Our evening starts with a welcome move to a slightly warmer table after being allocated one near to the entrance, then an explanation of the paired drinks option from the excellent sommelier. In the end we decided against this and went for a bottle of lovely South African red (again on the sommelier's recommendation) before the eating began.
The menu is presented in the form of chapters, starting with Childhood, through Sea and Land before The End. Ahead of all this though are the snacks. And what snacks! I counted six different one-or-two-bite morsels, including a fabulously-fishy crispy cod skin, a dainty slab of polenta-coated rabbit and a 'Storeo:' a squid ink biscuit with a fish mousse which looked like the popular American biscuit and even retained a bit of their sweetness too.
Another bonus course of a foamy veloute was served up before the first true starter of bread and dripping. Inspired by head chef (and fellow Nottinghamian!) Tom Sellers' love of dipping his bread in beef fat from his Sunday roast, this starter was chunks of sourdough bread which one dipped in the aforementioned dripping. The dripping however took the form of an edible candle, which was duly lit and sent forth it's mildly-meaty aroma. The two accompanying jars of beef extract and a chutney added an extra-beefy hit and a welcome touch of sharpness respectively.
The second starter was gin and onion and comprised crunchy onion and an onion marmalade sitting in a bowl of Bermondsey gin-infused consomme. The onions brought to mind the smell of hotdog vans (this is a good thing) while the gin packed a real punch, with the overall effect being rather wonderful.
|Gin and onion|
Childhood done, we were on to the Sea. The icy, champagne foam of 'razor clam' was a little bizarre, but the sliced scallop sashimi was much better. The star of this chapter however was 'foraged ramen.' A warm, tasty broth containing cep mushrooms and served with a plate full of various mini pickles.
An optional extra course of 'risotto' was available, which we chose to share. I'm glad we did, as it was delicious, but also incredibly indulgent. Instead of rice, finally chopped celeriac formed the basis of this dish and it was covered by a velvety sauce and some shavings of white truffle. At some point (by now I was losing track) another unmentioned dish appeared, this time an orange-crusted brioche with some foie gras butter.
The main courses of Land were up next, kicking off with 'potato and coal:' silky-smooth mashed potato topped with various crunchy vegetable discs and dressed with a charcoal oil. 'Venison' was to follow, including a strip of pink loin meat, some crunchy shoulder and a belting meatball of offal. This was all held together by a bilberry sauce. Or was it blackberry? As we'd now finished our bottle of wine and were on to another carafe, I forget some of the finer details.
Our final surprise dish (a palate-cleansing combo of milk ice-cream and lemon) preceded The End. Three very different desserts starting with rum (or brandy, things were hazy by now) ice-cream coated in candyfloss, rose ice-cream with slices of artichoke and ending with my personal favourite of a dill sorbet accompanying almond ice-cream and some crunchy candied almonds. Phew! We finished the meal off with a really good coffee and petit fours, and waddled off back toward London Bridge.
|Almond and dill|
What a meal it was too. By the end I think we'd got to nineteen or twenty courses of varying sizes, shapes, textures and tastes - enough to leave us feeling full but not uncomfortably so. Service was excellent throughout. None of the waits between courses were overly long, indeed some of them were welcome relief from the sheer bombardment of food. The whole experience took around three hours from start to finish, so if you visit for dinner then get there early. As mentioned before, the sommelier was excellent and both wines he suggested for us were really good whilst being toward the lower-end of the price range we asked for.
I feel like I've waffled on a bit here and to be honest I have, but it's warranted. This was a food journey of both quantity and quality and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening. A meal that will live long in the memory.