Friday 8 February 2013

Hereford Road

The booking was made for noon and we scurried up to the door almost ten past, but we needn't have rushed. The place was empty save for a lone staffer still mopping around the entrance, who seemed terribly surprised to see us. 

"I have a reservation for noon?"

"But we only just opened!"

Pleasantries out of the way, he rather reluctantly set aside his mop and seated us in the main dining area a short flight of stairs down, which was awash with natural light courtesy of a massive circular rooflight, and the lovely day outdoors. We were informed that the day's menu was still being printed downstairs, but bread and water was provided as we waited.

They hadn't bothered to go over the top with the decor, but the paintings on the wall and the very lush ceiling of the entrance area ensured that the place didn't look completely spartan. 

Plush red booths and deep brown tables, almost like a diner.

I wonder if the people living there peer into the restaurant from time to time to see what's being served
After the menus arrived, we waited an age before our orders were taken. A few groups had shown up in the interim, mostly made up of retirees or middle-aged business people, and there was a rush to settle everyone in. After some frantic waving, we were finally noticed. The both of us were famished having forgone breakfast (I had to rush for class, B hadn't woken up till it was too late), and the bread (Two very generous slices, served with a pat of salted butter. Fresh and moist enough to be soft, but I don't think it was ever meant to be fluffy.) had disappeared soon after we received it, so we were glad when our waiter finally came around. There were three options per course for the set lunch, and we quickly rattled off our choices, but when I mentioned dessert, our waiter stopped me. 

"I'll ah, come back later for that order. If you still want it." 

And with those cryptic words, he left to key in our orders. On hindsight, we should have realized what he meant. 

For starters, I ordered the Grilled Sardines with Parsley and Lemon, and it was exactly as it said on the tin. Only there were three sardines, each as long as a fork. The fish was fresh and I spent some time admiring the silvery blue sheen on each. The flesh was easily stripped away from the bone, and the meat inside was tender without flaking all over the place. 

B ordered Crispy Pork, Dandelion and Mustard, and was sorely disappointed when he realized it was a salad. But the greens were well put together, and after I swapped my fish heads for his sliced gherkins and baby radishes, we cleaned out our plates.

At that point, we came to the stunning realization that after a single course we were almost full. And then the main courses came by. 

My hand, next to the Massive Mackerel. 
Fish being dear on a day to day basis, I hadn't eaten any in a month. Deciding to consume as much Omega 3 as possible in a single sitting,  I chose the Mackerel with Kohlrabi (Which was kind of like a cabbage-turnip), Cucumber and Chervil (French parsley, in common parlance). When it arrived though, the size of it left me absolutely gobsmacked. Head to tail, it covered the full length of my hand and forearm.

Even after a whole fish course already, it wasn't difficult to enjoy this as well. The mackerel was fresh and very well done. The skin was crisp and easily gave way to juicy bits of meat, and on first cut I could see fish oils pooling inside. The salad had a nice, sharp vinegary tang to it, which nicely contrasted the richness of the mackerel, and helped to keep it from being overwhelming. 

B had the Venison Shepherd's Pie, which looked deceptively small but turned out to be exceedingly generous as well. The venison didn't taste too gamey, but was just different enough not to be pleasantly out of the ordinary. 

Full of oily goodness, offset by the crisp salad
I finished a third of the fish before admitting defeat, and the rest of it was very neatly wrapped up in foil for me to take home. I'm contemplating bringing a lunch box wherever I go from now on, just in case there are any more leftovers. The rest of the fish was eventually consumed that evening. My housemates assisted, and we crowded around our tiny kitchen, forks in hand, attacking it until there was just bones left. Even after half a day sitting in the fridge and undergoing a blitzing in the microwave, the fish was still juicy. It was also tasty enough that J ended up licking the plate. 

We had dessert in the end, because I just had to try their sticky date pudding, even if it killed me. It came with a jug of cream, which I completely upended over the top of my pudding. It was dense going, with sizable bites of dates studded throughout. Nearly went into food coma afterward, but it was worth it. 

Pudding, with cream clouds
Service improved markedly as the meal went on, we were pleased to note. After they found their groove the dining service was run efficiently and with care. A shout-out as well to our waiter, who eventually came running down the street after us, my sunglasses in hand, when he realized I had left it behind.  

There were no fancy flourishes at work here, just fresh ingredients cooked with care and skill, at a very reasonable price. Which is all you need really. 

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