I am definitely of the opinion that once you have tasted ‘good’ food, then ‘excellent’ food is something very special. So we had several excuses to eat out again, my birthday of course, new job, feeling happy, lockdown easing, I was desperate to actually ‘get out’ being in the class of ‘at risk, stay at home at all costs’, the last two years have been like a prison cell.
It’s a stunning day on the 2nd of my Padstow trip, the sun is shinning on the Estuary, the ferry started crossing to ‘Rock’ earlier, a trip I am taking later to try another eatery. Last night was epic, thanks to Senior Sous Chef Sam Bessant who was heading the brigade at Caffe Rojano, and to Jade and Mauro who’s front of house skills were to be applauded, more of that another day!
Hey Justin, fancy a trip to another restaurant for lunch? Yes please Dad, so we booked L’Ortolan in Shinfield near Reading, another 1* Michelin Restaurant with James Greatorex heading up the kitchen. At Under 25, he is very young to have such an honour bestowed before him, but hey, age is not everything and youth has its advantages, like energy, passion, commitment, a young brain has the ability to soak in lots of information so we were sure it was going to be a great experience, and we were not wrong.
After some obligatory but nonetheless delicious bread and cultured butter was served we were presented with a tray of ‘tasters’, little morsels of deliciousness on a tray indication land and sea. The land was a Wagyu Beef tartare with a little egg yolk in a delicate pastry case, the second was a Cod Brandade Ball, fried, with a topping of a delicate spiced mayonnaise which was utter delight. if this was the of things to come the lunch was going to be fabulous.
Again, a delicious looking tasting menu was on offer, and was a easy choice, let’s see the ‘mettle’ of the chef and we were glad we did. Dad, can we have the ‘Oscietra Caviar‘ course please, booom , that came from nowhere, oh and the Waygu Beef, I have heard its really good! This meal was going to be more of an investment at this rate. So the caviar came and was woofed down by all of us, it was a delicious plate of food, perfectly cooked pommes soufflée a light Crème fraîche, Trout Roe and the Caviar……Yum
Next came the ‘Salad’ of Lamb, with Isle of Wight Tomatoes, Anchovy and Seasonal Leaves, another delicate but accomplished dish the lamb was rich and full of flavour, the tomato, acidic, cutting through the richness, the anchovy adding some seasoning and leafs ,some texture. Another fantastic dish, so where to go next, this was a cast of the rich and famous already?
Let’s cure some beautiful Tuna with Citrus, and serve it with Apple, Cucumber and Nasturtium a real play on Mexico cuisine in my humble opinion but not do much in your face like the traditional ceviche, flavours dancing all over the palate. Yum. Service was unhurried as we tackled each dish, discussion between us the merits of quality (expensive) ingredients treated with the utmost respect, by an extremely competent chef, aided by his equally competent brigade.
Sorry to say I am a sucker for Foie Gras. I have an annual cookery trip to France, to Gascony, where such produce is revered and commonplace on menus in restaurants and in the home, and I was fortunate to be taught three methods of preparing this highly prized ingredient, cru (cured with salt and Piment d’Espelette), mi-cuit (half cooked), and used as a wrapper for a French style of gingerbread. This was a Terrine with Fig and Walnut, I was in heaven, rich, umptious, sweet and savoury it tickled every taste bud available at time, and for many minutes after as it searched out more.
Now something interesting happened, in my previous posting we had Gigha Halibut from the island in Scotland with white beans, snap, here it was again, but with brown shrimp and foraged seaweed, completely honest and back to nature type tastes which went perfectly. And again, I was the bean fan, my wife and son not being so keen. It was interesting to see something so familiar but subtly different cooked in a quality restaurant, another yum. The fish was cooked perfectly.
