I will say, here and now, that they scored so very highly on every bit of our experience that I could quite happily adopt the entire place, take it home, give it a cuddle and call it mine.
I booked through TopTable, and chose the set special offer of £29.50 each for three courses and a Kir Royale. “You can have my Kir Royale,” I said, magnanimous to the last - nothing at all to do with my allergy/intolerance to alcohol - “but I’d like to just see what it tastes like.”
I got my wish.
When we arrived we were shown in promptly, our coats taken and neatly tucked away for us. It is a medium sized restaurant, but they have made it feel very cosy and inviting, though it does tend towards the dark, so my photo taking ability was challenged somewhat and the shots here are really bot very good.
There is a table display of cheeses right in the front of the entrance to the dining area. Cheese! Lovely cheese. I do wish I had asked to take a photo of them, it’s such a nice sight to be greeted by, plus I wanted to just dive straight in with a pile of crackers and a knife.
The staff are all so very pleasant, and helpful, a joy to be served by. It is very French in feel, but with not a hint of the snobbery or the ‘we know better than you’ that can sometimes accompany a very French restaurant. No, that isn’t a stereotype and yes, sadly, it does still exist.
But anyway. We perused, in the true sense of the word, the menu that applies to the special offer. When I called, they had said it was a reduced menu and indeed it is, but though the quantity has been cut down, the quality certainly hasn’t. It took us a long time to choose, because there are still many dishes on the pared down menu and we kept noticing something that sounded just as gorgeous as the last gorgeous thing we had spotted.
While we were having such difficulty with deciding what to pick, I tried the Kir Royale. I cannot usually drink more than a sip of alcohol without feeling very peculiar indeed, but I really wanted to know what it tasted like, so I tried a sip, and settled in to wait and see what would happen. What happened is that I very much enjoyed the taste. I do not like champagne at all as a rule, I never could see what all the fuss was about even before the allergy set in, but this was so much nicer, lacking the mouth-puckering dryness that I have encountered before. Having established that I liked it, I waited for the usual hot/cold flushes to hit. Nothing. I tried another, bigger sip. Still nothing. At this point I confess to feeling very grown up indeed because oh my, I was having a glass of wine with my dinner and that never happens. I dared to have a mouthful in between courses, just because I could.
Finally, we had at last managed to choose.
Slow braised wild boar with quince, fennel and orange £7.50
Truffled duck egg and smoked ham hock £7.50
Confit of duck leg with puy lentils and bacon - £16.50
Roasted pork fillet with Judian beans and white onion sauce - £16.50
Gratin Dauphinois £3.75
New potatoes £3.75
Garlic mushrooms £3.50
Key Lime Cheesecake with Salted Butterscotch Sauce
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Banana Ice cream and Caramelised Bananas
Out of all of that food, there was only one thing that I could fault, and even that was minor. The new potatoes were a touch overcooked and under seasoned, but that was it.
The Wild Boar came in two pieces, each with superbly crisped fat, and crunchy exterior. The meat was meltingly good, and fell apart as you tried to cut it. Rich, yes, but not overwhelmingly so. I discovered that I still don’t like fennel eaten on its own but eaten together with the boar, that worked very well indeed. The quince puree, well, I’m not sure what that added, to be honest, but there it was so I tried it. Oddly it tasted like a cross between a pear and a sweet potato, but it wasn’t unpleasant at all, just not really needed.
The Truffled Duck Egg was so very pretty! It had a golden crumb coating, and was perched happily on top of a frisée salad with chunks of pink ham hock dotted about. The scent of truffle was drifting across the table, so should I have been in any doubt at all (I wasn’t) that it was a truffled egg, then my mind was eased.
I tasted the egg and it was perfect. The truffle flavour was there, but very delicate, in contrast to the strong aroma, and the yolk was soft boiled to perfection. A silky, firm white and a golden, softly luscious yolk. There were many exhortations of delight from my dining companion.
I had some more Kir Royale. Gently, gently does it.
The mains. Oh my goodness. My duck was wonderful. The skin was as crisp and as light as could be, but with a serious burnished finish. The meat had stayed juicy and tender, though I did start to feel that I had been given possibly the biggest duck leg in the world after a while. It was placed onto a mound of tender, smoky Puy lentils cooked down with bacon, and that was just the perfect accompaniment. Earthy contrasting beautifully with the sweet richness of the duck.
A word about the garlic mushrooms. The menu has these named as just plain old garlic mushrooms, but that is doing them a grave disservice. They were flat, dark gilled field mushrooms, bathed in garlic butter but not overpowered by it, and dotted with tiny flecks of sea salt. One large piece of fleur de sel sat on top, just waiting for me to eat it, so I did. Not overly salty, which was surprising, but intensely savoury. I had to interrupt Col’s dinner so he could try some while they were still hot. He was certainly not unhappy that I did so.
Very dark, so apologies but you can at least see the sea salt crystal!
The pork fillet arrived on a bed of creamy looking Judion beans surrounded by a deliciously caramel coloured sauce. The beans are, I am reliably informed by Google, a type of Spanish butter bean. They were certainly not as large as the bean you find in the gigantes plaki recipes of Greece http://greekfood.about.com/od/maindishes/r/gigantesplaki.htm which I am more used to, so I may have to do some exploration to find out more about them. They looked delicious.
This was no mean little strip of pork fillet. It was presented in two large pieces, cut on the diagonal to show off just how juicy and tender the inside was. There was a hint of pinkness which, these days, is not a problem anymore with pork, and smelled richly savoury. Accompanied with a side of creamy Dauphinois potatoes, it was a dish to fair warm the heart, and certainly one I would like to try the next time I get the chance to go back, and I do hope that I will.
Now. How we managed to have room for dessert I am not rightly sure, but find room we did. Col chose Sticky Toffee Pudding, which I think is going to turn into the benchmark for rating restaurants and I went for the Key Lime Cheesecake with Salted Butterscotch Sauce, as I am a fool for anything with limes.
The toffee pudding deserves a moment of awed silence and respect. I cannot work out how a pudding managed to be springy and bouncy to the point where it resisted the spoon, and yet also be both light and rich. It was a triumph. The Forge’s chef, I salute you. The caramelised bananas were a lovely touch, and added such a nice hit of deliciously gooey texture. The noises of sheer joy from Col carried on for a while. I am very happy to say that I was allowed to taste some of the pudding, and found it utterly addictive. However, a fork in the back of the hand often offends, so I behaved.
My cheesecake was incredibly good. Excellent solid texture, with a pronounced citrus flavour, almost akin to marmalade, and the slightly grainy cheese filling was encased in a dense, dark chocolate cookie crumb. It tasted of proper curd cheese, with serious body. It was not a particularly sweet cheesecake, and as such it worked very well indeed with the salted butterscotch sauce. Definitely a dessert I would order again. I refrained from licking the sauce from the plate. Barely. I did actually drop the corner of my camera phone in it by accident at one point, and had no qualms at all about licking the sauce off that, much to Col and the waiter’s amusement. Waste not want not! Plus I wasn’t putting a toffee covered phone back into my bag. That would have been a very bad idea.
I would be very happy to wholeheartedly endorse The Forge as a fantastic place to eat and spend a gentle evening - and one which I would love to be able to visit more often.
14 Garrick Street
Tel: 020 7379 1432