Monday, 9 January 2012

One of the best meals ever!

Last year for my birthday, BoyWonder surprised me with a trip to Kent for lunch at fabulous The Sportsman restaurant in Seasalter, Kent.  While our meals was gorgeous, I didn't blog it at the time - I'm sure out of spite, as I was newly pregnant with Pickle, and BoyWonder was the one who got to try all the culinary delights that were banned for me: caviar, oysters, soft and smelly cheeses, and the complimentary wines we were he was lucky enough to be treated to. I think this deserves a renewed acquaintance with The Sportsman, don't you think?

So I was intrigued where BoyWonder would take me this year.  I fathomed we were going to Royal Tunbridge Wells from the postcode on the invite that arrived on my phone, but managed not to snoop investigate further.  When we strolled up to Thackeray's, I was intrigued.  Was this restaurant dedicated to Jake Thackeray, the singer I used to torment my Mum with?  (She has never heard one of his songs through, as she bursts into laughter well before the third bar starts... and my Mum has a very unique laugh.  Go on Mum, click on the link, I dare you!)  Indeed not, the restaurant was named after William Makepeace Thackeray, author of Vanity Fair, who once stayed on the premises.  And a book I've been meaning to read for some time.

It turns out, Thackeray's is the restaurant Richard Phillips started when he branched out for himself after working for the likes of the Roux brothers and Marco Pierre White. It looks quaint from the outside, but has elegant and theatrical interiors which remain sympathetic to the character of the building.  We were a little early, so chose a glass of Mercier Brut champagne, which was biscuity and refreshing, and I managed to nurse it through the first four of our courses - we were having the Chef's Tasting Menu!

The amuse bouche of the day was a crayfish terrine, served with caviar and a watercress foam.  Absolutely delicious, perfectly seasoned and beautiful presentation.

Next was a ballontine of Landes foie gras, with caramelised spiced white peach, brioche pan perdu and white peach jelly.  This was divine, but it is pretty hard to screw up foie gras!  The jelly was a perfect accompaniment to the foie gras and brioche, though we weren't as thrilled with the taste of the caramelised peach which was a little bland, but did lend a complimentary texture.

We had a choice to make for the next course, and decided to go for one of each option and share.  As it was, we only got a brief taste of each others as we were happy to stick with our preferred option.  I went for the Roast Fillet of South Coast Brill, served with haddock brandade, roast cucumber, and cockle and cucumber ketchup.  The "ketchup" led a fresh tanginess to the dish that lifted it to a delightful level, allowing the freshness of the sweet flesh to shine through without being fussy.  BoyWonder went for the Pan Fried Diver Caught Sea Scallops which came with a pumpkin and caper puree,
smoked eel, pickled Kentish apple and smoked hollandaise.  The small morsel I got to taste was delicious and perfectly cooked.  Both dishes were beautifully presented yet again.

To refresh our palette, a clementine sorbet was then served.  Oh my, it was delicious; though more a granita than a sorbet, the fervent flavour was refreshingly tart, and we could have quite happily consumed a bowl of the stuff!

While we again had a choice for the next course, we both decided to go with the Roast Fillet of 28 Day Hung Herefordshire Beef.  Rosemary scented layered
potatoes, a Kentish blue cheese beignet, creamed celeriac and a red wine and bone marrow jus accompanied.  The potatoes were delicious, the jus had an amazing depth of flavour and I loved the beignet, which was basically a posh cheese popper! The d'Arenberg The Stump Jump Shiraz 2008, was a perfect match, with deep plum, earthy and spicy flavours and scent.

Rather than go for a typical dessert wine, BoyWonder made the inspired choice of the Domaine Schlumberger 'Fleur', an Alsace Gewurztraminer which went brilliantly well with both the cheese and dessert courses, where a sticky would likely have been too cloying.  The Brillat Savrin a la Truffe was a soft cheese from Burgundy layered with sliced black truffle.  While it sounded impressive, in truth this was the least inspiring dish of the day.  Perhaps they should have checked closer to home, as the Tunworth I bought from Neal's Yard Dairy as part of our Chrismukkah cheeses on Essex Eating's recommendation, was far more impressive.

A choice for our desserts again, and we decided to split and "share", though we were both so enrapture with our individual choices that it was a mere smidgen of the other's dish that we got to try! BoyWonder went for the Kentish Raspberry Souffle with cherry sorbet and raspberry soup.  The "soup" was ceremoniously poured into the souffle at the table.  Hats off to the pastry chef on my Assiette of Chocolate, as I believe this was the most visually impressive dish of the day, and that really is saying something. It tasted sensational too with macerated
cherries (and I don't normally like booze and fruit combined), the red cherry sorbet made an appearance again, along with a chocolate tuille and a white chocolate and pistachio ganache.  I'm drooling just remembering it.

Now BoyWonder is extremely fussy meticulous about coffee.  The most infamous being the dining-disaster of Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester.  Miraculously he was extremely happy with the coffee.  My fresh mint tea was also well received - more restaurants should take note, as it's not hard to impress with a well-considered caffeine-free option.

There's nothing worse than a disappointing sweet end to the meal. Luckily our Petits Four continued the impressive standard.  While one was covered in marzipan - evil stuff - the sponge inside was light, the chocolate one was rich and balanced with cocoa, the jelly-gum was bursting with berry juiciness, but my favourite was the home-made marshmallow.

The Chef's Menu was £69 per person and there is also the option of ordering a glass of wine per course for a very reasonable £30pp extra.  We chose to order just a few wines by the glass, and there is quite a wide selection of wines that have this option.  The staff were lovely: knowledgeable and helpful without being intrusive.  We believe that this was one of the best meals we've ever had and I'd highly recommend making a beeline to Thackeray's.

So some questions for you:
  • How will BoyWonder top this next year?  (Suggestions welcome!)
  • Will Vanity Fair make it off my bookshelf soon?
  • And most importantly, if my Mum opens the Jake Thackeray link, will I hear her all the way from Australia?

Cheers, KangaRue :)

This is not a sponsored post.

1 comment:

  1. You've convinced me - I am asking my DH to book this for my b/day! Yum!


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