Saturday, 18 July 2015

Food: Bistrotheque, Bethnal Green E2

Last week, I decided to revisit Bistrotheque in Bethnal Green to try their 'one night only' menu based on produce that the chefs had personally hiked all the way to North Yorkshire for.  They brought back lamb from Swaledale Foods, a brilliant concept developed to connect chefs and farmers.

Bistrotheque has been around long enough and reviewed often enough that I need not repeat what others have said. In the constantly evolving dining landscape that is London, it is comforting to know that if I want a good roast chicken, I can get it at Bistrotheque and not worry about what sort of new Korean friend chicken coating (don't get me wrong, I do love the stuff) awaits me. It's been the scene for meeting new friends, catching up with old ones, Christmas carols, and memorable performances in the downstairs cabaret area.  I digress but years ago there was an amazing drag performer who did a Britney Spears/Judy Garland mash up that was intensely beautiful.

Anyway. Even though it is great at the classics, Bistrotheque recognises that it needs to adapt to changing times and of late have introduced a few new tricks. The Swaledale menu is one foray into perhaps redeveloping their menu.  The kitchen presented five new dishes, which could be ordered separately, or as a tasting menu for £35. We of course opted to try the latter, and here is the low-down on what we had:

St James, broad bean, broccoli puff
Two bite-sized puff pastry parcels to whet one's appetite, with new season broad beans, broccoli and shavings of St James cheese.  It was light and fresh, but to be fair, this was probably the least successful of the dishes and could do with some tinkering as the pastry to vegetable filling proportion was unfavourably leaning towards the pastry side.

Smoked Swaledale lamb belly, peas, Wensleydale and pickled red onions.
Aside from looking a treat, the smokey, crisp lamb belly was perfectly cooked. Clever use of pickled red onions to cut through the rich belly fat, and accompanied by fresh as can be peas. This one can go straight to the main menu.

Slow and pink Swaledale lamb, fried marsh samphire, heritage carrots in Settle Brewery No. 4 ale, land cress

The main course relied heavily on the freshness of the Swaledale lamb, which was cooked beautifully. The chefs have turned away from traditional lamb flavourings and opting to add some Asian spice to the dish by introducing a chilli sambal type paste, which worked well for my palate, although my friends reported it to be a bit to spicy for their liking, but, they're wrong. Ha. I thought the spice and heat kicked it up a notch on the interest ratings.

Brown butter scone, berry jerry, elderflower cream
This was the pre-dessert, a tiny and delicate scone filled with fresh cream and jam. Great for afternoon tea but I'm not sure how this fits in on a dinner menu. Although, it was very pretty to look at and if Bistrotheque decide to open up for afternoon tea service I'll be there, first in line.

Gooseberry summer pudding, apricot brandy and milk ice-cream.

Initially I wasn't going to order the set menu because I have an irrational aversion to soggy bread, which means I have a tendency to steer clear of bread-based puddings. A difficult phobia given I now live in England.  The ridiculousness of this came into full view as my darling friend attempted to explain my so-called 'food allergy' to the waitress, and the shame of this public airing forced me to give the summer pudding a try.  I came away from the experience unscathed, still not loving soggy bread, but with a new love and respect for fresh gooseberries.

Bistrotheque: 23–27 Wadeson Street, London E2 9DR. 020 8983 7900

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