the other getting a glass. All of this was preceded by an aperitif, I had a Kir Royale and John and dry Gin Martini which he declared to be quite acceptable. (He is almost as persnickety as HI when it comes to this libation)

For once I decided not to take photos, but to allow myself to enjoy the experience in the here and now, but here is what we had:

We started off by making what we thought would be a substitution but ended up being a free course! I had read about the Lasagne of Cornish Crab with a Cappuccino of Shellfish and Basil and wanted that instead of the octopus Roulade. We each got a plate of delicate crab with a bit too much of the shellfish cappuccino. John thought his pasta was too al dente and definitely more so than mine, which I thought perfect.

We then were asked if we wanted to try the Octopus anyway and so of course we said yes
Thinly Sliced Roulade of Octopus with Red Mullet, Whitebait, Mussel Beignets, Fennel and Orange

Boy am I glad I did. It was superb. The octopus was melt in your mouth, the red mullet intense, the whitebait light and the mussel biegnet perfect, all with a light citrusy dressing. Outshone the crab by a mile. And also beat the sock off the Octopus Roulade we had at Can Fabes.

Then onto another standout dish: Sauté of Scottish Langoustine Tails with Parmesan Gnocchi and an Emulsion of Potato and Truffle. Both of us wanted more but knew it would actually be too much as the potato and truffle emulsion was so rich, in a good way. Very yum.

Next up was Roast Foie Gras with Cherries, Caramel and Honeycomb. As you know, I think you can have too much Foie and although I liked what was going on with this dish I gave most of mine to John. This says more about me and Foie, than the dish itself.

By this point I am afraid to say I was starting to feel a little full. I did not however have that anxiety that I usually have with tasting menus of "will I make it to the end?". Maybe it was the fact I knew I had John there to help me, who knows.

The Fillet of Halibut with a Purée of Peas, Smoked Lardo di Colonnata, Onion Rings and Red Wine was good, maybe not the best incarnation of Halibut I have had but an interesting version with the lardo. The red wine accompaniment was a classic combo. My benchmark for Halibut will forever be the one I had at Le Bernardin last year.

Herb Crusted Saddle of Lamb with Shallot Purée, Rosemary and Garlic
this was lovely and I wished I could have eaten it all. The lamb had a superb flavour and I am pretty sure it was cooked sous-vide as it had a uniform colour and texture to it. Unfortunately I had to leave half of it as my belly was beginning to get uncomfortably full.

By this point I was admitting defeat. I did not really like the Celeriac Mousse with Pear, Ewes Cheese, Fourme D’Ambert and Beetroot and both of us agreed we would rather of had the option of the rather splendid cheese trolley.

This was the most disappointing course of the meal and I feel quite out of sync with the rest of the meal. Brillat-Savarin Cheesecake with Strawberry and Elderflower. It sounded so much better than what arrived, which was a small, just bigger than a postage-stamp square of mediocre cheesecake. I know it seem churlish to comment on the size of the portion given the fact I couldn't finish my last two course but I was expecting some wondrous de-constructed mountain of loveliness and got a piddly stamp instead.

The final course was the Peach Melba Soufflé which was grandly brought to the table where a spoon of ice-cream was fed in, followed by some raspberry coulis, all of which combined to give the souffle a rather vulval appearance which caused us, I am ashamed to say, much hilarity.

We couldn't even give the petit-four the attention they deserved although both of us later admitted that the bizarre wooden contraption they were served on, detracted from rather than added to.

All in all it was a fun evening with some very memorable dishes. I think I would place it on a par with Martin Wishart, which seems about right as they both have one star and are aiming for two. I would say though, that the service at Wishart's is slightly more attentive, perhaps due to the rooms being about a third of the size.
Would I go back? I think I would.

1 comment:

Serena said...

The meal sounded delicious. I have tagged you for meme. I hope you have a chance to join in.