Our Anniversary Meal - An Indepth Review

You can all wipe the beads of worry from your foreheads: I have managed to borrow a cable for my laptop so I am back in business.
Here than is the next thrilling installment of what Paul and I had for our anniversary dinner. The Boston Baked Bean post is to follow.
As I’ve noted before, I am not one for restaurant reviews. After all, one mans caviar is anothers Big Mac. I am also not in the position for reviewing food because:
a) I am overly critical at the best of times and
b) I am a supertaster so even the slightest over-salting of a dish can ruin the whole thing for me.
However, because this is an anniversary meal, and because Paul and I enjoy dissecting our daily events in minutiae, I am reviewing our meal and the restaurant just for you.
The Barn Brasserie is a converted barn (the name sort of gives that away), set deep in the rural Essex countryside. As with all converted barns, it exudes an air of the old meets the new. There is an off-to-the-side restaurant called the Fish Colony which specialises in local oysters from Mersea Island (they were on Rick Steins Food Heroes!) and Caviar. It has very high, vaulted ceilings from which hang huge wrought iron lights that resemble medieval torches. Make no mistake, if my house had 50 foot high ceilings, I would have lights like this too.
The staff are friendly and efficient . We were ushered to our seats (unfortunately right behind the cashier(Pauls comment: If you're like us and always feeling a bit out of place in these venues the staff can sense it like a dog senses fear. If you want good treatment, place your platinum card on the table before the meal begins)) and after we had ordered our food, each course arrived promptly, within five minutes of each table service.
As you saw yesterday, I ordered the Smoked Cods Roe with Toast for my starter, Paul had (on my insistence that we each have something different), Ducks Liver Parfait with Aubergine Caviar. The only complaint I could find about the starter was that I had too much roe OR too little toast. Still, it is a rare thing to complain about having too much food and not enough in this kind of restaurant.
Paul noted that his Parfait lacked punch and was ‘flabby’. Shame, because Paul adores Pate and I thought this would be a smoother and lighter. Personally, I can’t stand pate. I think it tastes (and smells) like cat food.
No sooner had our starter plates been whisked away than our mains arrived: Oyster Mushroom and Spinach Risotto Cakes for me, Bangers and Mash for Paul. Really, I have no idea why Paul would spend £10.00 on Sausage and Mash (Pauls note: because they looked good when I saw someone eating them the last time I was there!) when we have a hopper full of spuds and a freezer full of bangers, but there you go. He said the sausages were excellent and obviously ‘artisan’ made (which was later verified by the waitress) but the onion reduction was too much. I smelt the reduction as our plates were brought to the table and I silently hoped to myself that it wasn’t my food that smelt like that. Overly reduced sauces take on an almost molasses crossed with burntness aroma that I find highly unpleasant.
I ordered the Risotto Cakes because I adore Risotto but I have never eaten Risotto that hasn’t been made by myself and I also fancied the homemade potato crisps that went with it. OK, so it was a little heavily seasoned and Paul said it tasted too garlicky for his liking but at least there was two of the cakes and that was ample (particularly as I ordered chips on the side as well, it’s always best to err on the side of caution) even for someone with my appetite.
Obviously we made room for dessert though. What is the point of going out to eat at a fancy restaurant if you don’t order dessert?
The Coconut Creme Brule was heavenly. It had little deep fried banana crisps with it, that looked like overcooked potato chips but were really moreish (I was only given four). Paul ordered the ice cream (as always) and I demanded that we be given a sample of the chilli and mango sorbet. The waitress said that it was normally only served with the chocolate torte but she’d see what she could do. And, to my great surprise, she brought out a brandy snap basket filled with Banana Sorbet, Fig Ice Cream and Mango and Chilli Ice Cream! The Fig Ice Cream was as delicious as you could imagine it to be – they make all their own ice cream on site as it should be! They also had a rather outlandish sounding Liquorice Ice Cream which Paul and I had an intense discussion about: would it be jet black or greyish colour? We never did find out but I declared that I shall make some Liquorice Ice Cream myself and dye it with black food colouring. Imagine! Black Ice Cream! Forget virginal white ice cream, we all know that it’s filled with cream and eggs! It should be black, black as night and twice as mysterious!


wheresmymind said...

Is "smelt" a technical culinary term? ;)

Homesick Texan said...

Did you see "Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran?" There's a scene where a kid passes off a can of cat food as pate to his father, and his father exclaims, "This is the best pate I've ever eaten!" Ha!

Brilynn said...

Ah, ice cream, the best part of the meal! I'd like to see some black ice cream as well, but not liquorice flavoured...

Laurent said...

Coconut creme brulee is a very good idea, i want to try to find this recipe! ;-)

Saucage really looks great, i d love to eat some now.

ABotu ice cream, you shoudl try the salted butter caramel ice cream

Kathryn said...

The sauce with Paul's mash looks vaguely sinister to me, but the sausage looks lovely. Ditto all the other food! It sounds like you were well looked after, too.

So - ahem - do we get the story of how you met, yet? and have you cooked that ham hock??

Kathryn x

Terry B said...

First, happy anniversary!

I'm not much on reviewing restaurants either, but for the opposite reason--when everyone else is analyzing every last detail of the food preparation, I'm the guy taking in the warmth of the room and conviviality of the moment, enjoying my second glass of wine and saying, "This is nice!" In fact, the food at a favorite restaurant of mine here in Chicago is dependably good, but not stellar, but I just like being in the place so much that I don't care. Of course, it's not a pricey place either. When it's a special occasion and I'm dropping a healthy chunk of change, I become a lot more critical.

Regarding the table, refusing a bad table [when possible--obviously not if the place is packed and lines are out the door] will tend to get you better service throughout the meal. Don't be a jerk about it, but just ask nicely if they have a table that's not so near the register/door/WC/whatever. When I've been told no, I've offered to wait at the bar until one opens up. One usually opens up quickly and everyone is extra attentive. Again, don't do it to be a jerk--just if you don't like your table.

Freya said...

Jeff, smelt (also herring roe) means to sniff cautiously. It is particularly a culinary term for me because my sense of hearing is bad so my other senses are magnified. Obviously you know this anyway...

Hi HT, I haven't seen the film but it sounds exactly as I suspect pate really is - animal feed!

Brilynn, I don't like liquorice either so what would it be? Carbon flavoured?

Laurent, salted butter caramel ice cream sounds like my idea of heaven...

Kathryn, you are sooooo nosy!! All in good time (read the Beans article!). The sauce definitely was a bit suspect but the issue was just there was an overabundance of it. Too much sauce can ruin a dish!

Hi Terry, thanks for your comments! I have asked to be seated near the window before in restaurants so I'm not sure why I didn't this time around...it was certainly quiet enough...I'll remember your tip for the future though!

Patricia Scarpin said...


Happy anniversary!!
It's such a thrill, Joao and I celebrated our anniversary last month and it was a lovely time we had!

Well... it was pretty hard to pay attention to the other dishes with this ice-cream photo here. ;)

Ros said...

Happy Anniversary both of you!

I also always insist that we order different dishes when out -it means you can try more stuff.

Those ice-creams sound really exciting. I want an ice-cream maker so I can make crazy-flavoured ice-cream!