Wednesday 26 November 2008

La Valle Blanche III.


A posh-ish dining establishment in Glasgow that actually delivers the goods. Well, that's a bit unfair, Abode is pretty good but it is a little too stark with it's contemporary design and favours the miniscule portion side of things, and of course Hotel Du Vin is mighty nice but is in the special occasion bracket.

That's not to say La Valle Blanche is cheap, as it's not. It's maybe a once a month kind of place but it has earned it's place on my very small list of old reliables in Glasgow. It passed my new test. I will give anywhere 3 goes but if on the third try they don't win me over, they are gone, out of here.

We had gone for dinner with Choiti and Chris. It was meant to be our Glenapp weekend, but for the second time in a row I was foiled, so given Kitchin in Edinburgh seemed too much effort we settled on La Valle Blanche, primarily, as Choiti had not yet been there.

La Valle Blanche seems to be getting better with time. Maybe Neil has settled into the kitchen and found his groove? I also noticed, and am not big-headed enough to think it's because of me, that they have pared things down a bit. Neil's elegant, not to mention charming, wife is still front of house, but they have cut the number of floor staff down quite a bit. The service has not suffered as far as I could tell so they have got the balance right. The female sommelier was not there that evening and although I would not wish anyone out of a job I didn't see how the cellar was large enough to merit one. They still give you canapes, freshly baked bread and soft butter with salt. They still give you petite four with your coffee. All the wee touches that make you feel you are being spoiled. If Neil is looking for a star then he is doing all the right things.

And then there is the food.

As I said it is getting better with time. What is more, it is pretty, tasty and satisfying which is a hard combo to get right it seems.

smoked mackeral with horseradish-very umami, could have eaten lots more of these.

Does this look familiar? It reminded me very much of that guy Chris Horridge's GBM creations. However, I am sure that Neil is much nicer than Chris Horrible. He seemed such an unptight, cold, control-freak, who gave Elijah no credit. His food may look pretty but it can't taste good. Food should be made with love. Sorry, rant over.
The only thing I would say is that I agree with Pru, Oliver and Mathew. The slate looks pretty but is not very good at retaining heat. The pig's cheeks were moist and tender and tasty but but the time we were half way through they were cold. I would change this.

HI's beef carpaccio with truffles. Hi likey. Me likey.

Choiti's Tarbert crab tartlet. I like the play on words I don't think it was intentional however.

This was a standout dish. It was called rabbit and sausage stew on the menu but as you can see is far more sophisticated than that. We were expecting some bowl of rustic peasant fare but got this beautiful almost deconstructed 'stew'. The rabbit was tasty and moist, a feat hard to achieve, and the liquor and accompanying sausage delicious. Thank goodness I have eschewed my own rule of not ordering the same dish as HI for I would have lost with this one.

Chris's Barnsley Lamb chop. I have never seen a Lamb chop like this before. It looks very manly, which is just as well as Chris is that kind of guy. I think he even picked it up an knawed at the bone. Of course we egged him on. He stopped at sooking the marrow out though.

Choiti's Aberdeen Angus fillet steak which came rare as requested. It was practically moo-ing on the plate.
My only gripe is there are no chips on the menu!! If only they could replicate the Pommes Pont Neuf from Hotel Du Vin then this steak would be heaven.

After my souffle incident with John at the Square I steered clear of this, but Chris said it was good. I just don't get souffles.

So, an intensely satisfying meal in beautiful surroundings with good service. It is a pretty good combination. Even if Michelin don't rate it, I do.

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