We've been eating out a lot recently: it's the first time in years that we've had the disposable income to do it, and we've been embracing the opportunity. During the time we've been restricted on eating out, we've compiled a pretty extensive list of places we want to try, and the food scene in London being what it is, we could eat somewhere new twice a week for years at a time.
But the meal we had in summer at Quo Vadis was so good that when we needed to find somewhere to go with friends as an end of year treat, it was the clear choice. We'd tried to send the same friends there earlier in the year, but that had fallen through, so this way we figured they had no option but to go along with our plans. We were pretty confident that once they got through the door they'd fall in love with it too.
We'd started with a drink at the House of St Barnabas, and had a little preliminary look at the menu then. It was so perfect for the tastes of the four of us that it could have been bespoke. I laid bets with myself on what each person would order and got it entirely correct. Without having to bully anybody about their choices.
Campari, lemon and soda. Really delicious - and even the non-Campari drinking person at the table agreed that it was nice. It's given me ideas, so I will be buying a bottle of Campari to play with.
One of the reasons for going to dinner was an early birthday celebration for Paul, so he decided that he deserved a grand gesture with the wine. A magnum (1.5l) of something. White seemed the most likely to go well with everything we ordered, so he chose a Soave Classico ‘Calvarino’. Possibly not the most perfect match for his main course, but brilliant with everything else.
The only little bit of menu bullying we did was insisting that Norm have the smoked eel sandwich. After he tried it he accepted that we were right to do so. He thought he didn't like eel but I don't actually think he'd ever had it before. He's going to talk to his fish man about getting some smoked eel to have at home.
Norm's nearly always going to have the pork option for his main course, so the rare breed pork belly (can't remember if it was Middlewhite or Gloucester Old Spot) with burnt onions and garlic was a pretty easy guess. There was enough garlic that we all got to snaffle a clove, but the whole dish was deeply flavoured without being too garlicky.
Paul's interest in game meats was well catered for - rabbit terrine en croute followed by slow-cooked hare.
I had porchetta tonnata, a piggy take on the classic vitello tonnato. Meat with tuna mayonnaise sounds so unlikely but it is a delicious combination.
I knew that was going to be quite a rich starter, so I chose a lighter main course: hake with mussels, chickpeas and spinach. It was light, but again really intensely flavoured, with the tiniest chickpeas I have ever seen. Seriously. They were tiny. There was a little hit of spicy heat in the spinach broth which I wasn't expecting but worked beautifully.
We shared some perfect fat chips and excellent purple sprouting broccoli, and finished our wine. Then had a pause to consider the dessert menu.
I really love when restaurants offer just a tiny bite of something sweet on the dessert menu. I don't usually want a whole dessert, and Paul often isn't interested in even a bite of a shared one, so a little sweet morsel is just what is called for. I had a single chocolate and almond prune (delicious, but not for the marzipan haters) while the others shared a very good cheese plate. A half bottle of sauternes rounded things out perfectly.