It’s not easy being a restaurant reviewer.
I tried it last night.
We went, my sister’s family and mine, to City Restaurant. The catering students offer gourmet dining at super prices because they are practising on us.
The hard part of being a reviewer is having to use your brains when really you just want to go mnnnnn and become a sensual animal. It’s a bit like having to make intelligent remarks while having sex.
The bread was home made. Although I disagreed with the addition of dried mixed herbs (they lend a supermarket taste), I could not quibble with the poppy seeds. The amuse-gueule (in this case tiny quiches, with thin pastry cases) tasted, Juliette thought, like cheese on toast with mustard.
By this time, my mind was quite chipper. However the veloute of celeriac and celery was so smooth and creamy, my critical faculties took a rest.
“Sorry for the wait” the waiter murmured. I realised I appreciated having it acknowledged. (Turned out the restaurant was two staff down when one went off for a fag break never to return).
The brill covered tightly with toasted coriander seeds was perfectly grilled, the fish still moist. Were the butter beans a tad underdone? My sister said no, I said yes. Clearly subjectivity is all. The addition of carrots to the béarnaise sauce sweetened the otherwise subtle sauce.
The risotto was a bit wet but well mushroomy. The Lindauer, a dry sparkling brut from New Zealand, was taking effect. Jessica appreciated the £15 spend (the average price of house wine) for a celebration bubbly. Like many she works hard for not much money.
The carnivores had venison, loin and haunch with jus of juniper. As I am a dilettante vegetarian, I tasted the (tender) loin. The jus made with stock, added the right amount of sweet tartness.
The puddings were irreproachable (the English often get their puddings right). The cheesecake (ignoring its indifferent sponge base) was light and creamy, served with apple sauce flavoured with cinnamon. We approved of the ginger-flavoured whipped cream too. The rhubarb soufflé, another light concoction, was served with handmade brandy snaps.
The meal came to £17 each and the maitre d’ came to talk to us afterwards, seeking feedback. The discussion was an added pleasure. Was the consommé too thin? Could if have been made from raw chicken – or perhaps just less water?
Just as I rate amateur dramatics over the West End, so I appreciated the atmosphere of the college’s City restaurant to a proper poncy one. It is uplifting to see people we can relate to do their best, and not to feel trapped by sanctimony.