I recently made a commitment to myself to eat better, not only in terms of healthiness but also with respect to the standard of food I eat. Choosing quality over quantity, which also helps the health aspect in preventing me from eating twice as much pasta as I normally would at home simply because it’s been served to me in a restaurant. Of course, there are two challenges in realising this resolution. The first is the quality of the food i cook. Well that’s ok, I’m already working hard to become a really good cook. The second is my salary. Working for a charity means that regular patronage of high end restaurants is an unrealistic goal. So I am exploring a range compromises. Groupon vouchers, Toptable discounts and the like. Even Michelin starred restaurants offer set lunch menus at a significantly reduced rate. Will I experience the same quality as the full price clientele? There’s only one way to find out.
I began my investigation last weekend at Hush Brasserie. The restaurant offers a 50% discounted set menu, not including drinks. Diners can choose to have two or three courses, and there are three options per course.
I’d made an early reservation as I had plans later that evening, so the restaurant was relatively quiet when I arrived. I was quickly presented with the wine list and the set menu. I opted for a glass of minervois, chateau montoulier, languedoc, France 2010. Food I’m good at, wine I’m not, so it was red and yummy and that’s about as much as I can say about it.
I decided to choose a starter and a main, reasoning that I could always change my mind later and treat myself to a dessert if I so wished. As an entrée the leek and gruyère tart with rocket was a must. It was also impossible for me to resist the pork belly with spring greens an apple sauce for my main course. I will admit to eying off the sticky toffee pudding to finish my meal…just in case I felt I needed it, of course.
My first course was not as I anticipated. I assumed that the filling of the tart would be set. Instead it was more of a case of the leeks having been cooked in or mixed with a gruyère sauce and place in the pastry case. I also expected the gruyère to be quite prominent. However there was an abundance of leeks that had been perfectly softened and were so full of flavour that they were very much the dominant aspect of the dish. Also, while the sauce was beautifully rich and creamy the gruyère had been added sparingly, so was more an essence than a genuine flavour. The pastry was thin and crisp and had a rich buttery taste. It was a nice dish and a good start to the meal.
I was pleased that upon finishing my starter I was asked whether I would like my main immediately or to have a break between courses. In general I have to say that the service I received was excellent. I chose to have a little break to focus on enjoying my glass of wine.
After about 15 minutes my second course arrived. The first thing that struck me was the presentation. While it looked pretty, it was a little impractical in terms of being able to access the sauces to use with the different elements on the plate (which disappointingly was chipped in two places). Still, the food was really good. The spring greens had clearly been cooked in butter. They were vibrantly coloured and cooked to the perfect consistency, soft but still terai if a slight resistances. The gravy was heavily seasoned with rosemary, which had been a little too roughy chopped. Unfortunately the restaurant was quite cool, which meant the gravy lost its heat too quickly and became increasingly congealed as it did so. The apple sauce was fascinating. Far more savoury than any I’ve had before (generally I don’t like apple sauce because I find it too sweet an accompaniment) and I’m certain the recipe included pears, bringing a really unusual but delicious dimension to this condiment. The pork belly was mouthwateringly succulent and had a robust flavour which was enhanced by the infusion of fennel. I was a little pleased with myself for being able to correctly identify this seasoning before finding the fennel seeds embedded within the flesh. The crackling in the pork was golden and crisp and so perfect looking that I saved it until the very end.
Having finished my two courses my thoughts turned to dessert. The sticky toffee pudding was calling to me. Besides, I still had wine in my glass. When placing my order I was given the choice between vanilla ice-cream and crème fraiche to accompany my pudding. Unable to decide I asked for a recommendation, and was offered servings of both. As I said, excellent service. The vanilla ice-cream was beautifully richly flavoured. You know it’s going to be good when you can see the vanilla seeds dispersed throughout the ice-cream. The crème fraiche brought a really interesting contrast in flavours, and in and of itself was really lovely. However it was just too powerful to compliment the pudding effectively. The pudding itself was lovely, soft, and moist, although personally I like my sticky toffee puddings a little gooier.
I thought that this was the end of my meal, but no. As there was still time left on my booking I was offered a complimentary coffee or glass of champagne. Naturally I took the champagne. Did I mention the excellent service?!
Despite a few minor hiccups I had a really lovely meal at Hush Brasserie, and would definitely go there again.