We sample fine dining in SW19
The old adage - 'a little bit of what you fancy does you good' - would be an appropriate heading across the menu of Wimbledon's Lawn Bistro restaurant on Tuesday nights.
The high-class Wimbledon Village eatery has launched a Tuesday "Taster's Menu"' where each diner tucks into three starters, two mains and one dessert - all for £25.
It has also appointed a new head chef, Neal Cooper, who has bought some exciting new dishes to SW19. These include on the main menu: Poached duck egg with Jerusalem artichoke and pesto purée, blackcurrant jus, and Roast rump of lamb with imam bayildi, chick peas and liver kebab.
Regulars of this independent High Street restaurant can be reassured that the menus still have a strong French style, but Neal makes sure he adapts to the seasons and there's British and other Continental influences in his cooking.
The choice of 'taster' starters during my Tuesday night visit definitely reflected his range. The rabbit and smoked bacon rillettes sandwich on brioche was too tempting for my fellow diners, and the serving block was soon cleared.
I had the slow roasted tomato soup with pesto crostini. I was assured there was no cream in the soup, although it tasted like it was full of it! To give you an idea of the size of the taster portions, it was served in a expresso cup. I also went for the citrus cured salmon with gazpacho consomme. The gazpacho was a real flavour sensation - a much stronger taste than I expected from its pale appearance. Other starter choices on the "Taster's Menu" featured octopus, wood pigeon and ham hock terrine.
For the main course tasters, the fish dishes are generally served first. I plumped for the sea trout with Jersey Royals, asparagus and crab salad, samphire and split bisque. Not only was the plate a tempting picture, but the flavour and texture matched the appearance. I'm often disappointed with restaurant vegetables, but these had the perfect crispiness. The trout was just mouth-watering, and I wanted to eat it all again!
But I had another main course on the way. Coming next was spring vegetable barigoule with truffled gnocchi, fennel and saffron. This confirmed the Lawn Bistro's skill with vegetables, and the truffled gnochi was simply delicious.
There were three other main course tasters on offer - featuring pork belly, lamb and sea bream. The plates of those around me looked stunning, and there were enough contented smiles to make me realise everyone was satisfied with their selections.
But it was the desserts that generated the real 'wow' factor. My choice was coconut and white mousse, with raspberries and passion fruit sorbet. It's no lie that my mouth is still watering as I think of the zingy tast of the sorbet, and it combined really well with the smoothness of the mousse. It was a fitting finale to a sensational meal.
I have to say that the chocolate financier with salted caramel popcorn and sweetcorn ice cream sounded intriguing, and those who opted for it were raving about it with every spoonful. The third choice was a vanilla and lemon cheesecake with blueberry compote and lemon sorbet.
Service had been friendly and informative throughout, and it was certainly a relaxing way to spend a Tuesday evening. And although it was a 'taster' menu, everyone agreed there was plenty of food - with no room for a second helping of sweetcorn ice cream! I'll have to go along for that on another day.
May 20, 2014