Thursday, 5 June 2008

Restaurant Rant: Angelus

It was my husband's birthday yesterday so thought we'd go out and celebrate. After all, if you don't make the most of 'special' occasions what's the point, right? Plus I got him a kick-a~#se present so I (sorry, he) deserved a good night out.

So, I rushed home from the office to doll up a little. When I am almost home my mother calls wanting her daily dose of mother-daughter chat (more on that another day). I dutifully tell her all I've done since the day before when I spoke to her. We laugh about my dog jumping into a canal by our house when chasing his friend/unrequited-love interest, Lucy (our friend's dog who we are dog-sitting), she tells me about my dad's new bbq (it's alright for them in sunny Spain) and then I get on with my rush.

We are going to a new-ish restaurant in Lancaster Gate called Angelus. [Confession: I never thought Lancaster Gate was just so close to the West End! Shame on me.] We arrive just on time (an accomplishment in our case) to be greeted by the loveliest of hosts, Tierry, who also happens to be the owner. Tierry is affable and friendly without being too 'matey'. The place is very nicely decorated (he had to be French) and the atmosphere is very relaxed. It's modern but none of that crazy-in-your-face strident deco. It's more Paris chic, I'd say. Lusciously upholstered sofas in the bar area are inviting and comfortable enough to unwind with a glass of Champagne or whatever takes your fancy before going through to the dining room. Big mirrors on the walls give the rooms a certain air of grandeur but still under the no-nonsense policy. I already have good feeling about this place.

Cut to the chase, I hear you. Get on with the stuff that matters. The food. I am no food critic and I won't pretend to be but I have a pretty good palate and good taste buds so hopefully that's enough. The menu is inevitably French and offers plenty of choice. I was pleased to see a seasonal menu offering a great selection of fish, which is not usually the case. We were given a little amouse-bouche, which the waiter tipped as 'like gazpacho'. It wasn't. It was a (very nice) pea puree with mint but not gazpacho like I know it. That said, it was very nice. We were offered a Tio Pepe sherry to drink alongside it. I'm not a fan of sherry but it worked.

Our starters: A ‘Cheddar and bacon tart’ and ‘Gambas a la plancha’ aka grilled prawns. The Cheddar and bacon tart exceeded my expectations. It was intense but light at the same time, almost with a mousse-y consistency. The gambas were king size and very tasty. Being a French restaurant, you could also order foie gras as a starter which is one of my guilty pleasure foods but I made a promise to myself and all those poor ducks and geese they torture, not to have it anymore. I was proud of myself for sticking to my guns. If you are unsure why foie gras is such a big deal, take a look at this: It tastes heavenly but not once I know how cruel it is. I couldn’t stomach it after watching that video.

Main course: I ordered John Dory with baby artichokes and fennel (I am obsessed about the latter lately). My husband ordered the beef which came with a potato cake and a wasabi dressing. My John Dory won by a mile in my book but that could be because I don’t like wasabi much. Before we started our meal we asked the waiter to offer us a glass of wine to match each dish, which their sommelier did brilliantly for us. We do this very often and it usually works very well. A good sommelier will be able to provide you with a couple of by-the-glass options for you to choose from. It can also work out cheaper, which given the current economic situation is not a bad thing. The biggest advantage is that you get to try several wines over the course of your meal.

Dessert: My first reaction: expensive. Desserts are priced as starters, which I thought was a bit much. We ordered the special of the day, ‘Pistachio crème brulee’ and the selection of cheeses. Both good but I wasn’t mad about either. I picked up a good idea though. The cheeses came with a small plate of hazelnuts. Good combination and something different from the usual grapes and figs, I though.

Atmosphere: Very good
Service: Excellent
Food: Excellent

Would I go back? Yes
Value for money? Yes (it’s not a cheap eat, but apart from the desserts the rest was well priced).
Did my husband like his birthday present: Absolutely yes!

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