The Mandeville Hotel, Mandeville Place, London W1U 2BE
Price: £119 for a five-course tasting menu
When my parents were about to visit me last weekend, I started looking for a nice but different English experience. I wanted to avoid the crowds of the Tower of London or the screaming teen-agers at the London’s Eye. Luckily enough, I bumped into an offer on a big online ‘experience retailer’ for a five-course British taste menu.
It sounded like a good deal and so last Friday night we ended up at the Reform Social & Grill. I admit I expected something more from the venue. The place looks like a pub and the five-course cutlery does not entirely match the brownish wall paper and the bare wooden tables. I believe they tried to give it a bit of an atmosphere via a shy candle light attempt. Unfortunately, given the grim surroundings, the low lights and the candles just make it hard to see what you actually have in your plate. I therefore apologise in advance for the dark images.
But let’s talk about food. Here is the menu we tasted on that night, based on English geography:
Cornwall: Cornish Crab soup served with crab Cornish pasty
Oxfordshire: Lamb faggots served with apple and parsnip salad and stilton dressing
Yorkshire: Battered Whitby cod cheeks served with chips and curry sauce (yes, Fish and Chips)
Lake District: Derwentwater (roast duck, Cumberland sauce, braised cabbage, pan haggaty)
Scotland: Clootie Pudding with cream ice cream and whisky sauce
Fish won all over the table. The meat dishes, both the lamb and the duck, were surprisingly dry. Moreover, for some obscure reason, the faggots were served with a crisp in the middle which gave the plate an unpleasant feeling for pub food (see photo above).
The crab soup was absolutely delicious, very much faithful to the Cornish flavours. If you focus on its rich taste, you can actually forget the gloom of the pub-looking restaurant and have a quick trip on the Cornish shores.
And then, my favorite part, surprisingly: the Fish and Chips.
The batter was light and the peas puree beneath the fish was creamy while the peas we still firm. And there it was, that little touch that managed to summarise Britain in one plate: a bit of curry sauce. The fish was served with chips, peas and…curry sauce! Absolutely wonderful, I am not entirely sure how but the curry sauces actually matched the rest of the flavours. Where else in the world can battered fish and chips be served with curry sauce, bringing West and East together in such a naive representation? In the UK only.
And it is with this image that I want to leave you this evening: with all the people’s colours running, laughing, travelling and working in London. The center of the world, that – maybe a bit boldly – can be condensed on a plate, thanks to a bit of battered fish with a touch of curry sauce.