Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Old Lodge, Limpsfield

The Old Lodge
High Street, Limpsfield, Surrey
Tel: 01883 714365

We've driven past the Old Lodge many times, and eventually decided to try them out for a meal last Saturday night. After phoning to check that they had a vegetarian option on the menu (which they did) we booked a table.

We were shown into the bar area and shown the menus. The bar area was very comfortable, and it was nice to be able to peruse the menu and wine list. The main menu had about three meat free selections on the starter menu, but none on the mains. However, there was a note at the top of the menu saying to ask for today's vegetarian selection. So I did.

I was pleasantly surprised, that there were three main menu options that I could choose from. All the options sounded nice. I chose what was described as Caramelised Onion, Pear and Fig Cheese Cake. For starters I chose Pasta with asparagus and horseradish in a creamy sauce.

The pasta was fusili and the sauce was very nice. It had a slight taragony flavour too and, despite it being a fairly large portion, the taste was good enough that the dish never got boring.

Between the courses, a complimentory apple and blackcurrent sorbet turned up, which was an unexpected, but extremely pleasant surprise.

The 'cheesecake' was next. I'd been wondering what this would be like, as the description sounded more like a dessert rather than a main course.

Very shortly, the wait was over and a small tart turned up on the table, accompanied by onions along with the mushrooms and saute potatoes I'd ordered from the side orders menu. The tart was like a cheesy quiche, with pears and figs layered through it with caramelised onions on the top. It had a sort of sweet and sour taste as the pear and onion took turns at assaulting the taste buds. It was an unusual sensation, but a very pleasant one.

The dessert trolley contained a plethora of cakes and tarts from which I chose a rather nice pear and chocolate cake.

The service was very good, save for the fact that we had to top our own wine up - but thats a minor complaint. The staff were also interested in my opinions of the vegetarian dish, and said that they always have three or four dishes on the menu suitable for vegetarians, which is good to know.

All in all, it was a good night out - as for the price, it worked out to around the same price as our meal at Terre a Terre earlier this week. What really matters is that the food was nice, the service good and the setting very pleasant indeed.

Terre a Terre, Brighton

Terre a Terre
71 East Street, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1HQ
Tel: 01273 729051

So, Terre a Terre - another mungbean and lentil hippy café in the veggie capital of England, Brighton you say? Well, you couldn't be more wrong. Terre a Terre will blow away any preconceptions you may have of vegetarian cuisine being lentil and nut based - this is veggie fine dining of the like I've not had since Il Margutto in Rome.

The restaurant itself is easy to find, being up one of the roads that leads directly from the seafront. From the outside it looks pretty small and unassuming, but it stretches back quite a way, and also has a small garden area.

We arrived early but seating us was no issue (there was an England game on, so it was fairly quiet) and we were presented with the menu and wine list.

Before the starters arrived, we decided on having some Wasabi Cashews to nibble. Wow! You have to try these, if you visit. They taste much as they sound - and they sound great.

The menu is very wordy, and this makes it a little confusing as, unless you've eaten here before give you little idea of what you're going to get. To give you an idea, I have stated below what the menu stated, followed by my report of the dish. I tried a mouthful of everything my wife had and I've included her comments on the food too.

For starters we had Truly Truffly Risotto - served with set cep consomme and fresh chestnut parmesan milk foam, with virgin oil and organic aged balsamic green tops, toasted barley and scrunched fried sage and Miso Pretty - Sweet ginger sushi reverse roll in Szechwan chilli flakes, served with roast yellow pepper and white miso dressing, soused Enoki mushrooms, lime and tamari ketchup, cashew and coriander salad gaspacho, served with hot and sour soup and dry miso powder.

The risotto on its own was lovely, nice lemony tang and a spinkle of truffle shavings but when combined with the cep consomme and foam (served in a small 'shot glass') it was great. The balsamic green tops were nice, but my fave was the risotto.
I tried a little bit of the Miso Pretty and it was very tasty. My wife said it was really delicious.

Next up was the main course. I had Ravioli Butter Cookie Crumble and White Asparagus Milk Shake - Fava and pea farci ravioli crammed with tarragon, flat leaf parsley and lemon thyme, topped with butter cookie crumble, served with parmesan ice, fresh ricotta wild garlic pressé and just-cut pea shoot tangle, with wet garlic and salt lemon confit pastry shards. My wife chose Wotzyuzu Ithai Gnocchi - Potato gnocchi poached in Asian citrus liquor and wokked with bok choy, choi sum and star shitaki, doused with mushroom ketchup, served with smudges of soy pea miso sake blitz and roast cashew satay, tempura Sechuan spice cress and ginger hair, accompanied by a green tea and thai basil shooter with wotzyuzu dressed micro leaves.

