Saturday, 9 February 2008

lunchtime luxury - a review of The Boxwood Cafe, London

OK, I've been asked by a fellow blogger to post more restaurant reviews, so here goes. It's one from a couple of months back, which I posted on my old, now defunct blog, so I thought I'd re-post it here (with the benefit of very slight editing) to give you something to be going on with... Sadly no photos, but I hope the descriptions of the food give you a reasonable idea.

As a unashamed foodie, I love trying new restaurants, particularly those whose reputation goes before them...

And so it was that in December last year I booked in for lunch at one of the Gordon Ramsay stable, The Boxwood Cafe. It's always a treat going out for a good meal, but I always have a special buzz of excitement when going to a restaurant run by a chef whose food I admire hugely. Now, I realise that Gordon isn't in the kitchen much these days, even at his flagship restaurant, but nevertheless, you just know that you can expect a certain standard from one of his places, not least because he seems to install some fantastic executive chefs - in this case, Stuart Gillies.

Well, the Boxwood certainly didn't disappoint. Although we opted simply for the set lunch (a steal at £25 a head), there was nothing remotely 'second best' about it. First, we had a generous serving, for an amuse-bouche, of jerusalem artichoke soup. It was difficult to think how it could be improved - earthy, velvety, with that moreish duskiness all the way through.

And then, onto the main action. We started with a seasonal warmer - braised lentils with salsify (such a treat!) and chestnuts. This was a dreamily, creamily unctuous dish, topped with delicate, crisp ribbons of sweet parsnip. Lentils never EVER tasted this good before....

Next, we opted for duck leg confit, with braised red cabbage and garlic potato crisps. Confit duck appears on a lot of menus these days, but rarely does it fall of the bone with the ease it did here. And the red cabbage? Well, I'm not usually a big fan, but this was delicious - fruity, without being overbearing, and with just the right amount of tartness, without being acidic or vinegary.
So far, so very good, then - as was the wine, a youngish but ready Rhone, at a reasonable £26 for the bottle.

But now for arguably the sternest test - in my book, at least - dessert. Mmm, what to have? I am always tempted by anything chocolate - but, at a restaurant with a reputation, I like to see if they can surprise me by making something I wouldn't normally think of ordering into something I would happily eat for the rest of my days.

So, in this case, I opted for the vanilla and ginger cheesecake with a raspberry sorbet. I can't honestly remember the last time I had cheesecake prior to this meal. And as for raspberries and sorbet - well, my foodie dreams aren't usually made of this.

Until now. I'm not a religious type, but dear Lord, this was something else. The cheesecake - a tall disc of a dessert, about two inches high - was as perfect as one might dare to imagine a cheesecake could be. Vanilla and ginger in perfect harmony - vanilla certainly the dominant taste, but with a whiff of ginger running through it to give it a welcome spiciness. And the sorbet? Raspberries haven't tasted like this for, well, many a long year. In fact, I'd all but given up eating raspberries because they always seemed to be a big let-down. But here, the sorbet was positively bursting with that old-fashioned luscious, ever-so-slightly tart, berry-ness. Lovely, lovely, lovely. And a surprisingly successful match with the cheesecake - I thought it would overpower the latter, but no. They complemented each other absolutely perfectly. In fact, this was a dessert so good that I'd rank it amongst the very best I've ever eaten.

To finish, the coffee (a double espresso) was spot on, and the petits fours (a delicate macaroon and chocolate fudge) were delicious, and a faultess finale to a absolutely cracking meal.

Boxwood Cafe on Urbanspoon


Cynthia said...

I am so happy that you stopped by my blog and helped me to discover yours which I absolutely love, love, love! The header - outstanding! The pictures you take are equally amazing. I'm really going to be spending a lot of time here :)

I'm happy that the lunching at Boxwood Cafe was a success, too often sometimes when a reputation preceeds a place or person, there is some disappointment.

I've addeded you to my feeds and blog roll.

Looking forward to seeing you around.

MARIA V said...

What a meal, was it during the week, or at the weekend? And would you ever make this kind of thing yourself at home? It all sounds so exotic.

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Cynthia - lovely to have you here, and the feeling's completely mutual!

Maria - it was during the week. Thursday, if I remember rightly. Would I make those things? Well, yes, to some extent - I made duck confit quite recently, and the other ingredients I play with regularly. But I don't think I've ever made a cheesecake - and could never hope to do one so perfect!

Rosie said...

This sounds a supper review of The Boxwood Cafe!

Your set meal really does sound delicious of artichoke soup, duck confit and dessert oh my cheesecake mmmmmmmm..... drool - drool :D

Rosie x

Melinda said...

Hello! I saw your comment on Cookie Baker Lynn. Not to contradict you too much, but the Hershey Kisses are available here...and you live in London! Selfridges probably has them.
I have seen them at quite a few independent chocolate places. But you are right, they aren't readily available.
Your review of the The Boxwood Cafe is timely. I want to meet a dear friend in London and was trying to think of a good restaurant. She is a chef herself so this sounds perfect!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

Thanks for the tip, Melinda - I clearly haven't been looking hard enough or in the right places!

Annemarie said...

I have only eaten at the Boxwood once but it stands out as a very good meal (and excellent service which fell over backwards to accommodate my then-very-pregnant friend). Thanks for reminding me that I should go again!

Cinnamonda said...

I clicked the link to The Boxwood Cafe in the beginning of your post, before reading the rest, and ended up thinking what I would have chosen from the lunch menu. I would have chosen exactly the same starter and main course as you did. :)

Dhanggit said...

ginger cheesecake sounds lovely to me!! i've always thought of doing restaurant reviews too but it quite rare that my husband and i dine out..thanks for the review i'm sure it will be useful to me someday i'll travel in london :-)

btw, your banner is amazing!! i've never seena a forkful of spaghetti as gorgeous looking as that!! :-)

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