I’ve already admitted that I’m rather terrible at booking restaurants in advance. This probably surprises a lot of people because I am quite an organised person, even pedantic at times, so this must be my exception that proves the rule. I often start out with good intentions and try to book something a couple of weeks in advance, but I either A: have so many options that my food FOMO and plate envy kick in and I can’t decide, or B: have whittled down to a shortlist only to find that they are all booked out and I am back to square one.
This is where the new app ‘Uncover’ can come in and save my bacon. Basically made for people like me, it lets you know which of those hard-to-book restaurants have tables available on the day. Yes, you read right, on the day which means you don’t have to guess several weeks in advance whether you’d prefer that upmarket dim sum place or the new swanky French bistro. I thought my last working day of 2014 was worth celebrating, we had no plans so I decided to download Uncover and test it out…
I must have had exceptional timing and luck that day because I signed up just in time for their ‘Dinner on Us’ giveaway, a dinner for two at Lyle’s, and was speedy enough to find and book that table! I’ve wanted to go to Lyle’s for a while now, just, well you guessed it… never got round to booking it. And booking a table is the only hard part, once that’s done all you have to decide on is what to drink, and even then the wait staff are full of handy suggestions. That night we opted for the Ma’d Furmint, a fruity and refreshing tokaj dry white; I’ve made a mental note to try more Hungarian wines.
Dinner at Lyle’s is a manageable 6-course set menu only; it changes daily and with no options there’s no indecisive menu analysis on my behalf, and a certain someone doesn’t have to allow me the obligatory bite from his plate. Win.
We started with an amuse bouche of goose liver parfait with cranberry on a wafer thin potato crisp, and sourdough with piping hot roasted chestnuts– fitting for the festive season. I’m not really a nut-lover, with the exception of those covered in chocolate or turned into something resembling chocolate, but I found the creaminess of the chestnuts surprisingly pleasant!
First up off the menu was a grey mullet with leeks and seaweed, a plateful of food so tasty I actually had to make an effort to slow down and savour it. Perfectly cooked fish is expected but the real highlight for me was the salty, slightly sweet broth flavoured by the seaweed.
Round two however, did not excite me as I sort of despise pumpkin. This combination of pumpkin, whey butter, hazelnuts and brussels tops did not sway me. I’d like to think I made a valiant effort but just couldn’t bring myself to take more than a couple of bites, leaving the rest to a certain someone, not that it seemed to bother him one bit. He informed me that I would likely never ever grow to like pumpkin because if I didn’t like it here, all hope was lost as it was probably the best pumpkin he’d ever eaten. High praise indeed.
I got back on track with the next dish, mallard with Jerusalem artichoke puree and black cabbage, seemingly simple but utterly flavourful. The mallard had a rich, almost liver-like flavour to it which paired well with what I think was a hint of horseradish in the cabbage and that silky smooth puree.
With the savoury courses done, we moved onto the first of the desserts, an interesting little pot of tiny quince cubes, chestnut crisps and balls of quince sorbet buried under a chestnut custard. It’s a strange sounding combination which took our tastebuds a couple of spoonfuls to decide that we liked it. The sharpness from both quince components and the crisps were a good contrast to the very creamy custard.
The next dessert was a thin spread of soured cream sitting beneath pear ice cream generously covered with crumbled chocolate cake. Pear and chocolate is a combination which always works well and while this was certainly tasty, the pear ice cream was a little too overpowering for me. But of course, we still polished them off!
And just as I’m about to sit back contently like the cat that got the cream, we are presented with two little mince pies- a perfect end to an elegant meal full of surprise and flavour. The connections and similarities between Lyle’s and St John’s are well documented, so dare I say, we enjoyed our experience at Lyle’s more than the Michelin-starred St John’s, and we will definitely be putting it on the repeat list.
So tell me, have you been to Lyle’s? What was the best thing on the menu that night?
Thanks to Uncover Dining for the opportunity to have dinner ‘on them’, but as always, all opinions are my own.