Are we there yet! at this part of the adventure our son had opted to go for the Waygu, which he stated was the best beef he had ever eaten, after already saying that at the previous restaurant, it looked good and smelt great. Myself and the better half went for the Fallow Deer, I am a sucker for game and regularly get such produce from our local butcher, who also supplies this restaurant too, great minds and all that. It was a very ‘earthy’ dish aided by the addition of beetroot, savoury and grelot, a small French Bell Onion served with a rich sauce, utterly beautiful another winning dish.
The ‘pre-dessert’ arrived, an interesting and delicate looking morsel, an ice-cream sandwich but not as we had ever had before! beautiful crisp wafer layer, encompassing a citrus ice-cream, with a lemon centre, it really cleaned the palate a treat, I could have eaten several of those one after the other they were that delicious, and then we had the finale……
Yes, I know we had already celebrated my birthday, but, we had tried to get bookings in two restaurants and when they both came up it was a kind of ‘sod it, let’s do both of them’ moment, so we did! This was another extremely clever, and delicious dessert, Peach, Yoghurt, Verbena and Szechuan Pepper, it definitely had an after kick, that was very pleasant indeed. I think when you look at how to finish a meal, the results are often over-heavy and leave you feeling a bit ughhhhh, not here, it was a light tasty and perfect finish to a wonderful tasting menu, which we all thoroughly enjoyed.
For someone so young, James Greatorex has more than ticked all the boxes and shown what awesome cookery and presentation should be like, the front of house did a sterling job and we all felt the experience was more than worth the investment.
So the question is would we go back…………. We have already, this time to experience a Chef’s table, that will be the next post but for the moment, thank-you James and the team at L’Ortolan for making my second birthday a celebration to remember it was a delight……
……………………………..Until next time……………..L8ers…………
Thank you for sending these! I’ve already forwarded the first one to my daughter in Oxford to suggest that we try the Nut Tree (as opposed to the Nut House!) next time I’m in Oxford. It looked absolutely amazing.
You might like to know that I’ve got a Gourmet Explorer course fixed for next year – May 6-11. So far I have four people booked onto it. Let me know if you’d like to join it. (There’d be a returnee discount of course). I’ll probably be fixing another one for the autumn but haven’t started any marketing at all at present. I’ll be focusing attention on this May one first though. A bit of a chef-change: Jean-Marc will be there of course, but not Laurent.
Instead I have a new and very prestigious chef called Gregory LeGros. He has worked in some of the world’s most fantastic hotels over the past years and just returned to the Languedoc. Up until a few years ago he had worked for a long time as Head Patisserie Chef at the Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados. In fact, when he was just back from there I took a group to do a chocolate-making session with him – but then he shot off again to work in Qatar (at least I think it was Qatar – it was some cripplingly exotic top hotel, anyway). But when I was planning this course next year, Remi Touja, the lovely patisserie chef who has been with me for a couple of years, could not commit so I had to source another chef. And lo and behold, Greg was back in town and for the moment, plans to remain in France because his little boy is now settling in school. Isn’t it funny how things sometimes work out right?
Anyway, lovely to hear about your culinary goings-on and please let me know if you’d like me to send you a booking form.
Hi Moira, both restaurants were amazing, I am just writing up the Chef’s table visit, well trying too, I am in Padstow at Rick Steins cookery school and testing a few restaurants while I am here. The May dates unfortunately don’t work, I have started a new job and have some time off in April, and also July going back to the course that had to be cancelled due to covid last year, although a September trip maybe possible. I read about Greg – you mentioned him last time and I was very impressed with his credentials so keen to learn so new skills as soon as I am able. Trust otherwise you and the gang are ok, it’s been a torrid time, we have had continuing challenges with our son, being bullied, adhd, home schooling etc. it’s never ending but now travelling is starting to open up just the thought of getting to Gascony gets me very excited. Really sorry I cannot make the May date though… Speak soon. Jules (there will be quite a few posts over the coming weeks as apart from the cookery school I have visited 5 restaurants here in Padstow (well will have), so lots to write up. Sending love and best wishes. Jules