Food 2008 – La Strada, Artisan

Friday, 16th/Saturday, 17th February 2008 – La Strada, Artisan

It was a busy weekend – far busier than is good for me, I think, but it was also fun. Friday night the Hulse clan landed on our doorstep to help celebrate Lynne’s birthday, so we duly drank kir while waiting for Gordon and Angela to arrive, before we all decamped to La Strada – otherwise known as Luigi’s.

Luigi was his usual charming if somewhat deranged self, announcing that my Mum should sit at the head of the table because it was too drafty to sit anywhere else, and anyway she was obviously the queen of the table and thus could not sit anywhere else… I caved in and had the prawns with garlic butter and sweet chilli sauce for starters…

moving on to sea bass in a ginger and soy sauce for a main (described as Sea Bass Saigon, pan fried with spring onion, ginger, soya sauce and lemon juice).

Delicious as ever, as were the mixed vegetables, and oh but they do do very good roast potatoes too. We had a great evening, with ice cream with candles in for the birthday girls…

…and far too much wine, but well worth the time and money. Good fun, and it’s a great restaurant of its type, when you don’t want too much ceremony but you do want good fresh food that isn’t going to cost the earth.

Saturday I fed Bill, Elaine, Lorna and Fleur bacon sandwiches before they went on their way, and then we headed off to Hull, taking Mum back home and intending to stay the night. The plan was to take my cousin Ann and her husband, Dave, out for dinner as a thank you for everything they did for us last year.

I’d booked a table at Artisan, and once we’d wrestled our way home and showered, changed and got made up, we were off and running. Despite the fact that we’ve only been once before, Lindsey recognised my voice on the phone when I made the booking, and remembered that we’d had quite a conversation about restaurants in Brussels on that occasion. This time Lindsey was quite excited at the fact that we’d been to le Manoir earlier and wanted to hear all about it, while we wanted to hear all about Dave and Ann’s holiday to New Zealand last year.

However, the food was enough to distract all of us from talking. We all had a lovely little portion of tomato soup to start with, after olives and raspberry fizz (creme de framboise, champagne). Then it was on to the bread (home made, white, with a good crust and a lovely soft texture), to accompany the lobster veloute, and the scallops, which were just right, perfectly seasoned, and cooked so they were a lovely shade of brown on the outside, but still soft and packed with flavour. Wonderful, as was the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc we drank with it.

The main courses were excellent too, this time sea bream for me (at least half of it) with a lovely mix of vegetables, squid rings and crab…

And then I did a swap with Lynne halfway through to enjoy lamb with lamb and mint sausages, and fondant potatoes, with a wonderful Crozes Hermitage (the Malbec we drank last time had run out – as Lindsey told me before I even had a chance to ask about it).

After a long pause we finally got to dessert, with cheese and biscuits for Lynne and I, and a white chocolate mouse with mango sorbet and fresh raspberries that we also shared. Dave had the apple sorbet, the cutest “toffee apple” you’ve ever seen, and an apple jelly.

And after yet another pretty well near perfect meal, we finished with coffee, mint tea, and – a cut touch – a bag of “cornershop treats”, boiled sweets, and individual chocolates, in a little paper bag, just like you used to get from sweetshops. A lovely touch. After a short chat with Richard and Lindsey, we realised it was midnight and we’d been there for 5 hours. We made our excuses, and headed for home, full of food and happy!

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