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Friday, 12 October 2012

A 7 Course Taster Menu at Square

Wuthering Bites (Sarah) and I were invited last Friday to sample the 7 course taster menu at The Square. We were allowed plus ones so we took our misters for a foodie night out. An extremely wet Friday evening meant we arrived rather damp to The Square. I had only been to the cocktail bar before a year or so ago and enjoyed a lovely tiki cocktail so was looking forward as to what they would come up with in the restaurant. Taster menus are something to be enjoyed occasionally because they are usually something quite special and the food is designed to wow the customer, but the sample menu I saw didn't thrill me as much as I had hoped but I was ready to be impressed.

Entrance to the restaurant
The entrance looks a bit like a faded 70s Hollywood star's attic of memories, it is certainly not what I expected to greet us but I loved it, kitsch and different. Those who know me know how I love my kitsch. We were led into the dining room which was laid out with 3 long tables, rather like you get when dining at school or possibly a prison. Luckily they had provided chairs rather than benches so it felt a bit more normal and with the candelabras scattered about it definitely felt cosy and romantic.
Tables and settings
The Menu
The menu looked slightly daunting, the prospect of 7 courses sounds a bit feast like but I was up for the challenge. Thought the wine flight price per person was a tad steep so Rich and I chose a bottle of Italian white to go with our courses instead.
Our first offering was a selection of 3 appetisers each. Pea and ham soup, mackerel tartar with horseradish and cucumber and finally some truffle and thyme popcorn. The popcorn was just piled in the middle of the slate which was just lazy presentation. The taste was alright but nothing special it didn't help that the flavour of the truffle and thyme wasn't mixed in properly so some pieces were more strongly flavoured than others. The winner was the pea and ham soup, a beautifully vibrant colour and chunky pieces of ham hock at the bottom which just melted in the mouth. Sometimes soup can be more stunning than clever new concepts.

Finally the mackerel tartar, served in an oyster shell, the mackerel it'self was pretty good but the flavours it was paired with completely drowned it's delicacy. I could taste mostly beetroot and radish and it was far too sharp and sour to go with the fish. So far a mixed bag but the next course we were waiting for was seared scallop with raisin and granny smith apple. I felt quietly confident this would be more of a winner.
Seared scallop
The scallop was delicious very well cooked I would argue the apple slice was unnecessary as the raisin sauce covered the sweet and tangy base more than adequately. For some reason I rarely order scallops, Rich usually has them as his go to, but after eating this one I am going to rectify that next time I see them on the menu. Our next course was the meat Battenberg, this had been the subject of much discussion on our table. Rich was full of the joys of standard Battenberg it is all he went on about pre and post the meat version  everyone was very curious as to how it would work.
Meat 'Berg
The meat Battenberg was made up of ham hock, duck confit and foie gras complete with crostini, piccalilly, apricot and hazelnut. I have had foie gras before and liked it but not overly so, this was even too rich for foie gras, all I could taste was butter so I left most of mine the ham hock was really delicious though as were the crostini. I didn't really like the piccalilly finding it way too bitter and tangy to work with the meat.
Cornish Turbot
The fish course I think was my favourite of the evening. A piece of Cornish turbot with pommes mousseline, pork belly and sea garnish, which turned out to be a couple of mussels, a clam some samphire and some foam. First off the pork belly was really delicious, soft enough to be able to fork through it, but the crackling was crisp. The turbot was flaky and pretty tasty but it could have done with a little more seasoning in my opinion. Pommes mousseline, basically mashed potato with a whole pack of butter in it, was very smooth and creamy but I thought too salty, adjusting the levels of seasoning in the fish and potato would make this dish perfect. My only main gripe about this dish was the plate it was served in, a fancy flying saucer type one which left little room to move the empty shells around to get to the rest of the plate.

Finally the course we were all dreading just a little bit. Venison, salsify, soil, snails, flowers and nettles. Snails. Why did it have to be snails? I have never tried snails but I was going to try and be brave as an intrepid food adventurer I had to be up for most things.
Venison garden
As soon as this plate arrived all my courage deserted me. The deck was stacked, and not in my favour. Snails are not something that most people would want to eat so, anyone who says otherwise has to be lying*, so putting them on a menu is a massive risk.  Also snails that look like they are in their natural habitat of the garden, was not playing fair. I did not need to be reminded where they came from, but there they were recreated garden, soil and all.  Like a coward I started to move the shells to the other side of the plate and as I picked one up the snail fell out, that evening I was no food hero.
My nemisis
Sadly this was the most disappointing course of the night, the venison was very bland, even with the herb crust and we all agreed they should have sliced it to make it look more appealing. It also was a tad dry and with very little sauce to liven it up a bit in my head I had already moved on to the penultimate course.

Once our untouched snails were moved away we were brought a half full shot glass of pear and whiskey with sherbert. I rather liked this the pear flavour was very strong and the sherbet gave it a pic n  mix flavour, if there was any whiskey in there I could not taste it, but I really enjoyed the refreshing sweetness after such a dry main. It was a tad baffling as to why we were only brought half a shot glass but I am a glass half full kind of person so happily topped it up with the bowl of sherbet provided.
Pear, Whiskey and Sherbet Shot
Finally we had reached course number 7. Thai curry flavours, a ginger cake, coconut and coriander panna cotta, chilli meringue, lime leaf ice cream and lemongrass custard. First off the ginger cake was superb I loved it I also liked the tiny chilli meringues, though I was possibly in the minority on our table. The meringues were crunchy but perfectly chewy on the inside they gave off a pretty full on heat but I could take it. Unfortunately the other two items on the plate faired less well. The coriander and coconut panna cotta did not work at all, it was pretty bitter and almost savoury I couldn't eat it. The lime leaf ice cream was a little better when eaten with the cake but on it's own it was not that palatable sadly. I think a much sweeter dessert was what was required at the end of this meal, just to finish it off properly.
Thai curry desserts
I like the idea of tasting menus but this one needs a little work to be truly excellent. The service was also at times a little absent but again this is something that can be fixed. Loved the decor and atmosphere so would consider going again if the menu tempted me and definitely would head to the cocktail bar which is very chic. Sarah did write a blog from a gluten free perspective but due to unforeseen circumstances decided it would be best to remove it.  As guests of The Square our food was free but we paid for any drinks we ordered, so this review is unbaised, I will not bow to any sponsor and I will not be censored. To see what else The Square has to offer, including a very good lunch deal, check out their website.

*For people who have had a sense of humour bypass, I am sure if the escargots were swimming in garlic butter and surrounded by bread I would have been more tempted. Sorry Anthony Bourdain not this time though, food has to attract the eye as well as the mouth and these looked dry to me. I am ready to be coaxed so if any readers have a burning desire for snails let me know what the secret is.

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