Sunday, 29 December 2013

A Blind Menu

It has been a few weeks since my last post. With Christmas on the way there was a lot to do. Not least trips to see family, Christmas shopping, cooking and a short break in Brussels at one of my favorite hide aways abroad 'Be Manos'. More about that in a later post.

Finally, on the 20th December, with the Christmas shopping done what better way to relax before the big day than a short trip to Lille to take in the Christmas market and some good French cuisine? Off we set on Eurostar and in a short while we were in the city taking a short walk to the Lille Carlton ( . The hotel has some mixed reviews but from my point of view it is a nice hotel. Typically french. It is elegently furnished with a comfortable bed . What more do you need.

We had met up with my sister-in-law on the train as planned and once we had settled in and changed out of our travelling clothes into something a little more stylish we set out with her and her husband in search of sustenance. He was already in France and, as we were arriving mid evening, had taken the liberty of booking us a table so that we were guaranteed a good place to eat on our first night.

A short walk from the hotel in Rue de Barre was the Restaurant Au Gout Du Jour ( ). After a swift diversion to Fifi's Wine Bar opposite for a Christmas beer we ambled across the cobbles and into the restaurant. The menu was novel. A simple choice of one or two starters, a main course, cheese and/or dessert  The price started at around 40 euros and rose to 50 depending on the choices you made. We were asked if we had any allergies or foods we did not like and offered wine to match the as yet undisclosed food.

The amuse buche, a cauliflower soup both creamy and thick gave a hint as to theskills of the chef. Not a vegetable I often enjoy, this particular recipe was an exception. A well balanced and luxurious soup that took away the winter chill.

Next, our starter course arrived. Perfectly cooked sole that had been molded into a cylinder and poached. This was served on a creamy bed of chopped celery with a stunning onion marmalade. The marmalade had been pureed forming a delicious black paste to accompany the fish. The sole was dusted with dried caviar ( just prior to being eaten. The perfectly balanced flavours were complemented with a glass of white Languedoc wine.

Onto the main course. Another perfectly cooked fish dish consisting of a seared salmon trutta fillet (sewin or sea trout to you and me) on a parsnip puree with roasted parsnip and wild mushrooms. The crisp skin added a wonderful texture to this simple but delicius dish. The red cote du rhone that accompanied this was a touch too rich to be a perfect match but the reason for the choice became clear when the cheese course arrived. A smorgersboard of cheeses from the delicate through to the very pungent was served next. The wine was a great match to this.

Finaly the dessert course. An ellegant sounding white chocolate emullsion on top of a sweet potato mouse with clemantines. Another great flavour combination that was slightly marred by the clemantine segments that were still encased in their segment skin and accompanied by pips. A little more effort to remove these would have made for a perfect end to an excellent meal

Good coffee and petti four prepared us for our short walk home and the promise of more cullenary adventures in the comming few days, Best of all, a restarant menu that was a complete surprise that, at this seasonal time, did not include turkey or goose.

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