Crapaudine Beetroot cooked in Beef Fat
After a letdown beetroot terrine at a reasonably well-known double-starry Oxfordshire eatery (insert grimace and wink emoticons) Mrs C had all faith restored here with the arrival of 'The Meatroot'. The swagger and assurance of this is arrogant and precocious in a chef... as long as you apply nothing but positive connotations to those adjectives. This is the iconic dish which Tommy first showcased on MasterChefUK and entrusted to eventual winner, Kenny Tutt, who tackled it to acclaim. I am determined to do the same... soon. It has been dissected and lauded too much elsewhere for me to do anything else but grin and enjoy the recollection of it.
Max, Miles Mossop 2014 (Stellenbosch, South Africa)
I took the recommended blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot as my travelling companion here. The Bordeaux style hadn't suffered at all on its continental exchange trip. Just right for such a meaty dish.
Herb Fed Chicken with Courgette and Truffle
Not enough elements for a roast dinner here. But that didn't stop this being every bit as rich and crowd-pleasing. The indulgence of truffle was there but even that had to fight with the freshness and vibrancy of the courgette. Oh, yes, the chicken, breast and leg, more than kept pace with the quality and finish on the rest of our plate.
The chicken dish represented the nearest thing to a ‘main’ course and we thought it deserved a drinking partner. But Mrs Cheoff is now less keen on red wines than at any other stage of her drinking years and we wanted to avoid the suggested Pineau d'Aunis from the Loire… even though that offered the very interesting prospect of an unfamiliar, little-used grape.
Chardonnay, Clos de Gat 2014 (Harel, Israel)
It was great to have Tom recommend this white alternative. It was even more lovely to hear my wife inform him that I had chosen the same from the list as we took our pre-dinner drinks. I know two-fifths of bugger all about wine but maybe, just maybe, I’m on the road to learning one more fifth of bugger all on the subject before I’m laid down in American oak.
To pudding and beyond... nearly there!
Gooseberry with Hazelnut
Our first dessert was an ice cream sandwich. Hazelnut parfait and gooseberry ripple between brown sugar ‘wafers’ or biscuit tuiles. The parfait had a lightness which drew things back from gooseberry crumble and custard into more of a milk and cookies vibe. The fact that the whole thing survived several bites without collapsing is an indication of the skill and experimentation which leads to such perfection of texture and finish here.
Strawberries with Sweet Woodruff
Gariguette and alpine strawberries were hidden among various layers of cream, meringue and powders. I think the woodruff infused the cream like a herbal tea but I had already concentrated so hard on everything else that you might excuse me if I fall short of adequate description here. This was an understated dessert but welcome all the same after the buzz of so much before.
1989 Chateau d'Avrille Coteaux de l'Aubance, Loire - Chenin Blanc
We got our Loire wine after all with this dessert. Another regional style which we had not tried previously. This was made in the same year that Mrs Anne Banks gave birth to our head chef. Not over-sweet, very smooth and likely to mature even more with time. What? The wine or the Michelin starred chef? Hah, I'll let you decide.
Coffee and 'petits fours'
Root Vegetable Toast
Panettone. Made in Oldstead. No fruit. Candied root vegetables instead. Very clever. I doubt whether these batons would be ordinary if eaten as made but they were taken one more step towards heavenly. I had seen the hotplate ready for these at the front pass on our way out of the restaurant. French toasts are seldom quite as buttery as this. They often have an uneven finish with occasional evidence of singeing. There was no chance of that happening. I was forced to eat them with as much care and attention as had been lavished upon them by yet another accomplished chef. Attention to detail... makes all the difference.
I am a fuss-pot with coffee but there was no disappointment with the quality of the 'Nessun Dorma' beans. None shall sleep? Well, I'm pretty sure that caffeine delayed things much less than the excitement and satisfaction of our truly great meal.