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Lindsay House

Location: 21 Romilly Street, at the far end of the street from Cambridge Circus. London.

Browsing through the Good Food Guide, Lindsay House caught my eye. Not only does it look like it's named after a good friend of mine, but it seemed to offer a good balance between price, quality, and location. Plus, there was a tasting menu. So the other week, when easterbunny and I were deliberating how best she could get me my Pie Off 3 pie slice, which I thoughtlessly left behind at her place since we left in a hurry to catch a train that night, I suggested we meet at Lindsay House. Luckily for me, easterbunny's developed a taste for tasting menus too.

The restaurant occupies what was once a house, and what still really feels like a house. For all the trappings of elegance, the entry hall is narrow, with diners, new arrivals, and waitstaff dancing around each other. Once seated, however, the tables are well-spaced, white linens, pale walls, tastefully subdued decor. A little upstanding flier on the table advertised the chef's cookbook; the flier was removed before the first food arrived. Apparently, the chef, Richard Corrigan, is a celebrity of sorts from his t.v. appearances, as aca helpfully advised me.

While we sipped cocktails and browsed the menu, our first nibbles arrived, delicately slender parmesan sticks, tidily arranged around tiny pieces of anchovies. Except for C., we all ordered the tasting menu, which was fish heavy; C. went for the garden menu, all veggie dishes, but swapped in the one non-fish meat course from the tasting menu. Both menus are standard features. With the sommelier's assistance, we ordered two bottles of wine. We started with a versatile Riesling Spätlese to accompany the first several courses (Ruppertsberger Gaisbohl, Dr. Burklin-Wolf, 1999, from Pfalz, Germany); and then moved on to a Cornas (Domaine de Turnel, 2002, from the Rhône Valley).

We began with an elegantly-plated arrangement of amuses-bouche: smooth vicchyssoise with truffle; an innovative little bite of half an olive and goat's cheese, battered and deep-fried; sweet, cruchy prawn bread; chocolate, venison, and cranberry all wrapped up into layeres of filo, baked and thinly sliced; and a sliver of cod on a toasted crouton, finished with a little pool of hollandaise.

Smoked eel and foie gras terrine with sour apple: the food contrasted strikingly with the slab of slate on which it lay. Small pieces of toasted bread were provided for the almost spreadable terrine, which, despite the foie gras, was not too heavy a dish. The sour apple provided a lovely contrast, tart and fruity against the meats.

Native scallop langoustine with spiced chick pea and olive oil: the langoustine was fairly tender, and the sauce was very, very tasty. I think I'd already finished my roll by then, and regretted not having it to scrape up the sauce. They'd run out of scallop before we arrived.

Butter poached turbot with lightly curried cockles and mussels: I don't know that I've ever had turbot before, but it's an interesting fish. A decent dish, but not a standout. What did blow me away was one of the garnishes - candied slivers of fennel. So good.

Loin of venison with braised haunch, creamed salsify, and hispi cabbage: Wrapped in layers of delicate filo strips was a piece of what tasted like wild game, very rich, very dark. Intrigued, I asked what it was. "Haunch" was the answer. I'm still not sure I understand how this intense wildness could be so closely related to the tasty, meaty, but not wild-tasting loin, even after my recent education in mutton meat cuts at the Ubiquitous Chip up in Glasgow.* The salsify was buttery soft. A good dish.

Banyuls-soaked Crozier Blue with thyme and celery: We'd all managed to forget there was a cheese course coming by this point in the meal, since it had been so long since we'd last seen the menu. And it was the best part of the meal. The alcohol-soaking augmented the spice and depth of the blue cheese. A large, delicate cracker covered in oats, more like a thin flake of candy or the most fracturous of ginger snaps than a cracker, provided a starchy underpinning for balance.

Chocolate Plate - Pithivier, Fig and Mascarpone, Hazelnut Bavarois, and Walnut Gazpacho: Now I wish I'd taken better notes, but it's a challenge to balance writing with conversation, and I was hoping the menu would cue memory better. The walnut gazpacho really was one, low-key, but distinctively walnuty. And right now, only a week later, I can't account for what the other parts of the dessert were like. Perhaps that says something about them in its own right.

Mignardises: A tangy little cube of apple-and-lime jelly, rolled in sugar crystals; a meltingly soft cube of chocolate-dipped peanut butter; a pleasant baked dollop of mascarpone and dulce de leche which particularly pleased aca; and a happy little bite of cute comfort food in the form of a miniature spice cake, finished with a drip of lemon curd. We all drank different accompaniaments - I had fresh mint tea, with all the bright flavor which freshly-infused mint provides. C. was underwhelmed by the coffee.

Going back over the menu, there were definite highlights for me - fabulous little details which really made the meal, including the the amuse-bouche of olive-and-goat's cheese beignet, candied fennel, and two of the mignardises, apple-lime jelly and the spice cake. The big things, with the exception of the fabulous cheese course, were mostly not as exciting, even though they were good and competent. The ambiance was pleasant and service reasonably attentive.

* I know, I still haven't written about the Glasgow restaurants, but unlike Lindsay House, I took copious notes on those meals, so I won't lose too much detail by waiting so long.

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