Saturday, 7 April 2012

Lunch at Quo Vadis

It is the Easter holidays and so it is time for another lunch with Liz. Except that she isn't on holiday. She has retired this time and I hate her. We decided ages ago to go to the Lucian Freud exhibition at the Portrait Gallery but could only get tickets for 4 pm. So, long lunch and then go, or view exhibition and dine early evening? We chose the former. Next time we'll do the latter. The problem is that it was such a very good lunch and we just wanted to doze afterwards, despite alcohol not being involved. Quo Vadis has been in Dean Street, Soho for many years. Now it has had a revamp and chef Jeremy Lee is the new resident man in the kitchen. This was enough to tempt me without even looking at the menu. Foodycat and I had seen him having lunch when we first dined at Le Café Anglais and in fact Quo Vadis is very similar is style and decor to that institution. The restaurant is a series of small rooms but because of all the glass around it feels spacious and airy like one large room. On arrival you are greeted by a sensational display of fruit and flowers - Amalfi lemons and Seville oranges this time since you ask.
We were seated in the furthest corner which meant we walked through 2, or was it 3, bright and welcoming rooms with lovely stained-glass windows. That doesn't mean in a cathedrally way, more an Art Deco way. Behind Liz was what in some of the chick-lit novels I've read is called a "booth", in fact a smaller room with just the one table. I was pleased to see Heston Blumenthal making his way towards it. Fortunately before I managed to excite Liz by telling her so I realised my mistake. It was journalist and restaurant critic Toby Young. I am not very good at sorting out famous people be they bald or not but at least I knew he wasn't Gregg Wallace or Yul Brynner. He was joined later by a young man who also looked like a journalist but could equally be someone quite different. I did not want to talk to Mr Young. His setting up of a Free School in nearby Ealing does not please me.
Because Liz was on a retirement splurge we decided not to stint ourselves by going with the (very attractive) pre-theatre menu (available all day and a steal at £20 for 3 courses), but go the whole hog and eat exactly what we fancied. Our first treat was a delicious cranberry and orange juice cocktail.
We both wanted all of the starters. Liz settled for crab with a light, luscious, lemony mayo, and I had the patés and pickles. One paté was dense, meaty and gobsmackingly good, the other was rillette-like and very bland. I don't know what it is about me and rillettes. I want to like them but they invariably disappoint. Special mention here must be made of the pickled prunes, pickled walnut and cornichon accompaniments. Just perfect.
Our mains chose themselves. I am a steak and chips girl at heart and the wonderfully deep-flavoured onglet did not disappoint. The fat had been studded with peppercorns which would have been an issue for my husband had he been with us but that is principally why we usually leave him behind on these occasions. The chips were large, feathery and quite outstanding
Liz's Braised kid with peas and wild garlic was also a triumph and we both tried very hard not to think of the baby goats at the petting farm just up the road from her house. The kid was truly melt-in-the-mouth, cliché though that is.
We chose the one pudding that didn't mention cream in the title, and of course it was covered in the stuff. Poor Liz. But she is used to it and gamely scraped most of it off. The Walnut meringue was near perfect but not as good as the rhubarb sorbet, and I want the recipes.
With tea, coffee and service the bill came to £93. Not cheap but, as previously mentioned, you can dine well there for much less. I will be back. Please join me.

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