I have had the pleasure of eating at some pretty amazing places this weekend. Kitchin and Martin Wishart are probably well considered to be ‘the best’, but you won’t see me blogging about either of them. After all, what could I possibly say about either of them that hasn’t been said before? Yes, the food was excellent, yes I’m glad we dined at both of them, but aside from churning out the usual gushing crap, what else could I say? The whole thought of trying to be clever and trying to tell you about the complex food combinations and balancing acts simply scares and bores me!
And, if I’m honest, it’s partly because neither restaurant blew me away. Maybe it’s because the sommelier at Sat Bains was the best I’ve ever come across, because the service at Dinner was super slick and because the food at St John was amazing… Of course, some of the dishes at both Kitchin and MW were fantastic; razor clams at Kitchin were perfection in a clamshell and a beetroot macaroon with horseradish cream at MW was a culinary masterpiece, but my experiences, on a whole, did not blow me away.
And, as I sat at The Bon Vivant (a recommendation from one of our favourite barmen; someone who knows how to mix the perfect drink for me and therefore understands my taste), I pondered on the fact that my experience had far surpassed those of Kitchin and MW. Yes, ok, the food was not as complex and the decor wasn’t as pristine but the atmosphere (and waiter) ensured that I was totally comfortable and the food was exactly what we were after (good quality, well presented dishes for a fraction of the price at both Kitchin and MW).
Impressed to find a number (10?) of champagnes served by the glass we decided to splurge a little and went for an aperitif of our favourite Veuve Cliquot. At a tenner a glass, this was some treat, but with reasonably priced bottles of wine (including another favourite of ours – Nero D’Avola for £18), we felt that the budget could be stretched a little.
Starters are served as ‘bites’ or full starter portions and although the bites would have made for easy sharing food, we decided to order full starters each. My brie was breaded in panko breadcrumbs and deep fried making the cheese perfectly gooey. It’s not a starter I would usually go for, as it’s all a bit safe, but I wanted to try the panzanella salad it was served with (mainly because it was the freshest sounding aspect of a very rich menu). And, it was pretty safe, but it was, well, you know, nice! The freshness of the salad balanced out the richness of the cheese and it was an ample (but not daunting) serving.
Gav went for haggis pakora; a real fusion dish (although this time there were only two cuisines, not the three I had in my dish with Japanese breadcrumbs, French brie and Tuscan salad). There were three decent chunks of haggis which was well spiced and suited the pakora coating well. They came with a raita which had a bit of a kick to it, but as haggis is hardly the hottest dish in the world, the heat of the chilli in the raita wasn’t overkill.
Onto mains and I had to go with another of my favourites; the venison. One big fat lump of tasty, juicy, pink meat came with a crust of pistachios and hazelnuts. Served on a bed of kale (I think) and one fondant potato, it was a perfectly satisfying serving.
Gav had duck which, again, was pink and tasty. The menu had said that it would come with macaroni, which it did; a bizarre but Scottish addition to the dish and a good alternative to the standard potato! There was plenty of veg on the dish too, including a cute little bundle of green beans wrapped up in some pancetta.
I have no idea how Gav fitted in dessert, but I guess the chocolate torte with pistachio ice cream was too much for him to resist… and rightly so. Not only did it look good (have you spotted the beautiful flowers on there?), it tasted good, and was another rich dish. We rounded things off with an Americano and an espresso which came with dinkie petite fours; a nice touch.
With a bill of around £84 this is exceptionally good food for the price; you’d be hard pushed to find something of the same value in Sheffield, never mind about a capital city. It was brilliant and my experience both here and at The Dogs is making me question why I would spend £70 a head ever again…