The presentation was amazing. The ravioli (looking like a pie made of pasta) was perched on top of half a dozen asparagus spears. On top of the ravioli was the butter cookie crumble - rather like a very thin biscuit. The rest of the plate consisted of some pea puree in which was placed the parmesan ice (more of that later) a small jug of what I can only describe as pea soup (which was to pour over the ravioli), a small green pyramid of the ricotta and garlic presse and the garlic confit pastry shards. So, what about the taste? On first taste, I immediately thought of mushy peas, but there were a lot of more subtle flavours , the more I ate. The parmesan ice was like an inch high ice cream cone with a small round frozen sorbet on the top - very surpising, but refreshing. The garlic confit and the ricotta presse were both very nice, but seemed to be more for decoration, as they didn't add that much to the dish as a whole.

As for my wife's dish, she overlooked the tempura part of this, which unfortunately doesn't agree with her, but she said it was nice, but not as nice as the starter. Presentation was 'stack-style' - again, very impressive.

We also ordered a portion of Smokey Scrunch Chips loaded with bang bang salt served with chilli spiked avocado mayonnaise to share which were nice, but we didn't finish them, as the mains were quite filling.

The pudding menu looked amazing. Luckily Terre a Terre do a dish that contains a selection of the sweets on the menu which they call Tapas Sweety? - pudding miniatures - for two. This consisted of small portions of the following sweets: Peachy Cheeks - Roasted Amaretto peaches with set 'Calabrian' cream, orange and thyme shortbread, blood orange and Campari granita and an Amaretto syrup. I'm gonna have a full portion of his next time I go. The 'Calabrian' cream is basically a crème brulee tipped out of its pot. Apart from being a bit runnier than I like - it was perfect. A definite 9! The peaches were gorgeous too. Coconut Cupcake Crumble - crammed with banana curd and topped with sweet toasted coconut crumb, served with maple citrus syrup, palm cream, banana ice and sugar snap. Yum! The banana ice was superb! Jasmine Nashi - Warm Nashi pear poached with plum and mirin liqueur, sitting in Asian apricot citrus puree, served with scented sushi and poached apricot, liquorice nori roll and deep-fried pureed anise rice pattie served with sweet jasmine tea. The pear was beautiful, the 'sushi' was apricot wrapped in rice pudding then wrapped in licorice - amazing. Chocolate Brownie in Chocolate sauce. Poor chocolate brownie - it was never gonna compete with the others, nice though it was.

The service was great - the waiters were very knowledgable about the ingredients of each dish.
The overall impression was of excellent food imaginatively (if sometimes a little over-ostentatiously) presented and excellent service.

Will I go back? You bet.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Taste of London

Regents Park

Taste of London was an event held in Regents Park where forty of the capitol's top restaurants set up their stalls allowing you ti sample some of their top dishes. In addition to the restaurants there were plenty of other stalls, demo's by celebrity chefs, cookery lessons and much more.

To sample the food you had to have the event currency, crowns, which you could either buy at the event or order in advance with your tickets.

I worked out that to eat all of the menu items that were suitable for me, as a vegetarian, would cost me around 235 crowns. I had thirty-six, so I had to choose carefully. Most of the choices however, were desserts, there weren't an awful of meat-free main courses so that made it slightly easier.

To start with, I headed towards the Fifteen tent to sample the "creamy risotto of smashed peas, broad beans, mint and ricotta salata." It was a popular dish, which meant about a ten minute wait while they cooked up a couple of batches. It was very nice though - and creamy, as the description said. From there I made my way to Imli, an Indian resturant that offers a modern take on the standard Indian restaurant fayre. They were offering a couple of dishes that were marked suitable for vegetarians (the only ones that I saw marked thus in the whole show - well done Imli.) I selected the "medley of puffed rice, cucmbers and roasted peanuts tossed with assorted tangy chutneys." It was very spicy, and quite tasty. I couldn't have eaten a lot of it, but the portion served was just about right.

So, what next? I fancied something sweet and the "vanilla mille feuille with roasted peaches" from Angela Hartnett at The Connaught fitted the bill perfectly and tasted great.

Passing the Cinnamon Club I noticed that they had a "mango and cardamon brulee" which I just had to try, given my love of brulees. This was certainly different, but very nice reaching a good 8 on the scale.

Finally, I spent the last of my crowns on the "avocado and goats cheese soup" from the Notting Grill tent. As I was slurping it down, Anthony Worrall Thompson walked past. I said hello as he passed and he returned the greeting. The soup wasn't bad - it was a cold soup and I feel it would actually be nicer if it was hot, but it was tasty none the less.

So, that used up all my crowns. During the visit, we also sampled loads of cheeses, dips and sauces, ate an ice cream or two and tried the odd sample of wine. We came away with a few jars of pasta sauce (some of which were given away free) and plenty of leaflets for online shops, cookery courses etc - some of which I may try in the future, so watch this space.

All in all, it was an enjoyable night, the weather was perfect and even British Rail deemed to be on time for that particular night, so getting to and from the event was nice and easy too. Hopefully Taste of London will be repeated next year, so look out for it.