Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The breezeblock of disappointment shatters the window of contentment.

I have returned from the mini-break intact and without having a major argument. (Or even a minor one, actually, apart from the strop I threw on realising Boyfriend had not thought to pack smart clothes). We stayed at a small hotel in the Cotswolds, where in return for wallet-weepingly high prices we were pampered to within an inch of our lives.

We had champagne ready in the room when we arrived, which we drank in the jacuzzi (tacky? yes. awesome? YES!) and a four-posted bed hand-carved by some horny-handed artisan in 1657. It was so high off the ground that you had to use a stool to climb into it, which I think is possibly the best thing ever.

The only slight disappointment was our dinner at Cotswold House. The dining room looks beautiful, but (and sorry to come over all Michael Winner) the maitre d' sat us at a table right in the entrance, and next to the waiter's station. It was also clearly a table for four rather than two, so we had to shout at each other across a foot and a half divide, while waiters and people on their way to the loo bodged us. (It's the table at the front of the picture here.) So, feeling like a bit of diva, I asked to move to the corner.

We had some gorgeous starters (scallops for him, ham hock and foie gras terrine for me), mine served with a brioche that looked uncannily like a loofah. You'll be pleased to know there was no guinea fowl to provoke an argument, so he had beef.... which admittedly was what I wanted, but no matter. I had some venison with endives and... well... this aerated grey foamy squidgy thing that looked like a breeze block and tasted a bit like black truffle. It bemused me. I couldn't remember it being on the list of accompaniments, and it looked positively unearthly. When the waiter arrived back, I made (for me) the courageous move of asking him what it was.

"It's a shittake foam," he said. I must have looked nonplussed, because he continued. "Did you like it? A lot of people say they don't." Well, that knocked me back. I bit back the response, "so why is it on the menu, then?" and made a mental note to be more wary of foam-reliant restaurants in future. You can tell how dispirited I was by the mushroom breezeblock if I tell you we didn't have pudding - or even a cheese course.

Oh dear, look at that. I start off talking about my lovely weekend break and end up waffling on about cheese. Still, you didn't want to hear about the boring romantic stuff, did you?


Blogger Pen Pusher said...

Puddings are only an inevitably disappointing and futile attempt to prolong the pleasures of the meal in my experience. I had some great cheese last week though, at the Ambassadors - new season Vacherin Mont d'Or, a impossibly goaty goat that was trying hard to liberate itself from its charcoaly rind and a mysterious (but fairly innocuous) blue. The only sadness was that the plate came with fruit bread. I have a very British attachment to biscuits.

11/28/2006 4:23 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

I'm with you all the way - give me starters over puddings every time. In fact, I think my ideal meal would be just starters.

11/29/2006 12:30 pm  
Blogger Pen Pusher said...

I was struck with that revelation myself a week or so ago. I can't believe it has taken me so long to realise that all the exciting bits of the menu are croweded at the top, where there is no obligation for prosaic accompaniments or inoffensive sauces. Also, you don't often find foie gras as a main course in this country, more's the pity.

11/29/2006 3:44 pm  
Anonymous Laura said...

aimee once came up with the idea of having a restaurant that was just starters and desserts. which i thought was great. even better, would be just starters and a whole range of soup. that would be my ideal.

11/29/2006 11:32 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

ooh ooh ooh I had foie gras this week in sushi - yes, with chives in a load of maki. Oddly, it worked really really well with rice.

A fair few restaurants do have menus entirely composed of starters, I suppose, except they call them 'sharing plates'. But if the evidence of Joel Robuchon and Maze is anything to go by, it's just an excuse to charge you £10 for one piece of ravioli.

11/30/2006 12:02 pm  
Blogger Pen Pusher said...

No no no, that's cheating. Sharing plates carry the whiff of Wetherspoon's. I think the whole excitement of the starter stems from its apparently marginal status - it doesn't carry over if you can choose more than one. The agonising over the soused mackerel with beetroot or the chitterling terrine is the whole joy of things.

Foie gras with sticky rice? Bleugh.

11/30/2006 12:43 pm  
Anonymous lb said...

I once had an actual foie in a Bordelaise-type restaurant. I mean, a proper lobe, or whatever you call it, of delicately fatted liver, sitting on the plate with a garnish of some kind of meaty jelly and nasturtium flowers. It was nice, but a bit rich to eat in those quantities.

And the service? Oh, rude, of course. But professional.

11/30/2006 4:12 pm  
Blogger "said" Woman said...

Hmmmm...boring romantic stuff or shittake foam? I'll take one serving of the boring romantic stuff, thank-you very much.

11/30/2006 7:03 pm  
Anonymous pia said...

I completely agree...a meal of starters would be wonderful. They don't carry the pressure of being the 'main event', and they can just cover one base really well rather than trying, as main courses sometimes do, to be all-things-to-everyman. I love starters almost as much as the 'mini meals' they serve at those posh buffets. Mmmmmm.

12/04/2006 12:57 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

Don't get me started on canapes. Now that Christmas is on the approach, I am planning to make free vol au vents about 50 per cent of my diet.

I had the best canape I've ever had last week - a mini beef wellington with grainy mustard. It was a mouthful of beauty.

12/04/2006 1:03 pm  
Anonymous paul haine said...

Isn't a meal of starters basically just what you get at a Tapas restaurant?

12/04/2006 8:45 pm  
Anonymous galatea said...

Nah, tapas is what you get at a tapas restaurant. And lovely though chorizo, olives et al are, they can never be a match for proper starters like baked camembert, foie gras and brioche or scallops with coconut and coriander.

12/04/2006 9:01 pm  
Anonymous lb said...

Yes, though perhaps this is where Chopas (shudder) come in.

12/05/2006 2:09 pm  
Anonymous Tom said...

I'm afraid to say that before Aimee, Antony Worrall Thompson decided that a restaurant that serves just starters and puddings was a great idea. It was his first restaurant (Menage a Trois) in Knightsbridge. He is of course - awesome. Anyone that can create a recipe that caused a media storm and is now only available with a disclaimer deserves a round of applause: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/

12/05/2006 2:17 pm  
Anonymous A Perv said...

"Sorry for coming over all Michael Winner". This made me laugh.

12/05/2006 9:13 pm  
Blogger galatea said...

Yeah, I doublechecked I hadn't written "all over". Then I checked again.

12/05/2006 9:17 pm  
Anonymous A Perv said...

well that and the fact that you probably should have apologised a long time ago

12/06/2006 12:39 am  
Blogger Paul B said...

Canapes piss me off. Had office xmas party the other day and there was no proper food, just underlings wandering around with trays of little bits of cold fish in pastry and glazed turnip and stuff. No wonder everyone was utterly trollied by about 9 o'clock, no-one had eaten anything!

They should have just had a big trip to the chippy, in my opinion.

12/06/2006 3:05 pm  

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