Posted on Tuesday, 30th November 2010
Whenever a restaurant bears the name of Nigel Platts-Martin, you know you will be assured of quality and consistency. With a string of well-known critically acclaimed restaurants, Nigel, a former lawyer turned restaurateur, seems to have that foodie magic that guarantees success. His restaurants include The Square, The Ledbury, Chez Bruce, La Trompette and The Glasshouse, the latter three which he owns with Bruce Poole, chef of Chez Bruce. What is also notable about these three sister restaurants is how reasonably priced they are. Even though all three establishments bear a Michelin star, prices have been kept at are around the £40-£45 mark for three courses.
A recent visit to The Glasshouse (£34.50 for two courses, £39.50 for three courses) saw me start with the grilled mackerel and miso, oyster dressing, shiso leaf and crispy squid. An inspired sounding dish, it did little to live up to expectations. The mackerel was well cooked, but the skin tasted slightly burnt. The miso sauce, a combination of miso, uzu, sake and mirin, had a nice flavour, but was extremely rich, as was the oyster dressing made with oyster sauce, iceberg lettuce, oysters and mayonnaise. The combination of these two heavy tastes overwhelmed the fish, drowning out its natural sweetness. I love shiso, but rather than being used as a garnish, it was buried under the oyster dressing which left this beautiful herb soggy and bereft of the exotic aroma that it usually exudes. Japanese food is about the clarity of flavour and the cleanliness of the palate. Here I found a heavy and muddled dish that didn’t quite live up to its Japanese inspirations. There was good technique here if you analysed each of the components individually, but the dish as a whole was flawed.
But as a saving grace, the wonderful accompanying crispy squid – a mixture of squid, prawns and mushrooms wrapped in nori and a wonderfully crispy, pastry – was divine. I would have happily had ten of these and forgotten the rest.
A foie gras and chicken liver parfait with brioche toast had a beautifully creamy texture but lacked a good strong flavour of foie gras. It was also served quite cold – colder than the appropriate serving temperature – a fact that probably didn’t help its flavour either. The brioche was lovely and light.
The bread selection included sourdough, which was a little dry; a decent olive; rosemary, which had a slightly over seasoned crust but was otherwise wonderfully soft throughout; and walnut and raison, which with its beautiful texture was the most successful bread of the evening. However, the crusts on all the breads could have been better and crunchier.
To mains, and the roast loin of venison with braised red cabbage, salsify, and venison and boudin noir en croûte (£7 supplement) was perfectly cooked. The venison was extremely tender, but it was the venison and boudin noir en croûte which was the star of the dish. With its rich silky tones, depth of flavour and a lovely, light pastry, it tasted like a world class sausage roll. The cabbage was very tasty and oozed with the decadence of butter. I enjoyed this dish, but it was notable for its richness.
Steamed plaice with mussel chowder, beurre noisette, spaetzle, chervil and samphire was a beautiful mesh of light, delicate fish, aromatic chervil and sprightly samphire swimming in the earthy tones of a creamy mussel broth. This was a lovely, enjoyable course.
Slow cooked pork belly, potato and pancetta gratin, butternut squash and trompettes was also well cooked. The pork was succulently tender, and the combination of the pancetta with the potato added spark to the gratin. The accompanying crackling was good but the little there was on the plate had us wishing for more. Again this was a very rich dish.
To dessert and a valrhona chocolate fondant oozed with chocolately goodness. The accompanying white chocolate parfait was deliciously creamy, and the fine crunchiness of hazelnuts and slight bitterness of caramel added a contrasting touch to the chocolate.
Port roast plums with warm cinnamon beignets and crème fraiche ice cream delighted with the juicy softness of the tenderly sweet plums. The ice cream was a lovely match, although the beignets could have been lighter in texture.
The food resonates with accomplished French techniques, robust flavours and quality produce. Even though nothing particularly wowed other than, ironically, the crispy squid in the rather dire mackerel dish, The Glasshouse boasts of solid cooking which leaves you feeling very satisfied and fulfilled. The pricing is very reasonable, and as an overall package, it’s easy to understand why The Glasshouse is so popular.
As an observation, perhaps its one drawback is that the food is so heavy – probably the richest tasting French food I have eaten of late. As such, The Glasshouse isn’t the kind of place you could go to on a regular basis. And with such a rich cooking style, it’s easy to understand why light Asian-inspired dishes don’t seem to work and are probably best avoided when visiting the restaurant.
Nevertheless I would go to The Glasshouse again. It offers good classic French cooking at value for money prices and the service is also polished and attentive. An overall sound bet.