Today, my friends, I am taking you to Nom Central. The wonderful and expertly coiffed G turned 21 and, as the ultimate treat, we had the tasting menu at Anthony's.
There were thirteen in our party altogether, and the attention to detail, the level of knowledgeable service and mouthwatering presentation given equally to all of us was absolutely impeccable. Cannot commend the staff highly enough. Special mention goes to the dashing head waiter from Barcelona who could probably have told us where every ingredient was locally sourced from but instead gamely put up with many, many El Clásico jokes; you are brilliant. You are the bees' knees. Keep winning at life.
The mood lighting and tasteful minimalist cream interior set the relaxed mood, punctuated by swift service; all eight courses had about fifteen minutes between each and no-one was left waiting. Accompanied by approximately a bottle and a half of wine each, this is what we ate:
1. Duck confit, butternut squash purée, hazelnut powder.
Purée in this case means absolutely 100% smooth as a baby's bottom. It was like a zingy set yoghurt, offsetting the coarseness of the gamey duck. The hazelnut emphasised how sweet the duck was and tasted like Christmas on its own.
2. Onion risotto, parmesan air, espresso.
The parmesan came in a foam which oozed a mature aroma but, if anything, made the onion stronger. The espresso cut through the creamy sauce and created a wonderful residue which lingered long in the mouth after the course had gone.
3. Moroccan spiced scallop, apricot reduction, chocolate reduction, pistacho sauce, chocolate prawn cracker.
The point in the meal where the waiter definitely explained what everything was, but tipsy time meant it was more fun to discover the flavours yourself on the tongue. The soft scallop's delicate flavours were not overpowered by the spices, especially when teamed with the juicy apricot.
4. Smoked haddock, manchego, white sauce, chicken skin, chestnuts.
My absolute favourite of the evening. The white sauce was poured over the manchego, creating a theatrical level of smoke and showing off the nutty, meaty qualities of the smoked fish. To quote G's mother, 'Oh God, I've died and gone to heaven!'
5. John Dory, chorizo, whelks, butternut squash purée.
Ah well, you can't have it all. Unfortunately, no-one seemed to be a fan of the texture of the whelks; they were a little rubbery and a discernible flavour was lacking. Also, a slight sense of déja vu with the reappearance of the squash was a shame. The chorizo, however, was gorgeous, meaty and oily and wonderfully punchy, making the John Dory seem almost smoked. Yum. I would have had more of the chorizo than anything else!
6. Pork belly, pig's tail, pig's ear, sushi prawn.
This is a personal bugbear, but I was hoping for red meat for the 'main'. Not to detract from the loveliness of three different types of pork, however. This dish was particularly immaculately presented and, through experiencing different parts of the same animal on the same plate, it helped us appreciate the subtle flavours throughout the little meat we actually got. The prawn was similarly juicy and delicious.
7. Bulgur pudding, vanilla sponge, cardamom milk, apple sorbet.
The first of our two desserts would have been a posh rice pudding if it wasn't for the milk being sent down from heaven and the bulgur being as soft and starchy as the risotto we had eaten before. It definitely had an aroma of vanilla, rather than sugar, and the sorbet (while miraculously staying cold?!) tasted like extra apple juice had been syringed into the middle of it. About a melon ball's worth of appley concentration and I am salivating while writing this.
8. Peppermint chocolate cheesecake, salt toffee foam, brittle, almonds.
The cheesecake mousse came in two piped tubes about the size of a piece of chalk, but were surprisingly thick and substantial considering their size. The peppermint oil was particularly wonderful, offsetting the sweetness of the toffee foam. The cake was completed by the crunch of the nuts and brittle, similarly sweet and satisfying.
Lordy. Save those pennies, create a special occasion and go go go! Perhaps price-wise it might be sensible to go for the á la carte - and certainly the taste won't disappoint - but portion-wise we came away from the tasting menu not just feeling full but like we'd experienced a myriad of cookery delights and skills. This sort of place is deservedly a one-off, and definitely something to be experienced. The tastes will linger on for weeks afterwards.
19 Boar Lane
0113 245 5922