Going It Alone at The Union

Emma Brophy discovers a confusion of cuisine and purple potatoes

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Union Chiswick, Building 5, Chiswick Business Park

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I’m reading a fantastic book at the moment called ‘Without Reservations’ by Alice Steinbach. It’s about a prize winning journalist and single working mother who rents out her home for a year and embarks upon a Grand Tour of Europe. Fiercely independent, she travels alone but soon discovers that she had become indeed become dependent on something which was defining herself ‘in terms of who I was to other people and what they expected of me.”

I am enthralled by her journey and so admire her endeavor to discover who she is away from all the things that characterise her – her family, children, job and friends. Whilst I feel blessed to have and harbour no desire to be without any of those things for a moment, I did decide to have a little escape of my own from my working day, just for an hour or so, to read the next chapter set in Italy.

As I happened in that particular neck of Chiswick woods, I decided to take a table for one at Chiswick Union, the bar cum restaurant situated in Chiswick Business Park.

The cavernous space occupies a large corner plot on the ground floor of Building Five of the office park. No attempt at softening the décor has been made apart from a couple of brown leather sofas and stools however, an abundance of fairy lights adorn the blackened ceiling with its industrial pipes which I imagined would look quite pretty after dark.

I decided to go with the set lunch for £12.95 for two courses and I ordered squid with the grilled lamb steak to follow.

The squid arrived in the form of three generously sized curls of meaty flesh resting on a mound of rocket with a sweet chilli sauce surround. The squid was a touch overcooked – though in fairness very hard to do spot on I find - but nevertheless very good. I particularly liked the lime to squeeze over; it made a nice change from lemon.
My main course however, could only be described as a ‘confusion’ of Mediterranean and British food. The generous lamb steak, cooked to my medium rare order, was accompanied by a pile of ratatouille, mint sauce, a few rocket leaves that appeared to have tagged along for the ride and purple potatoes.

Not just a hint of purple, but a strong vibrant shade of unmistakable, and I might add somewhat alarming, purpleness. Unable to believe my eyes I checked on the menu what I had ordered and saw that the purple potatoes were ‘sautéed of truffle potato’. In taste terms they were decidedly more of the par boiled variety and, I suspect, hadn’t made it quite as far as the sautéing process. To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure what they were supposed to taste like, but as bright purple truffle potatoes go, these weren’t that great.

A little follow up research lead me to a website called Gourmet Britain which informed me that truffle potatoes are ‘a type of 'floury' potato, resembling a black truffle in appearance. They are at their best steamed or boiled, mashed, roasted or in salads. They make poor chips’

These potatoes most definitely did not resemble any black truffle I’ve ever seen but they did resolve my dilemma of deciding which of the Mediterranean or British routes on my plate to go down.

After discovering that mint sauce and ratatouille does not a tasty mixture make, I resolved to eat the grilled lamb with its ‘along for the ride’ rocket and the ratatouille. Had I been served just these three in the first instance I wouldn’t have been able to find much wrong with any of it however, it would have been a less interesting experience.

To drink I chose a small glass of Pino Grigio priced at sizeable £4.75 (couldn’t help thinking I would have got a bottle at All Bar One for an extra £2.75 and made the waitress there very happy!).

With a filter coffee to round off the proceedings my bill came to £19.50.

Not quite a journey of self discovery on Alice’s scale but I did finish the chapter and discovered all I’ll ever need to know about purple potatoes.

Emma Brophy

March 4, 2009