L’Ortolan, oh YES

We arrived at L’Ortolan promptly so that I could do my interview for Kennet Radio with Sally Albin, the marketeer (is that the word). The place is beautiful, looks like an old extended vicarage with lots of separate rooms should you want to rent a room with style and tremendous food (and invite me please).

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I took Tony as it was a champagne lunch and he doesn’t drink champagne, we are so ideally matched, and we had some delightful plaice goujons with a great tartare sauce and popcorn with maple syrup and bacon to have with our drinks. What was just as nice was that we had a long talk with Caroline, one of the servers, sorry if I have that job title wrong, who was very friendly and chatted to us about her experience at the restaurant and how they all got to taste the new menus. In fact L’Ortolan have a great system of swapping front of house with kitchen staff so that everyone has an idea of what the others do. That is such a great idea, I loved the staff, we had a long chat with Tom, the chef and the pastry chef whose name I forget (so sorry) but who is on Master Chef and I hope he wins.

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I was then lucky enough to have one of my best interviews for KennetRadio.com with Sally Albin, the marketer of L’Ortolan. She has already done a great job because even before I turned up I had seen a copy of the Christmas party menu which was only £35 per head but they have a lot more on offer. There are champagne lunches, tasting menus, Chefs Table Dinner and much more. The Christmas Gala dinner looks amazing with a live jazz band but they also offer chefs experiences which look really tempting. Go to their website for more info www.lortolan.com.

I had a delightful glass of Laurent Perrier Champagne with our appetiser and Tony, my driver, had a coke. Shame but what a good egg. While I tried to sip delicately on my champagne (but in reality glugging it down while stuffing my face with the appetisers) Sally told me about the restaurant. It has been home to 5 Michelin starred chefs and is currently owned by Peter Newman and the executive chef is Alan Murchison. There was a period when Daniel Galmiche from the Vineyard was there, it is such a small world in the cheffyness of the southeast but it is all good. Tom, the head chef, came in to chat about his time there which will all be on Kennet Radio, I have to say he had the pale look of a very good chef who spends his days tied to a stove in some way and doesn’t see sunlight. I so could not be a chef, it is hard work.

So to food. We were taken through to the dining room where even the bread was amazing.

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This bread was fantastic, the choice was between focaccia with sea salt and rosemary, sour dough, granary roll and fugas bread with artichokes, olives, tomato and parmesan, warm and cheesy, it was superb.

2013-11-12 13.07.43This was our amuse bouche, the celeriac veloute picked apple and chestnut, an inspired inspiration, foamy rich with an unusual twang of apple.

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This was Tony’s starter, confit salmon, compressed apple, beetroot with the most amazing melt in the mouth apple meringue (no he doesn’t get to eat all his food mwahahahaha)

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Amazing stuff here with the combination of different artichokes. This was my starter which was globe, baby, and Jerusalem artichoke, truffle dressing, truffle gel, warm truffle duxelle (OH MY!) and a Cep carpaccio. This had a great flavour, giant slices of cep with a lovely dressing that worked perfectly.

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Ha! This was Tony’s main course and it had a secret ingredient, the best crackling ever in the whole world. Now I would tell you how to do this as I wheedled it out of the chef but if I tell you I will die so you need to visit L’Ortolan to experience it. It was described as loin of pork, onion and garlic with caramelised apple purée. What a meagre description, also so sad that Tony got to eat so little, all in the line of work you understand but I had to check every single bit.

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This was my main course, a vision of red. venison loin, bbq ribs, beetroot, blackberry and beetroot purée, radicchio, baked purple potatoes with a bitter chocolate sauce. What can I say – red in lush deliciousness. I am not a great game eater but this was utterly delicious. The bitterness of the radicchio was tempered by the chocolate sauce. A red success.

2013-11-12 14.09.18Oh I love pre dessert almost as much as I love amuse bouche but not quite as much as canapes. However this was pretty damn good. It was an apple mousse with an apple caramel, hazelnut butter and honeycress. Wow, honeycress is amazing, it tastes just like honey and was startling You eat a leaf and it tastes just like honey, how incredible is that, it reminds me of the oyster leaf I had at the Manoir. Fantastic.

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This was Tony’s pudding, it was Tiramisu and an amazing take on it. It had a coffee macaroon, Amaretto mousse, white coffee ice cream, orange Grue de Cacao and a liquorice herb. Tony is clever and quick on his feet, he knows I don’t like coffee, blast. He said it was the best Tiramisu he had ever had which is a huge compliment.

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This is wild. At boarding school ( before I was asked to leave, sadly one of several similar incidents throughout my school life) we had rice pudding and it was nothing like this. It is described as coconut rice pudding, pineapple and lime salsa, coconut sorbet and dried coconut and came with thin crunchy slices of dried pineapple and passion fruit loveliness.

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Above are the delicious petit fours and my long suffering driver in the beautifully decorated conservatory.

I did not pay for my meal but if you wanted it would cost you under £40! How amazing is that, great food, great service, great surroundings. They have lots of private rooms you can hire and it really is a treat. We will be back.


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