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It’s been a little while since I’ve posted on here (which is pretty much how I start most of my blogs these days… *sigh*). Over the summer I was in somewhat frenzied preparations for the Berlin marathon which I ran (and completed!) in September. This meant that I knocked the booze on the head, ate really healthily and was doing loads of training. It was very good for me, but turned me very boring – hence I didn’t have nearly as many interesting things to write about!

However, I did decide that in September I would allow myself one night off from the quinoa, smoothies, protein shakes, etc. and celebrate my sixth wedding anniversary in style with my lovely wife. We donned our glad-rags and headed to Claridges to try out Simon Rogan’s one-star restaurant – Fera. Rogan is a culinary superstar in these shores, his legendary restaurant in Cumbria, L’Enclume, is very much on my to-visit list at some point soon. In the meantime, I thought it would be a nice idea to try out his London offering.

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As you would expect from a starred-restaurant at Claridges, the restaurant is beautifully set out. You go through an illuminated Art Deco style arch as you enter to the restaurant, which continues the Art Deco theme in its interior decor, with some impressive looking black pillars and some rather spectacular lighting panels. At the centre of the room is a rather striking petrified tree that adds a great drama to the room. Now although I was officially eschewing alcohol for another two weeks, I thought “if I can’t toast my wedding anniversary then I really have gotten my priorities all wrong.” As such, I allowed myself a single glass of 2011 L’Annee Premier Cru from Domaine Savart, an Extra Brut that was suitably tart, crisp and fresh. A beautiful aperitif.

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We were having the Tasting Menu, which commenced with the customary snacks of Stewed Rabbit with Lovage and Scallop served with Mushrooms and Pine. The best of these was the rabbit, which I noted was like a cross between a rice crispy and an onion bhajee – in a good way! The lovage sauce was deep and rich and flavoursome, whilst the rabbit was nice and delicate. We were off to a good start.

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Our starter in the menu was Raw Dexter Beef served with Smoked Cauliflower, Sweet Cicely and Shiso. I didn’t think that this was the most aesthetically-pleasing of dishes, but the preparation of the dish and the flavour combinations was phenomenal. The sauce was made from apple and cicely, which gave it a slightly tart (from the apples) and slightly sweet (from the cicely) profile; there was also a whiff of spice that apparently came from some Tobasco. The beef was glorious, as would be expected, its bright red brilliance on the plate when contrasted to the vivid green of the sauce. The cauliflower thin slice was also very clever, it was delicately smoked, but still retained a definite cauliflower profile.

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Next up – fish! Now, the menu said that we were to have John Dory roasted in Seaweed, Broccoli, Celtuce and Sea Lettuce; however, when the plates were arrived we were told that we were having Turbot instead. I was hardly going to complain as Turbot is the king of fish! This was a more visually impressive dish than the last, I liked the contrasts of colours plus the different textures on the plate, from foams to dust. The fish was just delicious, falling apart as you cut into it, with the broccoli having been chargrilled to give it an extra flavour dimension which I really think works so well on broccoli. The sea vegetables were interesting more from a textural than a tasting perspective. I was starting to miss having a nice glass of wine to match with this food by this point though…!

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Time to get on to the meat. We had Cornish Lamb and Belly served with King Oyster Mushrooms and Watercress. This was again a nice looking plate of food, one of those that tries to give you the impression that it has just been thrown haphazardly on the plate, but you know that every element has been extremely carefully placed. The lamb was succulent, tender, juicy and so, so flavoursome. However, for me one of the real stars of this plate was the mushrooms, which had a fantastic flavour of their own, warranting as much consideration as the lamb. I felt the sauce could have been lifted a little with perhaps some sweetness through it, but this is really nit-picking. Another wonderful course of food.

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For our pre-dessert, we had Anise Hyssop with Honey and Sweet Cheese. This dish was a little discombobulating, but I think that was the point…! The sweet cheese rocks gave a surprising flavour and had a nice texture, there was a honey-flavoured ice cream that had bags of taste without being too sweet and also had a nicely floral note to it. The aniseed flavour was a nice contrast to these other flavours and helped to bind it all together. Very clever work.

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Last up was our dessert-proper: Fresh Plums with Meadowsweet and Toasted Almonds. The dominant flavours that came through were of plum, almond and cream, almost like a take on a Plum Frangipane. As you would expect there were a mix of textures and temperatures, which kept you guessing as you tasted your way around. I found this to be an interesting, if not spectacular end to the meal.

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This was really an excellent way to celebrate our anniversary. I would have liked to have had a couple more glasses of lovely wine to enjoy with the meal, but my abstinence was worth it as two weeks later, I crossed the finish time in their Berlin marathon in under my four-hour target (under by 20 seconds, I should add….!). I really wouldn’t have been able to manage that without all of my preparations. However, now that is all done with, normal service will be resumed and I will be enjoying some lovely food and lovely wines once more – so hopefully the number of my blogs will be picking up!

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I was raising money when running the marathon for a wonderful charity called Transplant Links Community, who raise money for projects that aim to spread knowledge and expertise of transplant techniques to less developed countries. If you would like to sponsor me, you can do so by following this link.

 

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