Saturday, 5th October 2019 – Lorne, London
In between two exhibitions we really needed to make sure we found some food. A quick online search in the vicinity of Buckingham Palace threw up Lorne Restaurant, which was well located and well reviewed by a critic I respect, the splendid Marina O’Loughlin, back when she was one of the Guardian’s restaurant critics. I’m of the opinion that if she likes a place, it’s very possible we will as well. We arrived slightly early to find it was quiet both in the ground floor section and downstairs where the kitchen is located, but it soon livened up! We were shown through to the main dining area and offered a choice of tables. We went for the one on the dais at the side of the room, with a view outside and a boot-like feel. There was even a useful ledge next to the table to put things on, which you don’t always get. We ordered a glass of Champagne each while we considered the menu and tried to decide what we wanted. It wasn’t an easy decision.
In the end, we settled on two starters that we would share, along with two mains that again we were both content to share. Occassionally we’ll end up with choice that Lynne won’t want to share, either because she wants all of what she’d ordered (rare) or she doesn’t want any of what I’ve ordered (much more likely). It wasn’t a problem this time, though narrowing it down to just two was tricky. We ate some bread with olive oil while we were going through the process, and I nearly fell victim to a lightly too large dash of olive oil. To call this one peppery would be doing it an injustice. It packed so much punch that I inhaled in shock and nearly choked myself!
Lynne decided she couldn’t resist the roast quail dish, where the legs and breasts were carved off and served underneath thinly cut ribbons of tender butternut squash, with slices of pear (possibly Conference pears but maybe not), scattered hazelnuts, and a Parmesan cream. It was a very autumnal dish and the cooking was spot on, especially the quail, the breasts still pink, the leg tasty, sticky, dark from roasting, it was a very well-balanced dish.
I ordered the crayfish served with chunky fregola, BBQ sweetcorn, and tarragon. The seafood was studded throughout the mound of fregola, and there was a seafood hit to the entire dish. The sweetcorn added crunch and texture and the tarragon added a hit of bitterness that contrasted nicely with the sweetness of the crustaceans. It was a lovely dish in and of itself, but it was a two-part dish so there were more delights on another plate.
Crayfish claw meat had been extracted and wrapped in an Oriental pancake along with some glass vermicelli, and julienned vegetables. It was very light, and probably won’t be on the menu if you go in the winter months. It’s definitely a Summer thing, so I’m very glad I got to eat it. The vegetables had maintained some crispness, and the wrapper was light and airy. The mayonnaise was also light and punchy.
The mains arrived in good time, after just the right length of pause, given we had a deadline to be at the next exhibition venue. Lynne stayed on the game theme, this time with roast wood pigeon, served with heritage beetroot served in a number of ways, a gloriously silky celeriac puree, nutty pearl barley, and little salty lardons of bacon.
I’d gone back and forth a couple of times, and had finally settled on a dish of hand-rolled linguine which gave me two types of pasta, served with hen of the woods (otherwise known as maitake) and girolles mushrooms in abundance, shot through with a lovely dressing of persillade, and the whole buried under a generous drift of Parmesan. It was fabulous and I was so glad I’d made the choice I had.
We finished our wine, and debated whether we did or did not want a dessert and/or some cheese. The wine I initially chose I was steered away from, the owner saying she considered it “somewhat redolent of the farmyard”. I took the advice in good part and instead ordered a Pinot Noir from Corvers-Kauter in the Rheingau, which makes me even more convinced we need to go on holiday to the Rhine in the next couple of years. It was hugely enjoyable, light enough to be a sensible choice at lunch time.
We decided a dessert to share between us was a possibility and given the presence of one of my favourite fruits in it, we chose the meadowsweet custard brioche, which was packed with greengages, crunchy with a sugar crumb, and offset with a sharply sour yogurt ice cream that took the edge of the massively sugary hit. We shared an excellent glass of 2017 Jurançon, Clos Thou, Henri Lapouble-Laplace that went down a treat with the gloriously fruity pudding.
We then moved on to share a plate of cheese. There were three cheeses set out for our enjoyment, starting with a bethmale, which is a traditional uncooked pressed cheese from the Ariège in the Pyrenees. It can be made of cow’s, goat’s or ewe’s milk, or a blend of the three and is matured for at least three months. It has a thin, dry, light brown rind and the interior has a number of fermentation holes. The second cheese was a chèvre rouelle, which comes from the Tarn region of France from raw goat’s milk and has a pleasant hazelnut flavor and a nice level of acidity. It’s is always made in the form of a disc with a central hole with a natural crust that is coated with charcoal powder and covered with gray mould. The final cheese was a bleu des Causses made from the raw milk of Montbeliard and Aubrac cows in the Languedoc region of southern France. It has a high-fat content (45%) and is matured for at least seventy days and up to six months in the Gorges du Tarn’s natural limestone caves. It has a rich milkiness amidst the peppery and spicy notes of blue mould.
Given the origins of all three cheeses we should probably have stayed with the Jurançon for the final plate. However, the wine list contained the magic words “20 year old Tawny port” so it had to be done. This one, from Sandeman, was a rich tawny colour, with flavours of dried apricots, honey, roasted nuts, spices and vanilla. It was thoroughly enjoyable, as had been the entire lunch. I would happily eat at Lorne again and am somewhat disappointed that I am out of the country when they are doing a one off game dinner on 15th November, because given the quality of the wood pigeon and the quail we ate, it will be fabulous!