This post has long been waiting; I wanted to have proper time to digest (mentally) the consequence of this experience - well, and I moved to Singapore and would have been too wistful too finish writing this at that early stage of my settling in. Anyway, before I totally forget the tastes and textures of this landmark restaurant, I'd better write about it.
A drive to Bray north of London on a grey wet morning (what's new?) reminded me of the road trips that Leon and I used to take in Canberra. Well, in Australia the highways don't look so depressing and there's usually blue sky. I like travelling with Leon because he puts up with my Princess-petulism with regard to hungriness, thirstiness and the need to go to the toiletness.
We celebrated with a champagne toast to welcome in 30; a nice sweet cava.
As was the current fashion, we had two types of butter: salted and unsalted. You can tell by the fleur de sel sprinkled on top which is which. Leon ate here previously when I was in Amsterdam, but still elected to partake of the Tasting Menu. He felt there was still more to explore in the flavours and textures.
Pacojet. Anything that can be frozen can be made into a sorbet/ice-cream. This had a very subtle flavour. The cold numbed the mouth so that the mustard spiciness was very much subdued and only the nuttiness and hint of bitter came through.
Then a small plate of jelly of quail, langoustine cream and parfait of foie gras. The brown gel is made from quail broth and orange quenelle is the foie gras. The foam is made from langoustine broth and cream. I'm trying to remember the flavours but it's been over six months and there were too many dishes. All I can recall from this dish are the creamy and jelly textures contrasting with the savouriness of everything else.
I'm always on edge with the almond flavour/smell. The smell is due to non-toxic cyanide compounds in the almond itself. The skins of almonds need to be cooked to eliminate the toxic ones. We've frequently been told that hydrogen cyanide smells like almonds, i.e. the last thing one smells before dying of HCN poisoning is almonds.
All the mains seemed to have the accents presented twice in two textures. Now that I think of it, I'm sure the broth for the snail porridge was made from (Joselito?) ham bones. We had almond cream and almond fluid gel, cherry sauce and cherry.
"But where's the salmon?", you may ask. It's in the black square: a resilient lightly liquoriced casing made from some sort of agar/gel. Break it open and perfectly poached salmon emerges, delicately perfumed with liquorice. Who would have thought it works, but it does. Personally, I love eating black food. It seems so unnatural and perhaps slightly poisonous; like taking drugs.
The last of the mains finished, we had an in-between course refresher of Hot and Cold Tea (2005). Obviously a perennial favourite, it was just a ordinary looking cup of amber liquid served in a squat glass. The waiter turned the glass 'just-so' and asked us to sip from an exact point on the rim. Simultaneously, two streams of hot and cold tea entered my mouth - both slightly gelled, what an experience!
This must have been prepared at the last minute with the partition removed just before serving. The viscosity of both fluids would have retarded mixing and heat transfer from hot to cold.
We also had Mrs Marshall's Margaret Cornet. Apparently it was she who invented the first ice-cream making machine. Blumenthal is trying to revive old recipes and this is supposed to be the very first ice-cream recipe.
I love having a bit of white powder at the tail end of dinner. Brightens the senses and wakes the mind, I say.
bavarois with the mango layer on top. The squares of blackcurrent cube, tuile and blackcurrent sorbet repeat the single-flavour multiple-texture motif of this meal. The green garnish had piney overtones again. The pinkish squares, I think, are lychee flavoured. There's a streak of mango puree to the left.
We liked the squishy whisky wine gum; very whimsical. We got complimentary menus to take home, each sealed with wax.
~£90 a head without wine for the 12-course degustation menu.
*The orange square is jelly made from golden beetroot. The red square is jelly made from blood oranges.