The other day I had a date to catch up with a foody ex-colleague (the one I used to go to Wahaca with all the time). She is a devotee of the TopTable deal, so we settled on going to The Forge, Covent Garden, who were promising 3 courses and a Kir Royale for £27.
When the restaurant first opened last year I went there for lunch and wasn't completely impressed. The menu was very, very long and the prix fixe was so unappetising we ended up spending a lot more than planned to get the a la carte (and I do remember enjoying the guinea fowl I ended up with). So I was intrigued to see how they have shaped up.
They have obviously come a long way - now the 3 courses were from the a la carte menu, which has been sensibly edited. A very snooty waiter antagonised me from the outset by rolling his eyes when I asked for tapwater. But after fixing him with a glacial stare he changed his tune and became appropriately subservient.
Kir Royale is one of my favourite aperitifs, but there is an art to a good one, and they just didn't get it right. You really need to use a very dry bubbly to offset the sweetness of the cassis, but this seemed to be made on a very sweet spumante. Still, it lasted through perusing the menu and the first course, so it was worthwhile.
As a starter I had smoked mackeral with lightly pickled ribbons of cucumber. The presentation was attractive - a big crosscut section of fish, so it almost looked like one of those delicious pieces of Japanese BBQd eel - but a fillet would have been easier to eat. Once I had skinned and picked out all the bits of bone I was a mess of fish. There was a quenelle of something creamy on the plate, but once I tasted it and realised that it wasn't the horseradish I was hoping for, I left it alone.
I had a fishy main course as well (with a lovely glass of Marlborough sauv blanc). A moist, tender salmon fillet with a beautifully crispy skin, served with fat asparagus spears and hollandaise. Yum! Very rich, but worth it.
There was a vile sounding Creme moulee (i.e custard) with creme de menthe and blackberries on the pudding menu, so I was delighted when the waiter said that they'd run out and were doing a caramelised lemon tart instead. My friend ordered tarte tatin and we swapped. Both were very good; although the lemon tart was much deeper than I like, you can't really complain about extra filling! My mother's tarte tatin (and indeed mine) is better, because we use lovely shortcrust pastry instead of puff, which goes better. But still, for £27 (plus a dish of beans and 2 glasses of wine) it was really a lot better than my last visit!