These fruit crisps are obviously a bit of a hot favourite: full-length, brittle cross-sections of banana (like something a biologist might slice off to sandwich in a slide for a microscope) topped my blessedly light terrine of orange and pink grapefruit. An unexpected mixture of ingredients all round, swishly pulled together.”Et pour dessert, monsieur-dame?” Monsieur was amply satisfied with his small free-standing turret of creme brulee, sauced with a pure and clean-tasting jus of Granny Smiths. Why, though? We came over a touch patriotic at this juncture. What’s wrong with the legion of truly great British apples, now hoving into season? Still, it has to be said that they make dandy fruit crisps: thin slices of dried Granny Smith, all pale ivory edged with green, surmounted the creme brulee, like the petals of a columbine.
And as for me, well, I got a pretty fantastic deal too, with a sphere of very fat, sweet, juicy roast scallops, each sitting plumply on a thin cushion of cauliflower puree. To liven up the act, there were the smallest droplets of crisp fritters and best of all, the elegant little dollops of olive-green goo, which turned out to be an inspired liquidised “vinaigrette” thickened with capers and pale raisins. If I sound a little vague on this, then no wonder: I didn’t get a look in, for he scoffed the lot in the twinkling of an eye.I made quite sure that I got a taste of his next helping, a glorious slab of turbot (his favourite fish) poached in red wine then swathed in an all-embracing, dark glossy robe of red wine sauce. Magnificent stuff this, the fish cooked just a point, firm and sweet.
Truffles alone are not enough, and the girolles were too tiny, too vinegary. The best foie gras terrine that I’ve ever tasted was made by Pierre Koffman – and I’m going to show off here – for our wedding breakfast, and what made it so good was the sweetness of Sauternes to mitigate that richness.My partner on that occasion and this was William, whose first course salad of red mullet came with “caviare aubergine” an odd bit of phraseology, even in menu-speak. It might have meant a double act of aubergine and caviare, but I think that it actually proved to be what I call poor man’s caviare, in other words an aubergine puree. Light and bright, it works admirably to kick-start the gastric juices without occupying valuable space in the pit of a hungry stomach.Just as well, for the dish that followed was exceedingly rich. It was laid before me reverently, complete with the detailed Gallic description that accompanied each new arrival. So there it was, a generous slice of foie gras ter- rine, flecked here and there with slices of black truffle and haloed by a ring of the teensiest, most perfect pickled girolle, the very epitome of luxury It was good, but lacked edge. Foie gras begs for something to balance its decadence, especially when served cold.