Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Crooked Billet

Last Saturday we made a pilgrimage to Stoke Row to eat at the Crooked Billet with good friends of ours; Sameer, Mary, Hazel and Phil. It was a particularly special lunch as we had all managed to find babysitters (and thus could enjoy a child-free restaurant visit) and very exciting for Hazel and myself as our previous trip to Stoke Row sadly didn't include the pub but instead centred on the Maharajah's Well.

The pub itself is delightfully rustic, with low ceilings, endless nooks and crannies and the lovely red dining room where we ate. The arrival of the menu and wine list were cause for much contemplation, dithering and finally decision-making. To begin with I ate half a dozen Galway oysters served plain and simple with a glass of apple-scented Bozedown Sparkling to go with them. The miniature bottle of Tabasco which accompanied them was instantly discarded although the beetroot relish served in a dish in the centre of the plate was rather good. The Bouillabaisse with rouille, croutons and gruyere was excellent too, and I had quite a bit as Mary very kindly shared in order to save room for her main course. I didn't taste the white crab meat salad but it looked lovely and certainly disappeared quickly.

We rambled on through lunch (such a pleasant change not to be rushed), taking in beef fillet, rack of lamb, calves liver and lamb shanks between us. The calves liver, which Sameer and I ordered, was accompanied by bacon crisps, carrot and parsnip rosti, spinach and sherry vinegar jus. The liver was perfectly cooked and the rosti and bacon crisps provided a delicious contrast. The beef fillet with seared foie gras looked wonderful and the dauphinoise which came with the rack of lamb was perfect although personally I thought the lamb a little overdone.

Although we'd all eaten more than adequate amounts we found ourselves seduced by the pudding menu. Phil's portion of cheesecake could have fed two, with some to spare, and the sticky toffee pudding was sublime. Adam's cheeseboard and port looked excellent but unfortunately I was far too full of muscat and toffee sauce to try any.

I think it's fair to say we'll be going back. As soon as we can.