I'd seen reports that Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick were opening a restaurant. Then @thomasblythe tweeted the details of the soft launch, so I threw my hat in the ring for a booking and was rewarded with a 6pm table, with 50% off the food bill. Which was fine by me. Again, living in the farthest reaches of what can reasonably be considered London, an early dinner means not having to hurtle for the last train.
The thing about a soft launch, of course, is that there may be bugs and hitches that are being ironed out. There was nothing too dramatic, the staff seemed more worried and anxious about them than we were: the room was quite smoky when we arrived due to the Big Green Egg, our first choice of wine was unavailable, and having told us that there were no changes to the menu the waiter had to confess that the halibut was going to be cod. Not exactly evening-ruining events, and in a lot of restaurants those things don't even get identified as hassles.
Paul had a pint of Camden Pale Ale and I had a glass of crémant de Loire while we ordered, then we shared a bottle of verdejo from the very reasonably-priced wine list. The wine was kept in an ice bucket at a station in the middle of the room, so we were at the mercy of the staff noticing when our glasses were empty, but fortunately they appreciated that a woman is not a camel and kept me well topped up.
|Angela Hartnett and the other chefs in action|
Le Manoir in 2007 and I'd thought they were beautiful, so it's lovely to see them becoming more popular. Their creamy blandness was the perfect accompaniment to the nutmeggy bread sauce, beautifully cooked fish, salty spears of samphire and heady rosemary and anchovy flavours.
I think both mains would have benefitted from some vegetables on the side, but we weren't offered any and they didn't feature on the menu. I also have a suspicion that some punters might fret at the lack of spuds. Not that I would have wanted chips with this but you know how some people get with insufficient carbs.
The rum baba itself was wonderful; light and totally sodden with powerfully alcoholic syrup. The accompanying apples and raisins were a bit less successful. The slices of raw green apple (thankfully not called a carpaccio) didn't really seem to belong, there wasn't really anything sweet or rich enough to need that extra sharp bite. The golden raisins had been plumped up in something with a bit of zingy citrus zest but weren't quite plump or tender enough and the caramelised apples were a bit meagre. I think swapping the raw apple for a couple more wedges of caramelised apple would be more successful. I am now considering making something similar as our Christmas dessert, although I won't be able to call it a rum baba.