“Now you just roll over don’t you”, says Liz. I am telling her that when I visited Cassis in the South of France a decade ago, I remember paying £4.50 for a loaf and thought it was outrageous. We are heading out of The Palmerston restaurant in the West End where I am parting with £4.20 for a loaf of their homemade sourdough without blinking.
The crispy crusted, springy textured bread bookends our meal. As we take our seats in the airy former Royal Bank of Scotland building, two slices along with butter and a jug of water appear magically. This is the proper way to start a meal and bodes well as does the Parisian feel to the restaurant. It is not as if I spend any time in Paris you understand – but The Palmerston has understated class; wooden chairs, aproned staff, good glassware, sage colored walls and a weeknight supper buzz; all features I associate with the city.
Then there is the food which is right up my boulevard. The menu has changed since I looked online the day before. Hazelnut and Chocolate Tart has been replaced by Chocolate Mousse and Roast Figs and the Hare and Pork Casoncelli (stuffed pasta) has gone. A turnover of menu items, although containing disappointment, is not a bad thing. It signals that the food is both seasonal and based on what produce is fresh, good and available daily.
If I roll over for bread, Liz is a sucker for good wine. I take a comfort break as she is ordering and tell her “I trust you”. Big mistake. When I return, she has ordered Bourgogne Blanc, Domaine de la Cras, Burgundy, France and the price makes me splutter. There is no denying it is good though. I learn later that it is the owner James Snowdon who pours it for us with all the tlc it deserves.
We choose fish. Liz has Roast Brill, ceps, bone marrow and potatoes and I have Stew with cod, gurnard, mussels and aioli. From the first slurp of bisque the Pernod hits but I double check with James. Yes, he confirms, it is Ricard with citrus zest to boot. A crostino of that bread with a dollop of garlicy aioli, the soup, the fish – I swoon. Liz’s brill has a crispy skin and glistening flesh and it falls from the bone with ease. I conclude that the soft mussels and fish must have been timed just so to allow last minute cooking in the bisque itself. We are in piscine heaven and even the knobbly, nutty Ratte potatoes are excellent.
Liz chooses Cashel Blue, black fig and honey and I have a milk chocolate airy mousse with roasted figs and red wine for "afters".
Food is very reasonably priced in comparison to many other restaurants at the moment especially when you take into account its quality and expert execution by chef Lloyd Morse. So, spending a little extra for superb bread and wine makes sense after all. We left happy and suspect we are both set to return to show off our ‘find’ to other friends. If anyone is up for sharing Hare and Trotter Pie with a bottle of Red – please just shout.