The Best of 2015 – The Black Swan at Oldstead

Fine Dining Review

This Summer, I got engaged. I’ll spare you the details, but it was perfect. There was a picnic, a beautiful view of Ilkley Moor, the traditional ‘down on one knee’ – the boy did good.

Ilkley Moor

A proposal with a view

After I stopped screaming and eventually remembered to say yes, Rob handed me a piece of paper. Titled ‘The Lisa Farrell Engagement menu’, it mapped out Rob’s ‘thank God you said yes, let’s celebrate!’ plans. Hands still trembling, I skimmed the menu to find seven very exciting words:

Trip to The Black Swan at Oldstead

I confess, I didn’t know much about The Black Swan at Oldstead. I knew it existed. I knew it was one of Yorkshire’s six Michelin Star restaurants. And to be honest, that was enough. But I continued reading, eyes widening at words like ‘canapés’, ‘tasting menu’ and ‘lots of wine’. Yep, Rob knows me well. It sounded like the perfect way to celebrate our engagement, but what I didn’t realise was that The Black Swan at Oldstead was not only about to become my best meal of 2015, but of my entire life.

Letting the last five minutes sink in, I sipped prosecco as Rob explained why he’d chosen The Black Swan. He had me at vegetables. Because somehow, he’d managed to find that rare Michelin Star restaurant that puts vegetables on a pedestal. Where a tomato is as prized as a fillet steak. Where vegetables aren’t an accompaniment to a dish; they’re the main event. I downed my prosecco and we packed away our picnic, Rob’s words fluttering in my stomach like confetti. Too good to be true? Let’s see, shall we?

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Degustation at The Man Behind the Curtain

 

Disclaimer: I was invited to sample The Man Behind the Curtain’s Degustation menu free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review on The Culture Vulture (where this post originally featured). 

PEA at The Man Behind the Curtain

PEA at The Man Behind the Curtain

I’m staring at my plate. Not eating, just staring. My partner has given up waiting for me, devouring the dish on his plate with a symphony of satisfied noises that are slowly weakening my resolve. I want to join him; I’m dying to join him, but not yet. I need to relish this moment for just a little bit longer.

Seconds before, the dish on this plate was just a string of enigmatic words. “PEA,” the menu read. “Hot and cold.” The chef arrived, clutching a trio of silver pots, a steaming silver jug and a frosted glass dish. It began simply; a lime green quenelle perched on the glass dish, adorned with a sprinkle of crispy onions and a few delicate leaves. Then it happened. I watched as my plate became a canvas, daubed with layers of colour by our chef-turned-expressionist artist. A splash of green, followed by swirls of purple, orange and crimson. It was extraordinary. The chef stood back, admired his masterpiece, then returned to the kitchen; his pointed silver heels clicking as he walked.

I think I’m ready. I take my spoon and reluctantly disturb the painting, scooping up each of the layers. I put the spoon in my mouth. And I start laughing. I can’t help it; it’s genius. Mirroring the expressionist flair with which the chef created the dish in front of me, the flavours of each layer surge in colourful waves around my mouth. There’s the sweet creaminess of the ice cream, the tangy crunch of the crispy onions, the rich intensity of the pea soup. I take another slurp and the flavours intensify, seasoned by notes of bitterness and sweetness from the beetroot, carrot and red cabbage foams. I don’t want this dish to end. It’s a masterpiece. A Michael O’Hare masterpiece.

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Le Gavroche

A very belated review of dinner at the magnificent Le Gavroche to celebrate my Dad’s 60th birthday! Disclaimer: this is a LONG restaurant review. But it’s Le Gavroche, so 800 words just wouldn’t do….

The black cab made a right off Park Lane, turning onto Upper Brook Street where a pristine row of townhouses stood to attention, their façades adorned with blooming bouquets dappled with magentas and whites. Immaculate wrought iron railings guarded each building, overlooking the lean trees that lined the pavement.

Upper Brook Street

Number 43 came into view, and the taxi slowed to a stop. An elegant awning sheltered a mahogany door, through which two figures bedecked in black and white uniforms could be made out.  Emblazoned above the door were two words: “Le Gavroche”.

Image credit: Le Gavroche

Image credit: Le Gavroche

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