Every couple of weeks, a certain someone likes to remind me he’s just a working class man, a man of the people… a man with a humble upbringing… you get the drift. He usually launches into this spiel when I’ve unknowingly (ok, sometimes knowingly) bamboozled him into dining at a restaurant you might call pretentious or poncey. In case it wasn’t abundantly clear to all and sundry, my working class man is not a fan of these establishments, but let’s not confuse his distain for the pretentious with a dislike of fine dining because you can have the latter without the former.
We are actually quite fond of fine dining; I like beautiful plates of food, I like luxurious ingredients and elaborate techniques, and I, rather frivolously, like using more than one set of cutlery throughout a meal. It’s not something we do every night, but of course there is a time and place for it. What we don’t like is a sterile dining room where everything is fifty shades of white and the lighting has gone a step beyond dim and romantic to just plain dark, or an atmosphere so cold that you’re longing for the coat the frigid maitre’d just whisked away. We don’t feel at ease, there’s absolutely no desire to be there any longer than we have to.
As soon as we stepped through the automatic sliding doors of Canvas and were guided down the stairs into the dark den of a dining room to our table, my heart sank a little. My first impressions were not good but a certain someone was positively dismissive. White on white on white- tick. Eerie background music usually reserved for tacky beauty salons who think it’s relaxing- tick. Flat as a pancake atmosphere- tick. This is the kind of place the working class man dislikes, avoids, basically tries to escape through the back door from but of course, we stayed and you know what? He was pleased we did. A certain someone really wanted to hate it but he couldn’t; each dish that arrived was accomplished and delicious, the sommelier matching our wines was knowledgeable, and the service was very accommodating.
We settled into our seats with a glass of bubbly and a look through the menu of inviting dishes, of which we are told are some of the restaurant’s most popular. The amuse bouche of cod and potato was perhaps the most forgettable thing we ate that night, so thank goodness it only got better from there. The bread arrived with a curious suet butter which had such an intense saltiness about it we were convinced it contained anchovies. The fishy flavour was actually from kombu, not something we’ve had in butter before and though I can’t imagine it’s to everyone’s taste, I couldn’t smear enough of it onto my sourdough.
There are only three things that need to be said about the lemon marinaded trout, black olive soil, sun-blushed tomato and celeriac cream: Canvas are generous with their trout, the soil was actually worth eating, and children could be tricked into thinking those tomatoes were candy. Already delicious, it was only enhanced by the 2014 Terras Gauda O Rosal Rias Baixas which had citrus notes bringing out the subtle lemon flavour in the trout.
The crispy skin smoked cod fillet arrived with marrow-red pepper cream and Jerusalem artichoke arrived next. It looked elegant but tasted bold and earthy from the smoke and mushrooms, well paired with the 2013 Pouilly-Fuissé ‘Les Crays’ Domaine Guerrin I was initially skeptical about. Upon my first sip all warning signs on my tastebuds were on high alert screaming ‘back away from the chardonnay’ but it pays to trust the sommelier because they really do know better than me!
When it comes to beef, I’m happy to have it two ways, particularly when it involves aged sirloin and a confit beef cheek with basilippo mash potato, chives and grilled calcots. It looked enticing but was a bit less exciting that the previous two fish dishes; the sirloin was perfectly tender though we thought the beef cheek could have had a little more of that ‘melt away’ unctuousness we all love. It was however paired with my favourite wine of the night, the Crianza Rioja 2012, Hacienda Grimon, a mix of grenache and temperanillo, full of rich cherry notes which washed down the beef like a dream.
With the savouries out of the way, it was time for the sweet treats to end the night… out came the pre-dessert of cucumber sorbet and lychee foam, every bit as refreshing as it sounds; one of us enjoyed it, one of us could barely endure it. There was far less debate over the dessert of rosemary chocolate, micro sponge, apricot puree, amaretto sorbet where the elements were decadent as a chocolate dessert should be but surprisingly light and delicate. It was served with a glass of 2011 ‘Jour de Fruit’, Monbazillac, a dessert wine which wasn’t sickeningly sweet and made for extremely easy sipping.
At the end of our experience at Canvas, we were left with a pretty plate of petit fours, one slightly tipsy lady, and one slightly defeated working class man. The cold modernist decor and stuffy environment might not have been to his taste but there was no denying that the food was. The dishes at Canvas are wonderfully uncomplicated and made from quality ingredients, and the service is impeccable… even the most stubborn working class man would be a fool to pass up a meal here!
This four course tasting menu at Canvas was one of Bookatable’s Star Deals – head over to their website now to book this or another deal from a wide range of restaurants including Fera at Claridge’s, Rivea, and Hakkasan!
We were guests of Bookatable, but as always, all opinions are mine, mine and mine alone!