Vanilla Black, Clerkenwell
25th July 2011
A special occasion calls for a special place. Sadly the days are gone when I could walk down the road and pop in on the two girls I grew up with. As the years have passed we have all moved away from our home town, before you know it life gets in the way and you end up having to tackle the Krypton Factor that is coordinating everyone’s dairies before you can see each other. So, when we three all manage to get together it is always special.
I decided I had to take my girls to Vanilla Black. After some delicious seeded bread and olive oil we were served an amuse bouche of a tomato and strawberry shot with a Turkish delight wrapped in rice paper. Sounds like a weird combination but it was just a hint of strawberry in the tomato juice and I really liked it. The rose water in the Turkish delight was paired with peppercorns.
We had a little chortle as it was noted that the starters and mains sounded like desserts, how uncouth of us I know. Did I mention my girls are lovely? Therefore they allowed me to have a nibble of their starters too.
The soup was refreshing, but I am still not a cold soup convert. The potato salad turned out to be little cubes of potato in the soup, I can confirm the sorbet was indeed very dilly.
The most interesting sounding thing on the menu was the salad with the salt and vinegar gel. I am already a fan of flowers (they used sweet pea, I know from their Twitter feed ) in my food so it was a really delicate and the gel was impressive. Definitely Heston territory.
Nibbling done my actual starter was the potato cakes. Not quite as pretty as the other two dishes, but it was fully of flavour and texture. There were crispy thin discs of seasoned melba toast and soft fluffy potato cakes.
The polenta in my main is the best I have ever had, it had a crispy outside and was creamy on the inside, no soggy mush here! The majoram was formed into some kind of tapenade and hidden underneath the cherry tomatoes. Alone it had a very strong flavour but paired with the tomato and pastry was delicious. What I thought was some odd but tasty breed of sage actually turned out to be sea aster (I had to google it!) a sea vegetable. This was accompanied by heritge potatoes including a purple variety which are very much in vogue at the moment.
I sampled the mushroom mousse which had a very pate like texture and actually reminded me of chicken of the forest with a smokey flavour.
Dessert sadly was disappointing, the unimaginative poor vegans dessert (aka sorbet) was on offer in two versions. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with sorbet but if I go to a nice restaurant I want cake! Still I decided to give the benefit of the doubt, as a general rule I go without pudding if that is all there is, but it was chocolate sorbet which I have not had before. The granita sloshed round the plate as it was put in front of me and I’m not quite sure what the almonds were meant to add to it all. Sorbet on sorbet? Sigh.
The staff were amazingly attentive and my girls suitably impressed. We actually sat there chatting till closing time and not once was any attempt made to send us on our way. Well you can imagine, we had a lot to talk about.
(Ps I hear a menu update is on the way, fingers crossed vegan cakeage makes it on there).