Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Lunch at The Artichoke

It's half term again and that usually means a treat or two. My friend Liz and I were going to combine a little culture with an upmarket lunch but she had heard poor reports of the Gauguin exhibition we'd earmarked so we decided to give the culture a miss and just feed our faces.

Liz lives in a pretty village near Aylesbury and our halfway house for meeting is the market town of Amersham. Amersham is very posh and very expensive but there are several good pubs and eating houses.

We had eaten at Artichoke about four years ago and been very impressed. In those days it had something to do with Jean-Christophe Novelli - although I can't actually remember what. Then The Famous Fish restaurant next door (another favourite) had a major fire which also gutted the Artichoke premises and that was that.

Well, let me tell you. It has reopened and it does a very good lunch indeed. The set lunch is actually under £20 which in Amersham terms is a real bargain. Suffice to say that being the pseudo gastronauts that we are we opted for the `a la carte.

Our first treat (after the obligatory large Plymouth gin and tonics) was an amuse bouche of fennel soup. Now neither of us is a big fennel lover but this was absolutely gorgeous and we may well be born-again fennelists!

Liz then opted for the pan fried foie gras which was apparently amazing, so amazing in fact that I didn't get a look in. Boo. I went for the langoustines with pork belly which were very, very good indeed, but not as good as the Dedham Vale lamb which followed. Succulent, tender and with perfectly matched vegetables. You could not ask for more.

Liz chose the sea bass/lobster bisque combination and pronounced it outstanding.

We both ordered the chocolate delice with cherry sorbet (the one which looks a little bit like an ocean liner). What can I say? It was absolutely magnificent. James Martin would have been very proud of it and I want the recipe. Now.

I finished with a glass of ice cold Beaumes de Venise. Spot on.

A lovely lunch indeed. Quibbles? The price naturally. £70 per head put paid to much else at half term. The fascination for listing every single ingredient on the menu annoys (as does the lack of capital letters but that's probably just me). And the service which was madly efficient but lacked warmth.

There is no doubt though. We will be back.

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