|A Gastronomic Cirque de Soleil|
Michael Nadra's celebrates National Vegetarian Week with a garden tasting menu
I was intrigued to hear that Michael Nadra was offering a Garden Tasting Menu to celebrate National Vegetarian Week.
Michael has won critical acclaim for his cooking of meat and fish but could he rise to the occasion with pulses, fruit and vegetables? A vegetarian colleague and I set off to find out.
The tasting menu is impressive with seven courses each with a specially selected wine to go with it. We kicked off with a cauliflower and black truffle velouté which was absolutely delicious and put us in a good mood for the rest of the meal , if it was all as good as this then we were in for a good time. So, little creamy appetiser over we settled down with great anticipation to see what would come next.
The whole meal was a sort of gastronomic Cirque de Soleil as one pretty dish followed the other. In fact they were so beautifully laid out, like little works of art, it seemed a shame to spoil them by eating them but we didn’t let that bother us for long.
The next course was salad of bulgur wheat and puy lentils with parsley, mint, pomegranates and crispy red onions. It doesn’t sound very exciting and pessimists both we expected something boring. We were wrong. With the herbs, pomegranate seeds, red onions and a swirl of pomegranate syrup the bulgur and lentils were lifted above the ordinary. The accompanying wine was a 2007 Riesling from Germany.
Dish number three was twice baked goats cheese soufflé with piperade and basil, the sharpness of the pepper, onions and tomato provided just the right balance for the soufflé which was lighter and more delicate than we expected it to be. A Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire was the wine for this one and this is where I have my first and only niggle, it wasn’t cold enough for me, I like my Sauvignon icy. But my companion said it was perfectly fine by her, so there you are.
Next up was a ravioli of butternut squash with pecan nuts, confit garlic and courgette tempura with a glass of a 2008 Albarino, Torroxal from Spain.
Michael Nadra has an excellent track record in cooking. Before opening his own place in Chiswick (Fish Hook which he recently rebranded as Restaurant Michael Nadra) he worked in some of London’s finest restaurants; Gordon Ramsey’s Petrus, Chez Bruce, the Ebury and La Trompette. His talent with fish and meat has been well attested to and I’m delighted to say that skill has been transferred to cereals, pulses, fruit and vegetables. This is serious cooking for serious eaters and you don’t have to be a vegetarian to appreciate it. I’d challenge even the staunchest carnivore to find they dislike it
Until this point all the wines had been white but that was soon to change with the next course; pithivier of wild mushrooms with asparagus, olive oil mashed potatoes and caper sauce. Our waiter made a little hole in the top of our pithiviers and poured over the sauce so it mingled with the mushrooms inside – a little theatrical perhaps but it didn’t matter.
The mushrooms themselves were a mix of shitake, mousseron and St George cooked to a deep, dark savouriness that we didn’t think could be achieved with mushrooms. Surrounded by the light, fluffy pastry it was a poem with side dishes that didn’t let it down. Asparagus is at its best right now and this had been blanched to tender, green perfection. The potato was served in little pots which we enjoyed so much we scraped it out with our knives to make sure we didn’t miss any of it.
Gutsy food called for a gutsy wine and the accompanying Italian Pinot Nero didn’t disappoint.
When vegetarian week is over Michael is going to include some of these vegetarian dishes in this regular menu and I really hope Pithvier of Wild Mushrooms is one of them.
Savouries done, we were served a palate cleansing glass of lemon, raspberry and Greek yoghurt sorbet which set us up for the a dessert, a tasting selection consisting of chocolate fondant, apple tarte tatin, vanilla ice cream and a salad of blood orange, kiwi fruit, pineapple, nashi pears, green mango, lychee and cointreau sorbet. We washed this down with a Gros Marseng dessert wine from France.
Neither of us could find fault with any of it (apart from the very minor problem with my Sauvignon Blanc) and we loved every mouthful.
What Michael has shown is that vegetarian cooking and fine dining aren’t oxymoronic and hooray for that.
The Garden Tasting menu is only available until Sunday so if you want to try it, get your skates on.
May 26, 2010