Saturday, 16 October 2010

Brasserie Joël

I went to Brasserie Joël to take advantage of the special LRF menu. The restaurant is located in the very swanky Park Plaza hotel at the end of Westminster bridge. The fantastic modern interior of the hotel and buzz in the bar while we had pre-dinner G&Ts helped cement my high expectation for the meal.

I was quite surprised that the LRF menu was basically the same as the pre-theatre menu with just a couple of differences. Still no problem, I was expecting a limited choice for only £16.95 for two courses. The second surprise of the night came with the addition of a cover charge. There are very few restaurants in London that have a cover charge and this unexpected extra always niggles me a little. I felt like I was being duped before I'd even started looking at my set price menu. Nevertheless, A and I enjoyed copious amounts of very good bread and lovely soft creamy French butter whilst making our choices.

A had the spinach, beetroot and ricotta salad, or as the bizarrely phrased menu put it:

Ricotta buffalo

Which was OK, nothing too special. It seems that the combination of flavours I featured in my beetroot soup is quite popular at the moment. [I feel as if I have unexpectedly tapped into the Zeitgeist for the first time ever!]

For my starter a bowl of artfully arranged trompette mushrooms and buffalo ricotta was placed in front of me before the waiter dramatically poured the soup over. "Great," I thought, "this is gonna be a special eating 'event'". That thought quickly disappeared from my mind as I took my first sip of lukewarm soup. Quickly followed by a grainy mushroom and then a mouthful of grit. Someone had forgotten to wash the wild mushrooms: disgusting. There was nothing I could do but spit it out and ask for another starter. I should really have asked for the chicken liver parfait but instead asked for the soup again. A fresh one was brought this time piping hot and with clean mushrooms (although I have to admit each time I put one on my spoon I wave of anxiety washed over me).

For her main, A went with a baby artichoke and wild mushroom risotto with Parmesan and pea shoots, which came in a saucepan (sorry about the photo).

I had roast chicken of Bresse with a fricassee of Jerusalem artichoke.

I was quite excited at having some of the renown blue-footed Bresse chicken and was half-expecting the label to be presented with the dish (I'm sure I'd read somewhere that some restaurants show the label to prove the provenance of the AOC protected chicken). It was bloody good chicken, but I'd like to to a taste test with some "normal" chicken to see just how amazing the Bresse chicken is.

Unfortunately the shine was taken off this dish by the artichokes. I don't like crunchy Jerusalem artichokes, it's like eating raw potatoes: horrible. I asked for the artichokes to be checked if they had been served as they should. Apparently, when the chicken came back it was clear that whoever was on the pass had decided that I should have crunchy artichokes. I contend that this was a mistake.

Having had almost four courses and far too much bread there was no way I could even contemplate a dessert.

The service was excellent. The waiters dealt with my problematic dishes graciously and with no hesitation. Although the dining room felt slightly buried in the midst of the hotel I really liked the modern décor and the atmosphere had an enjoyable buzz. It's just a shame the food wasn't up to the same standard.

Brasserie Joël on Urbanspoon

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