Thursday, October 28, 2004

Review of The Glasshouse

Lunch at The Glasshouse, west London today. £83 for two (3 courses - 1 supplement, 2 glasses house white, 1 glass sherry, 1 espresso, water, service, lots of nice bread, including Poilane). There are two lunch menus, the more expensive had about 7/8 choices for each course, coming in at £25 for three courses.

We ate:
Deep fried sweetbread and calf tongue, radish salad, sauce gribiche. Good sauce, tasteless radish salad, tasty sweetbread and tongue - but portion was small compared to the other starter.
Loin of venison, stornoway black pudding (with beetroot, mushroom, potato rosti/tuile, horseradish creme chantilly) Very nice, probably best dish. Very moist and rich venison, creamy pudding.
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Roast partridge, oxtail agnolotti, carrot and swede mash Breasts were off the bone and thighs with bone in. Both were overcooked and the skin was soggy - a disappointment. Agnolotti was actually an agnolotto with a nice filling but tasteless overcooked pasta. Mash and jus were good.
Char grilled beef fillet, tomato provencal, chips, bearnaise sauce (£5 supplement) Beef was cooked accurately but had very little taste. Perhaps poor quality meat, or just the "subtle" taste of fillet? Tomato was one lone tomato (why serve this in October), and came with an undressed lump of rocket. Chips came on a separate plate and were the real thing - 9 massive fingers with a crispy exterior and fluffy interior - perhaps the best I have ever had. Good sauce.
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Poached pear, set vanilla custard, pain d'epice Nice pear - sweetness tempered by some liquer in the poaching stock, excellent custard, but the pain d'epice was in the form of a crumble topping for the custard and the spices didn't stand up to the rich custard. Served with a curved triangle tuile which tasted predominantly of sugar and stuck to my teeth.
Banana sorbet, coconut tuile Good tuile but sorbet was too sweet to finish.
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Pedro Ximinez sherry
Espresso Awful, too watery - if I had known it was £3 (my personal record) I would have sent it back.

The service was pretty good with a few flaws (we had to ask for wine after 10 minutes and had to ask for another glass, the finger bowl request) and the maitre d' could have squeezed out a bit more warmth. I said I wanted the wine list with my dessert because I might have a calvados, and then when I ordered a sherry she said - that's not calvados. Well, quite.

I think the Glasshouse has won a Michelin star since my last visit and overall, I was a bit underwhelmed. The menu offers good value, with lots of choice and variety, but overpromises and underdelivers (which is the wrong way round). Not serious flaws but in a Michelin restaurant (this was the first I have eaten in), I expect roast partridge to have a crisp skin and be cooked less than well done. I expect salads to be dressed and seasoned. I expect beef to taste of beef. I expect decent coffee. If I use my fingers to eat the partridge I expect a finger bowl afterwards and not have to ask for it, and I would prefer not to spend two hours eating three courses. Apart from being so warm they had to open the door, the room is very nice and the toilets excellent.

I might go back but I would rather eat at St John for the same sort of money because the food, which is fairly similar, will taste better (compare the partridges) even if it might not look as pretty. At the end of the day, that is all that matters - I would rather eat in a dump with good, unpretentious food, than a starchy, pretentious restaurant, and in my opinion, the Glasshouse is veering towards the latter.
It is also interesting to note that St John is not in the Michelin guide (I looked on the website). I can't believe this - so unless I have missed it, perhaps someone can explain this too me?

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