Sunday, 27 February 2011


Last week was epic. After a seven course tasting menu at Trishna in Marylebone on Monday with the inimitable Wine Chap, Tom Harrow, who invited a group of food bloggers to slurp their way through 30 wines in order to find the perfect matches for his soon-to-launch 'Not Your Average Curry Night', on Tuesday I was invited to Bonds in the City, to review head chef Barry Tonks' modern European fare.

The restaurant resides in the Threadneedles Hotel. Built a tuppence's throw away from the Bank of England in 1856, the hotel originally served, unsurprisingly, as a bank. Its former life is still evident, from the vaulted ceilings and Corinthian columns in the restaurant, to the long, varnished bar, where the tills used to dwell. Speaking of bars, as I sit to sup my welcome cocktail – Champagne poured over rose Eaux de Vie, finished with fashionable goji berry liqueur – I'm told that the hotel has an 'honesty bar', from which guests are at liberty to take a drink in the hope that their honesty impels them to make a note of it in the accompanying record book. I rather prefer the idea of a 'dishonesty bar'.

Whilst admiring the impressive glass-domed ceiling in the lobby, which recalls St Paul's, I'm joined by four fellow food bloggers. We take to calling each other by our blogging names: Maison Cupcake, Cherie City, London Cocktail Guide and Fuss Free Flavours, and are soon ushered by a waiter wearing mauve across the American walnut wooden floors, to our round table. The room is populated with unquiet Americans. I can smell truffle oil in the air – which, in such an affluent part of the city, seems apt: the savoury smell of success. The sommelier appears and gives us a detailed run down of the wines we're about to imbibe, many of which, I'm pleased to discover, are English.

The meal begins with peasant bread and pleasantly salted butter, enjoyed with Balfour Brut Rosé 2006, which could confidently hold its own beside the best rosé Champagnes. To start, I opt for smoked eel. Its slick skin gleams like a painted nail, and the smokiness fills my lungs before I even cut into its swan white interior. Its bacon-like flavour is complimented by a scoop of horseradish cream, though I was hoping for more kick from it – the cream rendering it too mild. The eel marries well with the vinegary beetroot and mini mountain of cubed potato, and proves a good match for my buttery Plantagenet Chardonnay.

Whilst enjoying another English wine offering: Primrose Hill Tenterdon Estate Bacchus 2009, with its aromatic nose of elderflower, cut grass and gooseberry, we are presented with a crab salad and bruschetta 'inter' course. Generously doused in sesame oil, the dish is crunchy, textured and wonderfully refreshing. Talk soon turns to Fuss Free Flavours' latest hobbyhorse: the Mucky Book Club, which takes place every other Sunday at the Ship pub in Wandsworth. Founded by FFF, books read so far include The Delta of Venus by Anaïs Nin and the infamous Story of O. I suggest that Lady Chatterley's Lover might be a good book to tackle, but FFF doesn't deem it mucky enough.

I digress. My main event is a sizeable square of slow cooked pork belly served with apple canon balls and garlic-fueled spinach purée. Sprinkled with sea salt, the skin is satisfyingly savoury, while the pork beneath it is rich, but slightly too fatty – said pig could have done with doing a few more piggy push-ups before he met his meaty end. The accompanying chorizo risotto however, is stunning. Served in a dinky black Le Creuset dish, the al dente rice has bite, while the sauce is meaty and full of flavour, taking me straight to Spain. The wine to match it is an exciting discovery: Denbies Redlands 2006 – a blend of Pinot Noir and Dornfelder made minutes from where I grew up in Surrey. It has a savoury approach and a juicy, red fruited palate with a licorice finish – easily the best English red I've ever had.

After such indulgence I can barely move, but am told excellent things about the cheese trolly, so feel it rude not to sample its delights. The waitress is a cheese fiend, and gives me an exhaustive explanation of each. I opt for Beaufort, Blue, Pont l'Evêque and Epoisse, the last of which, when drizzled with white truffle honey, makes for a sublime, other worldy flavour experience. The sweet-savoury playfulness of the truffle honey matched with the gooey Epoisse has me flinging my head back, St. Teresa-like, in the ecstasy of it all. Perhaps I should pen a short story on it and submit it anonymously to the Mucky Book Club?

1 comment:

  1. A delightful evening... lovely to meet you! I thoroughly enjoyed the British wines, I need to check out some of that pink fizzy stuff we had (you can tell I am not up on wine....) Hope to bump into you again, possibly at Mucky Book Club!!!!