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Sunday, 29 November 2009

Review - Hibiscus

Simultaneous business trips to London on my wife's birthday provided the excuse for a visit to Hibiscus earlier in the month.

I'd booked it a couple of months ago so turning up and discovering the tasting menu available midweek was exciting, discovering the prices had been increased since booking wasn't. Not that it was a huge increase (£5 per head on the à la carte) but did have Fiona pondering the notion of prior advice of the change, especially as they had my email address; what can I say – she's a lawyer.

Anyway, that was a talking point and certainly didn't detract from the meal; predictably we opted for the tasting menu which was adapted from the àlc with a few augmentations and kicked off with a chilled Hibiscus soda with spherified pineapple and black pepper; it reminded both of us (pleasantly) of an unnamed drink from childhood holidays in Brittany.

Then came a single, monstrous scallop with a granny smith and hazelnut crust and a pork pie sauce; all lovely though there could have been more of the unctuous sauce. In fact, I would happily have had a glass of the sauce on it's own. Next up was a ravioli of cevennes onion with a salad of grelot onion, granny smith and a spherified potato "gnocchi", I'm a huge fan of the onion/potato combination and the addition of apple enhanced the flavours; I was also impressed by how distinct the two types of onion were, both sweet and oniony but also individual and complimentary.

The following course was red mullet accented with an onion salad, bone marrow and onion toast, smoked butter and civet sauce which stood up to the sprout leaves which tarnished the plate (entirely a personal prejudice, Fi happily relieved me of the offending leaves, strange woman). The bone marrow/onion toast was amazing and went far too quickly – I'd have loved more but Fiona wondered if it may be too rich for a larger portion, no matter the course was a triumph and left us looking forward to the next.

Which was a disappointment, Fine de Claire oysters poached in their shell with a shallot and sherry vinegar gel and lemon caviar; I have no idea why anyone feels the need to cook oysters but I also don't have Claude Bosi's accolades so we tried with an open mind. I really wish we hadn't bothered. The oyster was fine, spoiled slightly by the poaching but the gel was horrificly acidic, the flavour dominated everything else with the shallots and lemon caviar undetectable. I hope the gel was made my some commis on a stage as whoever did make it has a problem with their palate.

The next course resumed the otherwise excellent balance of the meal; roast foie gras with fig compote and raspberry vinegar purée. It was great – though I think I'm getting a bit bored of foie gras; that really does sound louché doesn't it? Ah well, on with the Grouse...

Which was what was next, roast Scottish Grouse with a sourdough puree, sweetcorn and curry gel and black pepper oil; the grouse was cooked to perfection and not too high, the sourdough puree and the gel complimenting it perfectly.

For desert there was a granny smith puree, sweet celeriac jelly and cream of chestnut which wasn't bad but didn't make as much of an impression as the preceding courses and then came a mystery desert. To be honest I'm a bit over the whole "we'll tell you what it is once you've finished" thing but this time it was fun. So, we had a mystery tart with a pear sauce and a vanilla & smoked caramel ice-cream; the accompaniments were good but the tart was perplexing, slightly grainy in texture but beautifully put together. We wondered on chestnut but as it was in the course before I decided it must have been nutmeg; turns out it was parsnip, just not like any parsnips I've ever had before.

Throw in a couple of Kirs, a bottle of dry Aussie Riesling and a lovely Savigny les Beaune and we have a lovely evening; I'm still not sure about the room, it felt uncomfortable slightly but I'm not sure why, it didn't spoil anything though. Interestingly my wife's now keen on spherification and gels – she's always been unsure at my home attempts – so it looks like I can get the algin etc. out again.