Saturday, 14 December 2013

Time for a spot of Yuletide dining

Acorn-fed Ibérico pig
This time of the year means festive lunches, and there have already been two thus far.

The first saw us back to Blacks for a third successive year, and where I’ve had issues with the food in the past. Fortunately, this was much the best visit in culinary terms.

A salad of hard boiled egg, endive and beetroot was pleasant, with a nice contrast between the richness of the egg and the bitter endive.

The game pie with red cabbage that followed was – if nothing like what you would expect of a game pie, being in a dish topped with puff pastry, and if having rather too much liquid in it – was perfectly edible and pleasantly filling.

A very slender slice of lemon tart with red berry coulis was pleasant without being overly exciting.

The second lunch of the week saw another return visit – this time, to Eyre Brothers on Leonard Street near the City of London, which describes itself as a tapas restaurant, no matter how very English the name sounds.

I started with grilled, smoked salmon, red onion, and crushed new potatoes with capers, dill and mustard.

Salmon, onion potatoes and dill
A very nice salad indeed – although from a personal perspective, probably with too much potato, since I get full very quickly. But the flavours were exceptionally nicely balanced.

After that, it was grilled fillet of acorn-fed Ibérico pig, marinated with pimentón, thyme and garlic, and served with patatas pobres – oven potatoes with green peppers, onions, garlic and white wine.

The restaurant advises that the pig (which had been feral) is grilled to medium rare, so I went with that too.

I can't say that I could taste the acorns, but that meat was a knockout – stunning flavor that packs a massive punch. Really very good indeed.

And we enjoyed caramelised, onions, roasted butternut squash and almonds, and spinach on the side.

Ginger and dark chocolate ice cream brought the meal to a close very pleasantly.

Citron tart
This was all washed down by a Lavradores de Feitoria, 2011, Douro, Portugal – a very pleasant red wine indeed: not too big, but fruity and with a lower alcohol volume than many other wines.

They don’t mess around with any ‘festive’ menus at Eyre Brothers, but continue to do what they know and what they do best.

Frankly, that alone is refreshing, when so many other eateries are going down the Christmas route.

I’d happily recommend Eyre Brothers – it’s smart, very good-quality dining, at prices that are lower than one might imagine.

Indeed, dinner on both days cost approximately the same, yet there was a substantial quality difference between the two.

That probably tells you something, although I’m not entirely sure what.

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