FOOD REVIEW: Blackfriars
By Claire Dupree on July 6, 2012 in Food
Attention to detail is the order of the day at Blackfriars, which had become apparent as soon as I made my reservation. Ten minutes later, I received an email thanking me for reserving a table and pointing me to their website to check out the menu. I’m easily pleased and happily suckered into believing that this was done all for little ol’ me.
Arriving at the 13th Century building (with so much history it takes you longer to read the handily placed introduction from owner Andy Hook than it does to read the menu) it’s hard not to be overawed by the beauty of the stone work, the deep recessed windows, complicated wooden candelabras and the trees growing up the insides of the walls. Surely one of the most atmospheric and beautiful buildings in the city.
Thankfully, the food stands up to these lustrous surrounds, and plenty of other people seem to think so too – the place was packed at 7pm on a pretty miserable Wednesday. My co-diner and I decide to forgo the suckling pig, which our waitress informs us can be ordered “whole, or in slices”. We head for the set menu – a very reasonable 2 courses for £15 and 3 for £18 (a bargain considering most main courses come in between £12-£21 each) and, after enjoying the amuse bouche of creamy mushroom soup served with sweet beetroot and celery cress, I order the Breaded Durham Camembert served with Pear Chutney – deliciously gooey, full flavoured and perfectly complimented by the excellent chutney. My partner’s North Sea fishcake was flaky, with a smoky flavour, the creamy home-made tartar sauce and sweet-sharp tang of the salad dressing were perfect accompaniments.
One of Blackfriars’ major selling points is their dedication to proving the provenance of their food – a map adorns the place settings, proving that the fish really does come from the North Sea, the cheese, fruit, meat and even beer is locally sourced and highly recommended. They even tell you where you can go to buy the ingredients yourself.
Everything is beautifully presented on wooden boards or huge white slabs of china, and the bread (replenished several times without needing to request) is crunchy, dense and delicious. I’m no wine connoisseur but the selection’s very extensive and our French house red is highly palatable (i.e. it’s several steps up from our usual 3 for £10 from Asda selections).
My main course is a chunk of 6oz Rump Steak served with Mushroom, Tomato, Watercress and a hint of garlic butter. I resisted the urge to order chips or potatoes as I usually would, and I’m glad I did – the portion is perfect, as is the marriage of flavours between the meat, sharp tomato and peppery watercress. The steak was a little more ‘done’ than I’d have liked, I prefer a bit of blood, but it was nevertheless still very tender. My dining partner’s Poached Scottish Salmon with Crushed Potatoes and herb dressing looked pretty as a picture, the salmon succulent and potatoes more-ish.
I made a monumental mistake with dessert, choosing an Orange Mille Feuille with orange mousse, lemon curd and toasted lavender pastry which paled in comparison to my partner’s decadent coffee panna cotta with milk chocolate truffle and espresso sorbet. Not that the mille feuille wasn’t good – the pastry was light (not sure where that lavender flavour was hiding though), the mousse was light and creamy and, while it definitely wasn’t good for the hips, it tasted superb. The coffee and chocolate concoction though, was stunning. My partner commented halfway through the dish that he felt totally wired (more so after the waitress – noting my chocolate envy – brought us a dish of extra truffles and chocolate covered coffee beans). The intense truffle and light panna cotta were perfectly tied together by the sorbet and I was thoroughly put out that my companion wouldn’t let me eat any more than a taste “for research purposes”.
The sheer range – and most importantly – quality of food on offer at Blackfriars is certain to appeal to all tastes and, if you’re after being treated that little bit special, it’ll make a perfect night out. It’s worth mentioning too, that the restaurant put all sorts of special events on throughout the year – from medieval banquets complete with serving wenches, to lessons on artisan bread making.
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