Tuesday 9 October 2007

Great Queen St

I know nothing about the Masons. I once worked at a banqueting hall where we had to serve the Masons their trifle at the same time as everything else so that we couldn't eavesdrop on their secrets, but that is as close as I have come. Still, I am favourably disposed towards them because the Freemason's Hall on Great Queen St is a very useful landmark when you are meeting people for dinner at 32 Great Queen St.

I am also favourably disposed towards 32 Great Queen St because on my previous visit I had the best potted shrimps of my life. But even that is a negative in a place where they do a daily menu and there is no chance at all that the potted shrimps will be on the menu again.

As it happens, my luck was in and the potted shrimps were on the menu! So I didn't even have to think twice about the crab on toast or the middlewhite terrine. And again they were wonderful. The perfect amount (a small duralex glassful), the perfect quantity of mace and seasonings and just the perfect temperature that the clarified butter melted instantly on contact with the warm, thick toast.

Fortunately my friend eats proper food, so it didn't take much persuading to get her to share the venison pie for two. A delicious, large oval dishful, with a slightly strange, very thin, crisp but unusually tough pastry, draped over a goodly chunk of marrowbone instead of a pie funnel. Since the waitress was kind enough to wrap the marrowbone in foil, I suspect my friend's dog is even now enjoying a little treat.

I was a bit reluctant to look at the dessert menu. A pie that large and rich really needs nothing to follow, but my reluctance was overcome in a nanosecond by muscat caramel custard. What a brilliant idea, what magnificent execution! The most superbly velvety vanillabean custard, smothered in a lovely, bitter, dark caramel heady with boozy muscat. Heaven. Pity it won't be on the menu the next time!

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