Saturday, May 23, 2015

Restaurant Review: Welcome to Winter Degustation Dinner at Parlour Wine Room

I do love a degustation dinner - basically because I really love food and it is an excellent excuse to try lots and lots of different dishes in one meal. Luckily I'm blessed with a group of friends who think the same way so when I heard that Parlour Wine Room was putting on a special Welcome to Winter dinner it wasn't hard to find people to go with me.

It was my first visit to Parlour since it reopened 18 months ago after the fire that destroyed it and Flint Dining Room (home of the best pancakes in the world that I still miss) in 2011. That meant that I had to wander about for a bit as the door has changed to a completely different side of the building! But once in, it was lovely to see how the redesign has quite transformed it, yet it still has the feel of a cosy and intimate space that was one of the characteristics of its first inception.

But onto the food. We were treated to 6 delightful courses.

First up was a Jerusalem artichoke soup with truffled hazelnuts. Everyone immediately commented on the gorgeous smell of this soup. It was rich and creamy, perfectly winter warming but also refined with the touch of truffle oil and roasted hazelnuts.

Second course was grilled Freemantle sardines, fresh horseradish, pickled sobrassada with sauce vierge. This one divided the table as we had a few people who found the sardines just too fishy for their tastes. I adore sardines and loved this dish. The cripsy croutons, spread with salty sobrassada which had been made into a paste really complimented the sardines and the sauce had an acidic note that cut through the richness perfectly. That said, I could hardly taste the horseradish and wondered if it somehow missed my plate.

Next was braised oxtail with wild garlic and spinach mash. I think of oxtail as an intensely rich dish, generally something you would have as the finale. In this case, the oxtail had been braised in white wine rather than the usual red which meant that while it was still rich it didn't have that coat your palate quality it often does. A few people found it too fatty but personally I love that unctuousness.

Wild mushrooms, cauliflower and blue cheese risotto, cauliflower carpaccio and nettle gel came next. I was so excited by the prospect of this dish as mushrooms, cauliflower and blue cheese are three of my favourite things which S doesn't like so we rarely have. It was great. The risotto balanced the cauliflower and blue cheese perfectly - although it was ever so slightly overcooked for my taste. The cauliflower carpaccio was wafer thin slices of cauliflower stem which added a nice crunch. The mushrooms were meaty but a bit lacking in flavour for me and I could take or leave the nettle gel.

The final main was roast haunch of wild venison, celeriac puree, quince jelly sauce grand veneur. OH MY GOD. I loved this. The venison was perfectly rare. The celeriac puree rich and indulgent. The crispy root vegetable chips gave crunch. The quince jelly offered a sweetness that countered the other flavours and the sauce grand veneur, well I could have licked it off the plate. I glanced around the table as we were finishing this course and noticed that everyone had absolutely scraped their plates clean.

Dessert was dark chocolate and coffee terrine, dulche de leche, peanut shortbread, vanilla bean ice cream. Ahead of its arrival there was some discussion on the table about how people weren't that excited because they didn't love dark chocolate and/or coffee. One tiny bite however and all those views changed. The intense dark terrine somehow managed to avoid the bitter note that people had indicated they didn't like. It contrasted beautifully with the peanut shortbread crumbs and dulche de leche sauce and the vanilla ice cream provided a sweet foil to the intensity of the rest of the dish. Again plates were super clean at the end.

The boys at our table had the matched wines. Each was unusual, either varietals or techniques we had not previously heard of but they all commented how each was a brilliant match for the food. The staff were also great at explaining what we were eating and why the wine had been chosen to match it.

The biggest downside to the evening for me was that it was a very late night. The time had been advertised as 6.30pm for 7pm but our first course didn't arrive until about 7.20pm and with a few delays in between that meant we got our dessert at about 10pm. While that might be ok on a Friday or Saturday night, the dinner was on a Wednesday. Allowing for a little digestion time made for a very late night and not so happy Lisa at work on Thursday.

We did sense that the kitchen struggled at times to feed an entire restaurant at the same time. Function catering is quite different to running a usual staggered restaurant kitchen and there were moments where some of the plating suffered, the ox tail was a good example where half of the table (including me) had beautifully presented plates while the other side of the table looked a little more rushed out.

But overall it was an extremely enjoyable evening of very good food and I'd be keen to go back and try their a la carte menu and a few of their famous cocktails.

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